As a busy mom, I found that making dinners or even meals in general was one of my most dreaded times of day. In fact I am sure there is some kind of level of Hell that is completely devoted to having to make every night dinners for your family and being forced to be creative when all you want is for someone to take care of YOU.
So in an effort to stop this madness, I became a meal planning fanatic. I was determined that there had to be a better way – and there is – so that we as moms can enjoy dinnertime and not dread it. So if this sounds familiar and you are a busy mom like me who either works full time or runs her own business, you will probably find these tips helpful!
1. Get Organized
Whenever you start anything new, there is usually some work that has to be done to create a system and keep it running smoothly. Meal planning is no exception. I recommend taking a morning or evening – whenever you have free time – and start your plan. I found it useful to make a list of the tools I would need: dishes or containers, a menu board (to stop the endless questions of what’s for dinner), food apps that would allow me to consistently have new recipes to try and a list of tried and true dinner favourites that I could load into a recipe app so I didn’t have to search for the right recipe book every time I wanted to make it. I then went out and bought the items I needed and made sure I was ready to implement this new plan.
2. Set Aside Time
To make your system effective, you will need to set aside time to make it work. It might be one full day where you select your recipes, add the ingredients to your shopping list app (holy time saver – I love AnyList where all family members can add items and then go shopping for them to save YOU time), go shopping and then do the prep. I personally break this up over two days by planning and shopping on Saturdays then doing the meal prep on Sundays. Whatever works best for you and your family. And like with any new system, it will take time to figure out what works best for you so don’t stress about it. Just make sure you invest the time so you can reap the rewards.
3. Use the Tools
Once I started implementing my meal plan system I found myself always looking for ways to make it better. My menu board was a gift but my girlfriend knew I had been looking for an alternative to and written lists tacked on the cork board. It’s awesome and it helps everyone in our family know what to expect. If you are making dinners in advance and freezing them, get the quality freezer bags or containers that will stack neatly in your freezer. If you are making lunches, get containers that you can label and which fit neatly in your fridge. Use your apps, from food apps to list apps, these are indispensable tools. Get time saving appliances – I love my slow cooker and my sister swears by her pressure cooker. There are lots of tools out there to make dinner time easier for you and your family.
Another tool I find indispensable is a food delivery service. No I don’t mean Swiss Chalet. I do mean a service like a HelloFresh or Good Food where they do the meal planning for you and deliver fresh ingredients to your home once a week. With step by step recipe cards, quality ingredients and new recipes every week I have found these services very helpful.
4. Let Others Help
The beauty of meal planning is that it gives everyone in the family an opportunity to help. Whether it’s prepping food or cooking the prepared meals, don’t be afraid to involve others in the process so in turn, ensure all the pressure isn’t resting solely on your shoulders. I share the recipes with my family so that they have all the steps to make the dinners and this means I can go to the gym in the evenings and get exercise in. This might mean you have time to do something for you and ultimately make your day less stressful. For me this also provided me with the opportunity to help teach my kids how to prep and cook meals, a life skill that I feel is invaluable. Ultimately by taking the time to plan, making that plan available to your family you are opening the door to making your home a cooperative place where everyone helps out.
I hope this helps you get started! If you have specific menu planning questions or if you would like my healthy eating newsletter, please add a comment below.