Happy Tuesday! I don’t know about you but these first two months of school have been hectic! Between packing lunches, after school activities and homework, our evenings have been nutty! This past weekend, I realized that we are have been a bit “off” from our usual meal planning routine. So, I was excited that this month’s How We Do link up with Erika and Shay is on MEAL PLANNING! I’ll share my strategies for developing a family meal plan that is realistic and simple!
Review the Weekly Calendar
First things first, when I am coming up with the menu for the week, I take a look at our calendar. I see who has activities and which nights are our busy days. This step helps determine how many meals I actually need to decide on. If we are out of the house all weekend long, I know I don’t need to worry about those days. Or if I know we are having a crazy evening, then I will be sure that the meal for that night is super easy!
When I want to try out a new recipe or a recipe that takes a while, I am sure to schedule that recipe for a night that we do not have anything going on!
Next, I see if anyone has any requests for a particular meal. I’ve said this before, when I talked kids school lunches, but it is important to find out what everyone actually wants to eat! If you have picky eaters like mine, the “short” list of what everyone will eat is always changing!
We generally stick to our weekly dinner themes (more on that in a minute), so it makes picking recipes a little easier.
I also love pouring through cookbooks when I have the time! Of course Pinterest is full of inspiration (sometimes too many ideas!), but I love the activity of leafing through a cookbook!
I am always on the lookout for new cookbooks. Ones that have fresh, real ingredients and are not overly complicated. (I’ve got a kids cookbook review coming later this week–so stay tuned!)
Stick to Meal Themes
As I’ve mentioned in the past, we try to follow set weekday dinner themes each week. Our themes change a little bit depending on the season. In the summer, we swap out soups for grilling. In the fall and winter we rely on crockpot meals more often.
I like that meal themes give us a general direction for what to make each night. Taco night can mean anything from a nacho platter, to fajitas or taco salad bowls! I try not to repeat the exact same meal two weeks in a row unless everyone wants that!
Keep things Simple
All this being said, our dinner are pretty simple! We are currently in a season of life that require easy, healthy meals. I’d love to spend more time on fun and complex recipes. But I’ve got fairly picky eaters and I’m lacking on a lot of time in the evening for dinner prep.
When I am in the mood for making a more labor intensive recipe, I am sure to schedule it on the weekend, usual on Sundays, when we have less going on!
Finally, I try to get as much done ahead of time for dinner as possible! This preparation makes those busy nights run a little bit smoother. If it’s taco night, I cut up veggies and sometimes even brown meat ahead of time.
When it’s salads for dinner, I cook the chicken and eggs (for cobb salads) in advance. All of these little meal prep steps save you time in the long run!
On weeks when I am really on top of things, I do my meal prepping on Sunday. I don’t necessarily make entire meals in advance, but I do get many of sides and snacks ready. I shared some of my favorite make ahead snack ideas HERE!
These days, I make things even easier in our meal planning by using Instacart. This grocery delivery service has been a game changer in my weekly routine! I have been using this service for the last few’s months and I am still a happy customer! All week long, I can add items to my grocery list and then when I am ready to order, my list is all set! Lately, I’ve ordered our groceries for Sunday or Monday morning and have a full fridge for the school week! So after, I come up with my meals for the week and create a grocery list, I add the items to my Instacart list and I wait for my groceries to be delivered:)
Instacart keeps track of what you have purchased in the past, so it is easy to reorder the same items. (I love this feature!). You could even create set grocery lists, so if you were interested in alternating your meals back and forth each week, you could just pick one of your saved grocery lists and reorder!
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