Today in your quest to get Real Organized, I'm going to have you work on learning meal planning. I swear you guys, these tasks I'm giving you are so not sexy and yet, as I've said before, I promise you that if you keep at it and implement these small little projects each week, you will not feel so frazzled and all over the place as a busy mom. You will have more organization and peace of mind, which will bring more peace to your home overall.
Who is sick of the question, “What's for dinner, Mom?” I know I was! Not only is it an annoying question, it often induces panic….or is that just me?
When you don't have a plan, you often don't have any ideas of what to serve and also don't have the food you need to create any kind of healthy meal in the house. It feels SO much easier to just order take out or to go out or troll the frozen food section at the store. Been there done that….more times than I'd like to admit.
There are multiple problems with the lack of planning. First and foremost, it gets expensive really quick! Secondly, it is hard to eat healthy and feed our kids things that will help their growing bodies with this method. Lastly, it is just stressful.
A few years ago I came up with a system that has not only helped save my family money, but has ended the whole debate of what is for dinner or what to make on any given night, because if you are like me and there is any debate, we will take the easy route at the end of the day and go out to eat.
This system takes just a few minutes one day per week once you have things in place and the best part is that the system I came up with is totally flexible because let's be real….things change often with a family and if you are like me, I needed a plan that would flex with those changes.
This post is part of my #RealOrganized series. If you want the whole series, just click the graphic above or you can click here to sign up to have each week of this series and all the freebies directly emailed to you. The goal of this series is for you to be able to organize some of the things that as moms, we have to deal with on a yearly, monthly, weekly, or daily basis. By getting these things organized we can free up time in our week as well as space in our homes and minds. The main goal is to feel more organized and less clouded as moms so we can find time and space to spend with our family as well as do things we love and find fulfilling.
The first step in meal planning is to have ideas of things your family likes to eat and things that fit into the amount of time you have for cooking. That is why I had you organize your recipes last week. It is the foundation of meal planning.
Once you have ideas of things your family will eat and that you have time to cook, take a look at your calendar, which is why it is handy to have your meal planning and calendar together. If you have space to create something like my command center, it is so handy.
Use your calendar and plan your meals. If you know you will be eating out on Thursday, mark that down. If you know you have a potluck on Saturday and you have to bring potato salad, add that as well.
While doing this, take into account those busy days. The days when only a meal in the crockpot is going to work. Plan based on what you see on your calendar.
Once you have those more challenging meals figured out, it is just a simple task of plugging in other meals your family likes to eat into the other open meal slots. You can use something simple like this editable weekly meal plan, pictured above, I have as a free printable for you.
If you have space, you can create a much more flexible meal planning system, which is what I have (and LOVE!). Do you see those little cards below the calendar? That is my meal planning. I love that they are laminated little cards that I can use a dry erase pen and write what we plan to eat. I also love that if someone gets sick or the baseball game gets moved and we need to change our plan, it is a simple unclick and swap to another day to change things around. It makes meal planning so easy and so flexible.
Now if you don't have the space for a command center, like I do, you could easily use these magnetic clips (affiliate link) on the front of your fridge and create the same thing.
To create the meal planning cards, print your meal planning cards on cardstock. They are editable, so you can add your family's favorite meals to cards. This makes your weekly meal planning even easier! If you have Taco Tuesday every week and Pizza every Friday night…Bam! Two meals planned with cards, easy peasy!
Once you have your cards edited and printed, cut them out. Laminate (affiliate link) them. Cut them out one last time. Now you can use a dry-erase pen to write on the cards. When you have made that meal, you can erase the card and use them again.
I will tell you that one of the reasons I love the meal planning cards versus the full page printable is the flexibility.
In the past, I used a full sheet printable laminated(like the freebie I gave you earlier in this post).
It was hard to rearrange things and got confusing. It may just be that my brain doesn't function well with that style.
With the meal planning cards, if I skip cooking a meal, I leave it in the clip. Then I can make the choice to make it the following night. Most of the time I need a specific meal on a specific night due to time constraints. Often, the meal I didn't make will get forwarded to the next week or the next open night. I love that I can just unclip the card and move it as needed. So easy and saves me money that I remember I bought the ingredients for the meal.
Regardless of if you use the paper version or this card and clip version of meal planning, you will have a whole week of meals planned out and easy for the whole family to see what is for dinner.
The last thing that you need to factor into your meal planning is when you will plan meals each week.
Use your calendar to figure out the best day for you, but make a plan for when you will do your meal planning. Add it to your calendar or your cleaning schedule.
Usually planning meals will be associated with the grocery shopping (which we will talk about getting that organized in the next task), so you will want to have a day that you have time to plan meals, make the list and do the shopping.
It doesn't have to be done all on the same day. So do what works for your life.
For me, right now, I usually plan meals on Saturday morning. It takes me anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes. Then my husband makes the grocery list and does the grocery shopping on Saturday as well. It is what works for us at this stage of our family life.
Now, I have one more printable for you as well. A daily meal planner. This isn't something I would use all that often because I prefer to have a weekly overview, but there are times I think it would be handy, like planning for special occasions or maybe a vacation where we are sharing meal prep/planning with others. This would be really handy.
I'm telling you, the very simple 10-15 minutes per week that it will take you to meal plan will save you in so many ways.
It will save your sanity and it will save you money.
Before I started consistently meal planning, we ate a lot of random thrown together things or just opted to go through the drive-thru. We don't eat that way at all anymore. I know I have saved money and I'm sure it has helped me keep off the weight I lost a few years ago. All good things!
Just like a lot of the other tasks in this Real Organized series, this is super simple and it may seem like one to skip. Don't. I promise, if you keep going and keep adding each of these tasks to your weekly life, you are going to love the results! You are going to feel less frazzled and more in control of your home and family life. It will be worth it. I promise!
Next week, you are going to work on getting your grocery list organized as well as how to make meal preparation a bit easier and more organized.
What other meal planning tips do you have? I'd love to hear what is working for you! Leave a comment below.