Five things to consider when meal planning

Part one of two of my meal planning series.

So, we decided that taking the girls to swimming in the spring was a good idea, because it was awful in the winter.  Wet hair, 50 below, snowsuits, tiny changeroom full of moms trying to dress wet babies on benches.  No thanks.  We knew the girls wanted to play soccer and we somehow thought that we’d only have a week or two of overlapping activities.  We also thought that the girls might end up on the same team.  Wrong, wrong, wrong! Now we have SIX weeks of overlap, the girls are on different teams and play different nights!  This means, that every single weekday for the next six weeks, we are going to be hustlin’ to get home from school/work, eat supper, get to an activity and get back home for bedtime.

I usually do my meal planning and groceries on Friday and do some prepping on Sunday.  During the week, I have some time here and there to prep meals but now that there is an activity every single night, I’m going to have to up my game on the meal plan.

I don’t go overboard on the meal planning (or at least I don’t think I do) but here are some things I like to consider.

5 things to consider when meal planning

1) Time

How much time do you have this week to prep in advance? I like to do most of my prep on Sundays, but I do have time here and there during the day to accomplish a few small tasks.  One strategy I like to use is to prep once for two meals.  For example, tonight I’m going to cook chicken for tonight and tomorrow’s supper.

The other time consideration you should think of is how much hands-on time you have to actually make your meals each day.  If you’re running out to an activity shortly after getting home from work, consider making something that you can mostly prep ahead of time.

2) Stock

What’s in your fridge, freezer and pantry that needs to be used up?  I always start there to avoid food waste and unnecessary grocery shops.  I always make my grocery list while I’m taking stock of what we have.  I go meal by meal and add whatever we don’t have on the list.

In case you missed my post on 55 Ingredients to have on hand at all times, check it out to see what I stock in my pantry.

3) Activities

Are you going to be eating before or after the activity?  Who is going to be home for supper?  This one kind of ties in with time.  For example, if you’re planning on eating before heading out, you may have more prep time to throw something together.  If you’re eating when you get home, then maybe you want to consider having a healthy, substantial snack before the activity.  Also, consider a lighter supper that cooks up quickly, in case you’ve run out of energy by the time your activities are done, or you need to get the kids to bed at a reasonable hour.

4) Leftovers

I never include breakfast and lunches in my meal plan.  We usually do cereal, eggs or toast for breakfast and for lunches, we do leftovers.  Whenever I make soup for dinner, I freeze the leftovers so that we always have something on hand for a last-minute lunch.  Otherwise, lunches in our house are usually dinner leftovers.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of leftovers, but I do like to ensure we have enough for one or two of us to have leftovers the next day, and only the next day.  Another reason I consider leftovers when I’m meal planning is for the kids.  I don’t make something different if they don’t want to eat what is on the menu, however, I can pretty much guess what they will sample versus actually eat for a meal.  For those days, I try to make sure I alternate making things I know they like with things they don’t, so they can eat leftovers.

5) Guests

Typically, we have people over for dinner on weekends, but every now and then, we will have family over to babysit the kids during the day or in the evening, so I like to make sure we have enough on hand to feed them if they’d like to stay for dinner.  Impromptu dinner guests are all a part of being too busy livin’, and we love that!

I’ll do a part-two on this topic next week, with recipes that you can try to work into your own meal plan.  Until then, hopefully some of these considerations will help make your family meal planning a bit easier.

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