How to master meal planning for your family
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.
How I meal plan
I usually do my meal planning and groceries on Friday and do some prepping on Sunday. During the week, I have some time to prep meals but now that there’s an activity every night, I’m going to have to meal plan like a boss.
I don’t go overboard on the meal planning. (Or at least I don’t think I do!) Here are some things I like to consider.
How much time do you have this week to prep in advance? I like to prep on Sundays. I also try to find pockets of time 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.
Another consideration is, how much hands-on time you have to make your meals each day. If you’re running out shortly after getting home from work, consider making something that you can prep ahead of time.
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. Making my grocery list while I’m taking stock of what we have makes it easy to fill in the blanks. I go meal by meal and add whatever we don’t already have to the list.
Check out my post on 55 Ingredients to have on hand at all times, to see what I stock in my pantry.
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, you might want to consider having a healthy, substantial snack before the activity. Also, consider a lighter supper that cooks up quickly after your activity.
I never include breakfast and lunches in my meal plan. We usually do cereal, yogurt, 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 at least one of us to have leftovers 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. I try to make sure I alternate making meals I know they like with meals they don’t, so they can eat leftovers if necessary.
Typically, we have people over for dinner on weekends. 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.