My biggest pitfall when it comes to meal planning is forgetting to plan according to my schedule that week. I don’t know how many times I have had the best intentions and planned out all these great meals, done my shopping, stayed on budget, but then thrown half the stuff away because I didn’t have time to cook it.
On Friday, when I am throwing away bad chicken, and I am looking at the price on the package, I feel like a failure.
“Look how much money you wasted”, says the snarky voice in my brain. That snarky voice is my worst enemy and I wind up feeling defeated and frustrated at my inability to handle basic things like cooking.
So, I decided to stop planning to cook every night, and overwhelm myself with tasks that are completely not feasible.
Here are my top tips for a successful week of meal planning:
1.Look over the next weeks schedule before you ever start meal planning or go grocery shopping.
What nights do you have therapy, gymnastics, ball games? How long will they last?
2. Plan ahead for nights you can’t or won’t have time to cook.
Will you be home before 6? Crock pot meal. Will you be home before 7? No? Plan to eat out or bring dinner with you.
3. Budget money for eating out or plan something easy to take along.
During middle school soccer, I ran home before the game and made two frozen pizzas. I cut them up and put them in foil pans. I packed paper plates and napkins. We ate pizza while we watched the soccer game and threw away the trash as we left the game. All I took home was a little leftover pizza.
Grab some pizza at a quick place like Little Caesar’s, or on your way home go to a kids eat free place like O’Charley’s.
4. If you will be home before 7, prep a crock pot meal the night before (or wake up a little early) and turn it on before you leave the house. There are some great crock pot and instant pot meals at Eat at Home!
5. Make your busiest evening a leftovers night or make Friday night a leftovers night.
We all know how done we are on Friday, and that makes it the perfect night to designate as a leftovers night. The kids can choose something they really liked that week and all you have to do it put it in the microwave.
6. Prep your ingredients ahead of time.
If you are cooking a couple of meals that use ground beef, cook it all on Sunday afternoon and either freeze it or refrigerate it. Chop your vegetables and put them in plastic containers. Make two of one meal and freeze one to eat next week or the week after. Assemble your meal ahead of time and put it in the fridge. You can pull it out when you get home and it’s ready to bake.
7. Do yourself a favor and buy some paper plates. I recycle. I know it is kind of wasteful, but it saves so much time in dishwashing. Or you could make it a habit to clean the kitchen as a family after dinner. Many hands make light work!
Planning out your weeks meals according to your schedule can alleviate overspending and take the stress out of your week.
Don’t start your meal planning until you have checked your calendar. Plan some easy, no hassle meals like my One Pan Enchilada Casserole or my Overloaded Baked Potatoes. It is also fine to eat out during the week. Just plan it and budget for that, so you don’t have to feel guilty. Here is a list of restaurants where kids eat free!
What are some meal planning ideas that you are already using that work for your family?