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Are you tired of standing in the kitchen during witching hour trying to figure out what to cook? Witching hour, if you don’t know, is that 1 hour a day when all heck breaks loose and everyone goes crazy. Even Mama (only cause she’s tired of all children acting like they’ve lost everything they’ve ever been taught in 2 seconds flat). Picture this, your baby needs to nurse (and we know baby don’t wait- right?). Your oldest child is doing an activity.
Your house is a mess. You have to unload the dishwasher. You have to wash pump parts and bottles. Your oldest child starts pitching a fit for a reason you are still trying to determine, and the baby starts screaming because he is hungry (and baby don’t wait). You also (amongst the chaos) have to figure out what to cook for dinner.
I mean, how are you supposed to figure out what to eat with all of that going on? Your husband calls to tell you he is coming home from work and you cave. You are too stressed to figure out what to cook, cook dinner, and clean up after dinner. So instead of cooking dinner, like you intended, you ask him to pick up McDonald’s, yet again.
What?!?!?!? That’s a recipe for disaster, but we do it to ourselves all of the time. We don’t have to do it anymore. You can learn to meal plan and make life a whole lot easier and less stressful.
Meal planning seems so simple on the surface, but it can cause a ton of overwhelm. You may have tried to implement meal plans in the past and it was a total flop. Maybe you didn’t have all of the ingredients, your family hated the meals, you forgot to defrost the meat, or you just didn’t feel like cooking at the end of the day. Either way, you can learn to meal plan without all of the headache and stress.
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Here are 7 tips to help your meal plan the easy and simple way.
1. Assign the meals to numbers instead of a certain day
This is one tip to help you get your feet wet with meal planning. If the idea of figuring out what to eat tacos on Tuesday the 16th stresses you out because you aren’t sure if you want tacos on the 16th, don’t do it. If you want to eat tacos, just write down tacos, but don’t assign it to a day of the week. You can just look at your meal plan sheet in the morning or the night beforehand and figure out what you want to eat. It doesn’t have to be that structured if you don’t want it to be.
2. Choose them nights
Choosing theme nights helps you not have to figure out what you want every single day. You know that you ALWAYS have pasta on Wednesdays. This limits your choices and helps you fight the decision fatigue. You don’t have to change it up and have something new and different every single night. That is impossible and so tiring and stressful.
3. Make a family favorites recipes list
Make a list of family favorites recipes list. What recipes make them eat every single bite? What recipes do your children repeatedly ask for? You can add to the list over time as you try and like new recipes. This will help you when you draw a blank and can’t think of what to put on your meal plan.
If you are just starting meal planning, or you don't wanna cook every night, just double or triple the recipe. You can eat leftovers for 1-2 nights after you cook. Then you are only cooking ½ the time and your family is still eating home-cooked meals. This tip right here keeps me out of the drive-thru line at McDonald's for real!
5. Freezer meals
Now, hear me out here. I am not about to tell you to go crazy and do 60 freezer meals in under 1.5 hours or anything like you've seen on Pinterest. I am talking about normal, easy, beginner level freezer cooking. Freezer cooking for normal, busy moms looks like doubling the taco meat recipe and freezing half for later. Or doubling the lasagna and freezing half. Here are some great things that freeze well: casseroles, soups, ground beef/turkey, pasta, chili, breakfast casserole, some quiches, and chicken pot pie. The best thing to do is to Google it.
6. Don’t go crazy when you’re first starting
Don’t go crazy. Don’t go from not planning to sitting down and trying to plan out a month’s worth of meals at one time. It ain’t gonna happen. You can’t go from not meal planning to changing and doing 30 days’ worth of meal plans at one time. Not to mention, you might need to tweak things and move things around. Your first meal plan won’t be perfect, and that’s okay. You shouldn’t expect it to be. You are going to accidentally schedule an elaborate meal the night of baseball practice when you’re gonna be home a total of 30 minutes before going to bed. That’s okay. It’s part of the learning process. It’s important to start slow and steady and figure it out as you go.
7. Only make 1 new recipe a week
Don't go crazy making all these new recipes every single week. Just do 1 new recipe a week. New recipes are a little more work and require more brainpower than recipes you've been cooking for 5 years. So, cut them down to once a week. Pro tip: I only cook new recipes on the weekend. My weekdays are so jam-packed and full, that I prefer to only cook new recipes when I have plenty of time.
Meal planning doesn't have to be long, drawn-out, hard, or complicated. You can use some quick tips to cut your meal planning time way down. You can do normal people meal planning, cook dinners your family will love, and don’t have to go crazy. You can make meal planning work for you and your family. You will save hours in the kitchen and won’t be making 15 trips to the grocery store every week.