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I used to be so organized, but as I add kids to our growing family my organization seems to fade more and more. One place I try not to compromise my organization too much is meal planning. In order to keep within a budget and stay sane, meal planning is a must. But I’m not super organized about it. I can’t plan by the month…because I’m super finicky about eating. I could plan to make spaghetti for dinner on Sunday night but wake up on Sunday and that doesn’t sound good (I don’t know why I said spaghetti because spaghetti ALWAYS sounds good. You get the idea though).So I’ve come up with a meal planning routine that works for the less organized or more finicky parent!
I hate when I look at the clock to find out it’s already five in the evening and I haven’t even THOUGHT about dinner! Those are the nights we either resort to a boxed meal or take out. Not the most terrible thing ever, but not the way I want my family eating very often. I try to cook almost every night, with some leftover meals scattered in throughout the week and a take out night or two each month. People are shocked when I say we almost never eat out, but with meal planning I have found the way to sane dinner time for a mom or dad of ANY number of kids!
The key to semi-organized meal planning without being too rigid is to start fresh with your meal plans each time you go grocery shopping. Here’s what I mean:
Before I go grocery shopping, I start by making a list of the meals we will eat over the next two weeks, keeping in mind meals I already have a lot of the ingredients for. I have my recipe cards, iPad with Pinterest open, cookbooks and email all open to help inspire what will be for dinner. I then write my grocery shopping list to revolve around those meals (as well as the various snacks and extras we need). I also try to plan around what’s in season if I can. Whatever we don’t already have to fulfill my meal plan I add to the list. I’ll also add in a frozen pizza, chicken nuggets or some sort of easy meals to the meal list for nights when I need a FAST meal. I also add in any meals that were on the last list that didn’t get made because we still have all the ingredients on hand!
I put the meal list onto my refrigerator.
Each morning, I look at my list and decide what I want to eat for dinner (I love being the cook in the house! It’s usually MY choice!!). I take out any frozen meat that needs to thaw or throw ingredients into the slow cooker for the day.
Then I know to set an alarm for a certain time to start making dinner! If I know dinner takes an hour and a half to prepare and bake, I make sure to set the alarm for 4:15pm so that I know dinner will be on the table by 6pm!
As we go through a meal, I cross it off the list…unless I bought enough for two dinners! Then I just add a dot next to that meal so that I know to leave the second round for the end of the meal plan calendar.
It’s not a perfect science. I still have days where I’m so busy that I forget to get dinner prepared and we do takeout, but those days happen less and less the more you implement a plan!
I hope my less organized method helps to bring sanity to the sometimes chaotic dinnertime preparation.