Simplifying Meals and Healthy Eating with Meal Planning – Part 1

“Mom! What’s for dinner!?”  This question makes my top 3 list of questions that I passionately dislike, and is especially true if I don’t have an answer for it.   How many times a day do we have to contemplate this question?  And, at least for me, that question takes up a lot of my mental energy. Mental energy that I would much rather spend on other things, like solving sibling squabbles, and helping my kids with long division.  You know, the things that really matter in life 🙂 But the truth is, it doesn’t have to.  Would you believe me if I told you that if you invest 1-2 hours at the most for 1 day at the end of the month, that you can have that daunting question answered for the next 30 days?  Well friend, read along.

Here is the run down to planning for simple, delicious, and nutritious meals for your family. Eating healthy does not happen on accident. You really have to be intentional about it. If  not, you will find yourself in the drive thru again and again. Or serving up that 3rd bowl of cereal for the day. I’m not being judgmental, I’ve been there. I think it is safe to say that we have ALL been there.    It has taken me a while of tweaking different things to fit our lifestyle to finally get this figured out to where I am confident to share what works for me.  Even if everything here does not work for you and your family, maybe this post will set you on the trajectory to finding something that works better for your family and lifestyle.

  1. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A PLAN – No brainer right? I mean, this is a post about meal planning. I know. There is really no getting around this. For all of my readers who say, “I just love being spontaneous and having variety,” there is room for spontaneity and variety in having a plan.  For all of my readers who say “I’m just not organized,” could I just preach to you for a moment? This is an excuse. Everyone has strengths and things that require growth. I also totally understand different personality types, but that doesn’t change the fact that the most organized person in the world still has to sit down and put pen to paper and do the work.  Anyone can do this, organized or not. You can do this!
  2. CHOOSE A THEME FOR EACH DAY OF THE WEEK – I’ve tried several different meal planning methods and this one is by far the quickest and easiest. It also takes the mental energy and overwhelming feelings out of scrolling through Pinterest or flipping through cookbooks for a recipe to fill up every day of the week. Sit down and think about what you usually eat. You will probably notice that you cook a lot of the same meals over and over each week.  And BTW, that’s ok! Take that information and assign it to a day of the week.  For example, here are our themes for the week:

Sunday = Santiago Tradition (roasted chicken, green beans and basmati rice)

Monday = Burgers

Tuesday = Mexican

Wednesday = Santiago Favorites/New Recipe

Thursday = Asian

Friday = Brinner (Breakfast for dinner)

Saturday = Slow Cooker/Instant Pot Meals

Sunday = Santiago traditional meal. We have this meal every Sunday.  It has become our own “tradition,” hence the name.  Monday = Burgers (we alternate between chicken and beef burgers to switch it up a little…variety right?). Tuesday = Mexican (we alternate between beef and chicken for these meals as well). Wednesday = Santiago favorites/New Recipe days – I leave this day open to be spontaneous (there’s that word again). I will either make one of our  favorite meals that doesn’t necessarily fit under any of our themes or this will be the day to try that new recipe that I’ve been eyeing. Thursday = Asian inspired. Friday = Brinner (Breakfast foods for dinner). Saturday = Instant Pot/Slow Cooker meals.  You can change these themes on a month to month basis if you want or not. I don’t change my themes very often. When the warmer months come around, I’ll be changing my Saturday theme to either BBQ or “from the grill” days.  The sky is the limit with themes.  Some more themes are: pasta days, seafood days, meatless, vegetarian or vegan days, or you can even schedule a certain day of the week for take out.  Get a piece of paper and write down your themes:

 

3.   Now that you have your themes, putting together a meal plan should a breeze. I meal plan for the entire month and at this point, it takes me no longer than an hour to fill in my calendar, write out a grocery list, and shop for the items I need online. The first thing I do is print out a calendar for the month. You can google “printable calendars” and find one there. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Or if you have a daily/monthly planner, you can use that. Here’s what my meal plan looks like for February.  Fill in your plan.

Feb meal plan.png

 

4.  Make your grocery list.  I also suggest cleaning out the fridge, freezer and pantry before you start this step.  Make this a part of your meal planning rhythm. Here’s where you can do what works for you and your situation and depending on how often you go shopping. You can write out a list for each week all at once if you go grocery shopping weekly and just add to it if something runs out for that particular week (you can title it Week 1, Week 2…etc.).  You can write a grocery list 1 week at a time the day before you shop.  Do what works. Here’s what works for us:  I do most of my grocery shopping online.  I write out all of the places that I shop and as I’m looking at our meals each week, I’m filling in what I need.  I order my meats for the entire month through U.S. Wellness Meats.  I order all of my dry goods/pantry items for the month through Thrivemarket.com.  Lastly, I make sure my subscribe and save items through Amazon are all set and will get here when I need them.  My grocery shopping days are early Saturday morning and I usually write my grocery list the night before or morning of Saturday for the week.  Here’s what that looks like:

grocery list.png

So there you have it!  I hope this post is a help and start for you to jump on the meal planning bandwagon.  There’s a reason so many people are on it!  I really does make a difference 🙂

Do you meal plan too?  I’d love to hear about it!

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{Websites we love}

ere’s an on-going list of websites we love.

 

This is a site that often helps me focus on who matters the most : shereadstruth.com

This is a site that I (Joyce) visit regularly for homeschool and parenting encouragement. I have all of her bible studies and my kids and I have a great time digging into God’s word and learning about obedience, loving each other, contentment and more.  We re-visit all of these bible studies at the start of every school year.  http://www.notconsumed.com/

I (Joyce) am super passionate about books and reading aloud to my children.  Want some inspiration?  visit http://www.readaloudrevival.com

We really like Norwex. Life could be rough without friendly cleaning options