Lifestyle Motherhood Recipes

Easy meal planning

January 28, 2017
Chef's plate - Making Gnocchi from scratch

Since choosing my One Little Word (OLW) this year, I have really started to embrace the simple way of doing things. Some things are complicated in life, but so many things really don’t have to be – including meal planning and cooking at home.

I’ll be honest, I have been meal planning for a while now because it’s what works best for our family (and our budget). But what I haven’t done before 2017 is actually stick to the weekly plan all the time. Most days, we would have something planned, but come time to make dinner, Will and I would look at each other and pray that the other one would offer to make dinner. If no one took it on, some days we would just end up with mac & cheese.

But this year we are doing things differently for a number of different reasons:

  1. Will is working full time and comes home late every day. So dinner is now 100% my responsibility. And I’m embracing it.
  2. As part of our OLW “Simplify,” we are really trying to minimize waste, especially in the kitchen. If I have a plan and stick to it, we won’t have so much food going bad every week.
  3. It’s better for our budget if we are not wasting food and buying things willy-nilly once we get to the store.
  4. It’s also better for our waistlines if we’re not eating mac and cheese all the time.

So for all these reasons, I have been diligently meal planning every week and actually sticking to it. I am also exploring a ton more recipes this way and discovering how much I actually like cooking. Call me old fashioned, but I have found my new place… in the kitchen.

And I. Am. Loving. It.

Trying new things in the kitchen

I haven’t always loved cooking though, and I was certainly not very good at it. I was that kid who had to Google how to hard boil an egg. But now, I am having a lot of fun trying new recipes from Pinterest and getting out of my comfort zone with Chef’s Plate, a meal service that sends you all the ingredients and recipes for 2-3 meals a week. It was a gift from my parents for Christmas, and it’s been so great at taking me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to try new things.

For instance, we ordered gnocchi one week and when it came, we realized we actually had to MAKE THE GNOCCHI! Like actually make it, roll it out, blanch it and fry it up. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with the thought of doing it, but I needed dinner that night, so we made it and it’s now definitely one of my favourite meals. If I saw that on Pinterest, I would have skipped by to another recipe. And I would have missed out. (By the way, if anyone is interested in trying Chef’s Plate, feel free to use this referral link for 3 free “plates” – if you get 2 meals a week for 2 people it’s 4 “plates,” so you only end up paying $17 for the trial week. #worthit)

Chef's plate - Making Gnocchi from scratch

Okay Sarah, get on with it. Tell the good people how they too can simplify their lives with easy meal planning.

EASY MEAL PLANNING STEPS:

1. CHOOSE | a night of the week that you will always plan out your meals. Stick to it and make it a weekly habit. (I prefer that the next day be shopping day, but you can decide what works best for you.)

2. PLAN | out all your meals, including sides. Use Pinterest or cookbooks to get some fresh ideas and to try something new. If you have a recipe for a larger meal, be sure to plan a day for leftovers so that you’re not stuck throwing out food that you should be eating, or plan to double a recipe to throw half in the freezer for another time.

3. MAKE | a shopping list as you plan out your meals. Take a look at each recipe that you’re planning on making to be sure you have enough of everything you need and not too much. Think through breakfasts, lunch, snacks as well as dinner for your list. Don’t forget to check your freezer for any ingredients that you can use from there. This list can be ongoing throughout the week – if you run out of something, add it right away so you don’t forget later, especially if it’s not something you use often.

4. STICK | to your plan and list. If something comes up or you need to switch a meal around, that’s completely fine. The point of this isn’t to make your life harder, but to SIMPLIFY your planning. When you wake up, you can quickly look at your list, take out any freezer meat if you need to and ensure that nothing goes bad before you get a chance to use it.

This whole process of choosing meals and making the list is 20 minutes out of your entire week and will save you so much time in the long run. It’s my tried and true method, and it hasn’t let me down yet. By putting in the time once a week, it saves so much grief around dinner time every night.

To make your meal planning easier, I have made this handy printable to download and print:

Ultimate meal planning guide

The printable PDF download is available here.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get planning! (And cooking!)

PS. If you’re looking for some great meal ideas, I’ve started this Pinterest board with some other moms for tested and approved recipes. I’ll be adding to it regularly as I try new recipes weekly.

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