Cooking dinner is not my favorite thing to do. We have some picky eaters in my house and it’s a challenge to find something that everyone likes to eat. Our busy schedule can also make it challenging.
I’ve gone through stages where I’m really good about meal planning and in others, I fly by the seat of my pants. During these times, it’s often 4:30 PM and I don’t have a plan for what to make. Yet, somehow every day, we eat dinner. Sometimes it’s takeout or sometimes it’s sandwiches, but thankfully, we always have a meal.
I want to be more intentional about cooking at home, so I’ve come up with a flexible plan to help me stay organized. Here’s my system:
Master Meal List: Print out a blank calendar page and write down a month’s worth of meals your family enjoys eating. You’ll use this master list to pick meals from each week.
Try to create a routine that you can replicate each week. For example, at our house we usually do Mexican on Tuesdays (Taco Tuesday, anyone?), a leftover night, an eat out night and now that the weather is cooling down, I like to use the slow cooker for soups or stews.
Sunday – Meal Planning Day: Here’s where I look at the week ahead and plan out the meals from my master list based on our schedule and groceries we may already have on hand. This is also when you can plan for your grocery shopping or online ordering.
On Sundays we try to minimize cooking by eating leftovers or making simple meals to enjoy a Sabbath day of rest.
Here are a few other meal prep ideas to make eating at home a little easier:
Back Pocket Plans: I try to keep a few meal staples on hand if I don’t make what I’ve planned or for when I don’t have a plan at all:
- With pasta, sauce and a protein, I can cook up a quick batch of spaghetti.
- Bread, cheese and butter turn into a grilled cheese sandwich and I serve it with a can of whatever soup we have on hand.
- Breakfast for dinner is also a great option when you’re looking for a quick meal. Eggs and some pancakes are quick and please pretty much everyone.
Freezer Meals: When you cook, double your recipe and put half in the freezer for another time. You’ll thank yourself when it’s 4:30 and you have nothing to eat, but remember you have a spare meal in the freezer. If you want to make a big batch of meals, browse around on Pinterest for freezer meal ideas and take a few hours to shop and prep them all.
Emeals: This is a subscription-based service that sends you weekly meal plans and shopping lists. When you use the app, you can add your grocery items directly to your online cart at several national chain stores.
Meal Services: If you are pressed for time but have a healthy meal budget, consider a meal service. These companies are subscription-based too and will send you boxes of ingredients for healthy meals that you can open up and cook at home. A few I’ve heard of are Hello Fresh, Plated or Blue Apron.
I hope you find these ideas helpful. I’m off to figure out what I’m making for dinner tonight!