Since the new year I have been busy finding ways to get myself organized as a work at home mama. Meal planning is a big help when you are trying to cut down your grocery bill, but it also removes the worry about what’s for dinner. When it comes to life with a baby the concern of what is for dinner can be a big one, after all you are super busy changing diapers, breastfeeding, and chasing the little ones around it can be easy to forget that you have to feed yourself. Here are my top 5 meal planning tips.
Tip #1: Don’t plan too far ahead
I don’t plan ahead by more than 3 days, when I do the grocery shopping I buy based on what is on sale and what I currently have already at home if I am missing one or two ingredients for a favorite meal I make sure to pick those up. Many people who talk about meal planning tell you to plan out your entire week or month of meals in advance. I have a sensitive pallet and sometimes I am just not in the mood for something, so planning my menu out a week or even a month in advance is not realistic for me. It is for this reason that I make sure to have a variety of meals and snacks available. I typically buy two-three weeks worth of groceries at a time. How do I manage not to let food spoil when I only meal plan ahead by three days? I freeze a lot of our meats and we use frozen vegetables for a lot of meals. I do make stops to the store for perishables that run out before the two or three weeks is up.
Tip #2: Keep it visible
I have a white board on my fridge that allows me to plan out lunch and dinner for the week. I write down three days of meals in advance, and as I work through those three days I consider what we have left/available and brainstorm what I would like to eat after those three days. It helps me to see what we have already eaten so I know if I need to make one day a leftovers day. In addition, there are some days where I just don’t want to cook or we have too many errands to run so I will be sure to assign leftover days, pb&j days, or take out days as necessary.
Tip #3: Make a grocery list and stick to it
Just because you are not planning your meals a full week in advance, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the number of meals you will need to make for the week or weeks ahead. When you make your grocery list make sure that the items you have listed can easily be mixed and matched together to form the number of meals necessary to make it to your next grocery shopping day. Prevent over spending by considering what is in your pantry, fridge, and freezer already. Consider some ideas for future meals, or new recipes you may be thinking of trying. Avoid buying things that are not on your list.
Tip #4: Put it in your planner
I like to plan my weeks out in advance, especially since I work from home running this blog and writing content for other websites. When I fill out my planner either at the beginning of the week or beginning of the month I like to write down my daily goals, my work goals, and what’s for dinner. I consider what my goals for that day are and any events/errands that are taking place that day. If it looks like an exhausting day I will opt for an easier to cook dish. For example last week I had a networking event to attend. I spent the whole day cleaning in preparation for the babysitter and had to rush through getting ready so I could arrive to the location in time. I knew that when I got back that night I was going to be exhausted. I prepped part of the dinner ahead of time and kept it simple with pasta salad, sausage, and asparagus.
Tip #5: Prep ahead of time
Note how on the day that I was really busy last week I opted to prep earlier in the day for later in the evening. There are many ways to pre-prep your food. Some people opt for spending one day a month cooking/putting together a bunch of meals and then freezing them. This is an excellent option if you have help, I don’t have this thing called help so I often prep things the morning/afternoon before dinner, or sometimes I will prep the day before if I know I’m just not going to have time. Things I like to prep in advance are large amounts of chopping, and making of broth/chicken stock.
Did you find these tips helpful? How do you plan out your meals?