The guest post of Abby of Mother on a Mission
I’ve been reading money saving and homemaking blogs long enough to know the lowdown on this meal planning thing. I’ve menu-planned off and on since my husband and I got married nearly five years ago, but I’ve been doing it regularly since my daughter was born seven months ago. Since then, I’ve found a few strategies that keep things running smoothly for us.
1. I don’t “schedule” leftovers.
In the past, when I planned our monthly menus, I would allocate at least one night a week for leftovers. That made sense to me, so that we didn’t throw away money in the form of food that didn’t get eaten.
The problem was that I didn’t have a backup plan for those nights when I couldn’t pull dinner together in time. All too often, I found myself asking my husband to “just pick something up” for dinner.
Now, I don’t include leftovers in the menu plan. I love knowing that, if meal preparation just isn’t happening one night, I have an easy go-to option. The best part is that my family isn’t eating unhealthy, over-priced takeout anymore. Instead, they’re getting healthful meals that I’ve prepared myself, which means I know exactly what they’re eating.
2. I cook chicken once a month.
I plan our supper menus a month at a time. That means that when I do a major grocery shopping trip the beginning of each month, I already know what meals I’ll be cooking for the next four weeks.
To save myself time throughout the month, I prepare all the chicken we’ll need right after I bring it home from the store. I bake it, shred it, and portion it out into freezer bags labeled with the name of the recipe I’ll be using it for. When I need chicken for a specific recipe, I just pull a bag from the freezer.
3. I cook when I can.
More often than not, I actually prepare our evening meal early in the day, when both kids are napping. I’ve found that I can make in twenty minutes what would take me at least twice that long to prepare if both kids were awake.
The result is that I get a little solo time in the kitchen, which I love, and I breathe a big sigh of relief come supper time when all I have to do is cook or reheat what I prepared earlier. I’m also a big fan of doing things this way because it allows me to spend my children’s waking hours fully focused and present with them, not distracted by several different chores and projects.
Some people view menu planning as boring and restrictive, but I feel the opposite. Knowing what we’ll be eating for each meal makes our days go smoothly and allows me to focus my attention on more important things, like my husband and children.
Note from Crystal: Be sure to check out our free downloadable menu planners.
What are your best tips and tricks for successful menu-planning?
Abby is Mom to two energetic blessings and wife to a handsome high school science teacher. She co-owns the Etsy shop Three Thousand Miles and blogs at Mother on a Mission, where she writes about her journey to make the world the kind of place she wants to raise her children in.