This comes up in my conversations with other women who manage the home pretty often. How do we plan meals? Do we even bother? What's a plan?
I don't have some magical solution, but I know what's worked for us. And whenever I find myself scrambling on the daily to come up with something besides take out or sandwiches, I know I need to get back on the meal plan train because it just makes life easier.
So generally this is what our meal plan looks like:
Monday- Rice and beans with the fixin's (cilantro, salsa, lime, corn, think Chipotle sans meat)
Tuesday- Left overs (from Monday night or the weekend)
Wednesday- Bigger, fun dish (the boys are usually with grandma and grandpa this day so I have more time)
Thursday- Left overs
Friday- Meatless meal
Saturday- Another fun dish or take out
Sunday- Usually left overs or take out
So a few points.
1. I tend to cook for a family of eight. It's just the Mexican in me. I cook in bulk, and it's stuff that can be easily reheated. If the budget isn't too tight, Monday's usually include chicken on those rice and bean bowls.
2. I try to be realistic about what I can do. I would rather heat up a pot of soup a few times a week than cook a new meal every single night. So I plan left over nights. I just have to.
3. I also like to plan take out nights. It gives me something to look forward to. We don't always do it, but if we're just out of left overs or have the time that's what we do.
4. I like to plan a couple of fun meals. By fun, I mean, something new, or something I really enjoy cooking and eating that takes more than 45 minutes to prepare. I usually save new recipes for weekends when we have the most time.
5. I keep a running list of meals we like to eat and meals that are easy to prep. So I look at the standard meal plan that I set up, and I just plug in meals from that list. Then I can make my shopping list for the week and hopefully wont have to run to the store more than once.
I find that meal planning, while it takes time at the beginning to get a system set up for your family, is worth it in the end because there's usually less waste, and you end up saving money on that grocery bill because that item you think you really want to try, well, ya just don't need it this week. But remember if for next week.
And just to share what this week looks like for us, ta-da!
Monday- Sonoma Chicken Salad. Anna made this for us right after we had Archie and it's one of my favorites. It's a really easy dish that can be prepared in steps over a day or two if that works for your schedule.
Tuesday- Left overs (either Monday's dinner or something from the weekend)
Wednesday- Stuffed Shells. I've made these for friends after they had babies, and I recall requesting this for birthday dinners as a child. I don't have a favorite recipe, I just kinda wing it, but I like to use ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, spinach, and this week, homemade tomato sauce.
Thursday- Left overs again (don't hate- celebrate cause you have extra time now)
Friday- Fried Rice- we'll add chicken for the boys. This is usually a dish Ian makes, and I'll just have the rice and chicken precooked on hand. It's a fast dish that everyone eats and enjoys.
Saturday- We'll be with family that day, so we wont be cooking at home.
Sunday- Albondigas or another soup that can easily be reheated for lunches.
What are some of your go to dishes?