Meal planning is my nemesis!
Prior to kids, food consumption looked a whole lot different and dreamier than it does today.
We used to go out to eat a lot. It was so relaxing!
Pre Baby Grocery Shopping
I also used to love grocery shopping. (Don’t even get me started). I would stroll through the grocery store, trying to recall my favorite episodes of The Food Network’s, Everyday Italian, while impulsively purchasing ingredients on a whim.
Once my shopping was complete, I would then choose the longest checkout line so that I could spend time in line looking at foodie magazines.
A New Reality
Fast forward, like one giant smack across the face, through three kids and thirteen years of marriage. I no longer live in that fantasy world. So many things have changed.
A long checkout line is no longer an opportunity to catch up on my reading. Instead, it’s an opportunity to master my ninja skills by swiftly moving the grocery cart with my elbow so my 2-year-old can’t reach the candy while I place eggs on the conveyer belt with my free arm. Meanwhile, I’m simultaneously using my foot to
kick gently coax my daughter out from under the cart, all while shooting eye darts at my son who is now using the lane chain as a swing. Grocery shopping with kids is a whole thing!
I’ve even changed grocery stores to avoid these long lines. God bless Aldi and the record speed at which they move people through the checkout lines. It really is a work of art deserving of a standing ovation.
Now, I still do love to cook, but young children can sometimes suck the joy right out of it. I mean, they have to eat… like all the time…it never ends. Seriously, can’t they just skip lunch now and then without complaining?
Take the zoo for instance. There we are, having fun, being a family, savoring the moments, and before you know it, lunchtime is upon us and the few snacks I managed to toss into my bag aren’t cutting it.
I just wanna say, “Here’s a stick of gum. Shove it in your mouth and chew it! Chew it with a smile. Just look at the bears and chew your gum. We’re being a happy family!”
Don’t they know I’m pretty much hungry all the time?
Time For a Plan
Since becoming a mother, I’ve been trying to crack this meal planning code and become one of those crazy, organize, crock pot wizards.
Every time a meal planning expert spoke to the church mom group I attended, there I sat, with smoke coming off my pen, as I frantically listened and took detailed notes. No if only I could actually figure out how to implement all of her brilliance!
Despite my impressive planning and list-making skills, I can officially say I’m the worst at meal planning. I even gave my crock pot away as a white elephant gift after consistently burning every meal I attempted to make in it.
A few months back, a lightbulb went off and I figured out a “meal plan” that saved me.
It’s an embarrassingly easy family meal plan that promises a stress free method for feeding your family. This meal plan revolutionized the way we eat meals and released me from the shame of my incapabilities.
I ditched my Julie and Julia expectations and came up with a meal plan that works for us. If you are a mom who is bad at meal planning, meal prepping or just simply in a frantic season of life, this just may be for you too.
The Simplify Your Life Meal Plan:
(for those of us who are over it)
STEP 1: First, Stop Calling it Meal Planning
I stopped calling it a “meal plan” and now refer to it as a meal rotation.
Rather than writing all the meals out in the order I intend to make them in, I now just have a list of meal options available to me. The day, mood, or rapidly approaching expiration dates dictate which meal I make on which day. This gives me more freedom, but mostly removes that feeling of failure that would hit every time I veered off of my “meal plan.” Which was pretty often.
STEP 2: Start by Making a List
Did I mention I love making lists?
Make a list of all of your family’s favorite meals and side dishes.
For example, our favorite meals would be:
- Baked chicken legs
- Change Your Life Chicken (truly changed my life)
- Spinach and ricotta stuffed shells
- Instant Pot (<–affiliate link) chicken tacos
- Turkey tacos
- Turkey burgers
- Perfect Roast Chicken by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, (Simple. Amazing. Here’s the recipe. Try it. I promise, you’ll thank me)
- Brinner (Waffles/french toast)
- Homemade Pizza
- Wildtree grilled adobo chicken kabobs (recipe)
- Grilled herb pork tenderloin
- Parmesan chicken
- Creamy baked rigatoni
These are the main meals everyone in my family eats without complaining. Just simple, foolproof meals I can insist everyone eat because I know they like them (even if a child decides they don’t like it today…eye roll).
Now, do the exact same thing with healthy side dishes.
Step 3: Shorten the List
Now choose the three biggest winners from each list. Pick three meals from this list that are both healthy and relatively easy.
For us that would be tacos, change your life chicken and turkey burgers.
Then pick about four side dishes every one likes.
The ones I chose were, sliced avocado, corn, homemade fries (sweet and white potatoes), and green beans.
I consider things like chips and salsa, garlic bread and salad to be optional side sometimes served as well, but not required.
Step 4: Repeat
Here’s the potentially awkward part. I started making those exact same three meals every…single…week.
You guys, every single week, I make turkey burgers, change your life chicken and turkey tacos.
By keeping such a simple rotation I always know what to buy and I always have it in stock at home. It’s like a capsule wardrobe, but for your pantry.
It makes my trips to the grocery store more efficient, I’m saving tons of money and my pantry is more organized than ever before. That’s right! A more organized pantry!
I’m now consistently feeding my family the healthy foods they love.
I no longer spend my time overthinking the meal planning process because I created the easiest meal plan of all time.
Step 5: Plan One Meal a Week
Now, you may be thinking, that’s only three meals a week. There are seven days. What do you do the rest of the week?
Don’t think about it in terms of “days of the week.” It’s a rotation, not a meal plan. Simply rotate through as needed. Our life, and the occasional kid’s growth spurt, determines how long it lasts.
Typically, we get two days out of the tacos and two days from turkey burgers. So five days are taken care of right there. If I really wanted to, I could stretch those tacos to three days.
Some weeks we are gifted a date night. Chicken nuggets and sliced avocado are my go-to meal for babysitter nights. Soccer or basketball practice often become a Jimmy John’s night.
I don’t feel bad about it at all, because I know my family is regularly eating a healthy dinner.
Now that most of my days are mindlessly decided for me, I choose one unique meal to make a week. ONE meal! I’m simply planning ahead for one meal per rotation. It’s like those three meals are made on auto pilot. It’s become as second nature to me as loading kids into the car or cleaning up a glass of spilled milk.
Now, there are occasional weeks where life allows me the time or desire to plan a second meal, but I certainly don’t feel like I have to.
Step 6: Receive Your Praises
So here’s the BEST part! Are you ready? When I declare, “Tonight I’m making that perfect roast chicken, or spinach and ricotta stuffed shells,” or announce, “I’m making baked chicken legs and mashed potatoes,” I’m the family hero!!
My kids love me, they hug me, they flail their arms around, they THANK ME for all its deliciousness and uniqueness. (Ok, that may be a bit over top, but they get excited for sure).
For those rockstars out there who have mastered a meal plan that keeps their families eating a different meal every day for an entire month or two, I commend them, I tip my hat to them, but I no longer aspire to be them!
I’ve found what works for us and we are thriving in it. Simple, sustainable, small steps keep this family running smoothly, with greater peace, stronger bones and satisfied bellies.
For more inspiration
Declutter Your Life
It’s time to stop managing our families and start leading them!
2 years ago I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I had no capacity to mom on purpose.
Living with less has gifted me time, space and some much needed perspective of what truly matters most. Below is the link to my FREE Beginner’s Declutter Like a Minimalist Guidebook. It takes a deeper look at the 7 Steps to getting started highlighted in my popular post, Declutter Like a Minimalist.
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