It’s that dreaded question.…What’s for dinner tonight?
It could be asked by your spouse over text, it could be a question you silently ask yourself mid-afternoon when you realize you forgot to plan something, or it could be asked by your 10-year-old when he hops out of bed at 7:00 am because he needs to know what the day has in store for him. (Hypothetically speaking, of course…)
Pandemic or not, planning meals isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be a HUGE cause of stress. A stress that most of us don’t need right now. Whether you’re working full-time, at home helping the kids with online learning, or working from home AND helping the kids with online learning…finding the time to plan and cook practical, healthy meals every day can be pretty difficult. However, it’s something most of us would like to get better at. It’s also a great way to save some money, eat healthier, and enjoy dinner around the table as a family.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a planner. So, meal planning is just something I’ve always done. I usually take some time every Sunday to plan our meals for the week ahead. It’s a GAME CHANGER. It makes the rest of the week so much easier when you just know what you’ll be eating for dinner. I know this doesn’t come as easy for others, so I’ve put together some tips to help ease you into meal planning for your family.
Keep it Simple
Meal planning doesn’t have to be elaborate. I’m definitely not suggesting you plan a meal that will take hours to prepare in the middle of the week. In fact, I suggest you keep it simple. Simple often means healthier too. Grilling some meat and veggies and tossing together a salad is super quick and easy – and also delicious and healthy!
Know Your Schedule
Knowing your family’s schedule for the week is important when meal planning. If you know you work late on a certain night and won’t have time to cook, consider making extras the night before so you have leftovers. Or plan something in the slow cooker that’s ready to serve as soon as you get home.
Check Your Freezer
Do a quick scan of your freezer and plan your meals around what you already have on hand. Thaw whatever meat you need so it will be ready to cook when you get home, and plan for multiple nights. For instance, if you have lots of ground beef, thaw a bunch and plan tacos one night and spaghetti & meatballs the next! If you have plenty of steak, grill it with some veggies one night and use the leftovers for steak stuffed peppers or steak stir fry.
Make it Fun
Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Web Wednesdays – these are little daily things you can do to make meal planning fun and easy! We do Taco Tuesday on a regular basis, and during the colder months we throw in a few Slow Cooker Sundays – it always makes the house smell amazing!
Involve the Kids
If your kids are a bit older, ask them what meals they want and let each of them plan a meal every week. Not only will it help you plan the week (bonus), but you’ll know they’re picking meals they actually like and won’t complain about. Kids constantly complaining about meals can cause even more stress, so include them if you can.
When you make a meal plan for the week, remember it’s just that – a PLAN. Leave room for flexibility. Sometimes the week will go exactly to plan and sometimes…it won’t. Life happens. This past year has been proof of that! Don’t be hard on yourself if a day gets changed here and there. Just adjust the plan and don’t let one little hiccup mess up the rest of your week.
Plan Take-Out Nights
We all need a night off from cooking now and then. So, throw some takeout nights into your plan! If you can, order takeout from your favourite local restaurants and show them some love and support – they need it and appreciate it right now. Plus, small, locally-owned restaurants usually have the BEST food! There’s an amazing local Greek restaurant we love that we include in our meal plans regularly – they may even know us by name.
So, if you’re not already a meal planner, I hope these tips give you a start at being. It really does make dinner time a little less stressful moving forward – especially during such a difficult time. Happy meal planning!