Moms, are you struggling to serve up a home-cooked meal after a day of lessons, daily chores and everything else that happens in your busy day? Do you work outside the home and feel too frazzled to even think about making dinner when you arrive home?
When we first began homeschooling several years ago, I struggled daily to put food on the table for my family after I had such a busy day trying to teach my students and keep my house in running order. Back in those days, there were a few meltdowns and lots of tears while trying to figure out how to get our homeschool rhythm going until I discovered how that devoting less than an hour a week could be my life-saver.
Meal planning is not a new concept. I've seen it floating around on the internet for years in various places. Today, I thought I'd share my way of menu planning that works out wonderfully for me and my family.
Most of us, if we would admit it, only have a small list of recipes or meals that we know our family enjoys. As glamorous as it seems, serving a different meal every day for months is just not possible. I love to try new recipes, but I'm busy, and I just don't have the time (or money) for gathering hard-to-find ingredients for a lot of recipes. I stick with down home country cooking, but I always strive to make it very flavorful and special - even if we did have that same meal a couple weeks ago.
I have a master list of the meals that I know everyone in my family will enjoy that I use to plan out my meals for a whole month at a time. Yes, you read that right - a whole month of not stressing about what you are going to make for dinner!
Sit down and think about 15-20 main dishes that your family enjoys to eat, write them down. I don't use anything fancy, just plain old notebook paper will work fine. I use four sheets of paper, each page will serve as one week. On week one, I write down a main dish for Monday, skip a couple lines and write down a main dish for Tuesday, and so on all the way through Friday. Sunday is a free day that I don't plan (although you could plan for it as well) After I have my main dishes listed, I then go back and see what sides I can add each day, filling those in. The next sheet is for week two. I repeat the same steps as in week one. On the third sheet, I repeat the same process for week three. (You should have a different main dish every day for at least 3 weeks if you start out with 15-20 main dishes) On week four, choose 5 main dishes from the other three week sheets and complete the week four menu. I use the weekends for trying out new recipes and if they are a hit, I will add them to the next month's menu. For the past year, I've discovered that my family loves having a 'pizza' day. I've found several recipes for homemade pizza using a store bought pizza crust in a tube that I plan on sharing here on my blog soon.
*If I make a big pot of chili on Monday, I will plan to have taco salads on Wednesday using the leftover chili from Monday. If I cook pinto beans on Tuesday, I'll use the leftover beans for chili on Thursday. See if any of your big pot dishes can be used again in another meal.
*When I buy meats, I purchase bulk packages and separate them into the quantity we need for each meal.
*Use your crock pot (slow cooker) every chance you can!
*Consider planning a full day of cooking meals that can be frozen and used throughout the week when you know your going to have a full schedule with no time for cooking that week.
*Cook your meat in the slow cooker and freeze in the quantities you need for your meals. They're easy to pull out and add when you are pinched for time.
*As you plan your dinners for each week, on a separate sheet of paper, jot down your grocery supplies you need to pick up for that week.
*Any food prep you can do, such as washing and preparing your veggies beforehand will be very helpful.
*Ask the kids to gather the ingredients from the pantry. Give them a small list of items to find and have them place them on the counter for you. They love to help!
I sincerely hope these little menu planning tips will help someone. It sure made a positive change in my overwhelmingly busy schedule!