One of the most challenging jobs a mom has is preparing meals for her family. When you think about it, there’s a lot of energy spent on food and the preparation of it. We shop for food, prepare food and cook food. Besides sleep, I think food would be the single most time-consuming thing in our day.
This thing is, I love all types of food, different ways of preparing food and trying new ideas. Sometimes my efforts don’t seem to be appreciated. My hubby and kids aren’t always as excited as I am about the new dish I served. Probably because there is such a diverse palate in our home. I am a vegetarian, the male members love their meat and my daughter who is leaning towards vegetarian meals but will eat some meat.
It was time to simplify my meals planning and get on with more important things in life.
What I wanted to do was cut the clutter from the menu and keep my meals simple so I would enjoy cooking as much as my family would enjoy eating.
These are 5 of the ways that I simplify my meal planning. You may find them helpful as well.
1. Simplify your ingredient list
You can simplify your menu easily by cooking meals that are made up of simple ingredients. It’s that simple. Less ingredients make for simple meals. Include a protein, a starch and a vegetable. If you are serving fish for your protein, add rice and a vegetable. Or, one of my favorites, a hearty bowl of soup (with lots of veggies) and a slice of whole grain bread.
Each dish should included 5 to 6 ingredients: a protein, starch, vegetable, spices or sauces. Try to keep the ingredients unprocessed and simple as possible. A good rule of thumb would be to cook using whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
2. Consistent Menu (Taco Tuesdays or Meatless Monday)
Something that I have learned to do when planning my weekly menu is to keep it consistent. There’s nothing wrong with having a “Meatless Monday”, a “Taco Tuesday” or “Soup and Sandwich Wednesday” evey week. Weeknights are already busy enough without all the added work of creating a huge meal. Find meals that the whole family will love and make them as part of your weekly menu.
3. Cooking for leftovers
Not everyone enjoys leftovers and that’s ok, but you may want to encourage your family to start liking them. A great way to save time and money is to cook one meal and be able to eat a few times from it. One of the things I like about cooking a roast beef or chicken is the possibilities for the rest of the week. If your gang really isn’t going to go for warmed up leftovers, try using them to create a simple meal like fried rice, fajitas or a one-pot casserole. Another thing I like to use leftovers for are lunches the next day. We can pack them up and reheat them in the microwave at work.
4. Make Sunday prep day
If you are going to choose one tip to use in simplifying your meal planning this week, I would suggest you use this one. Take an hour on Sunday morning to get your meals planned and prepped for the week. Wash and cut your veggies, boil eggs, make a pot of oatmeal or whatever you will be using this week. Store them in a covered container in the fridge where they will be handy for quick meals all week long. Even though it takes a bit of time, you will be happy you took time to prep for the week.
5. Make a weekly menu
Sit down on Friday evening or Saturday morning and make your weekly menu before you go to the market. This gives you a good idea of what you will need for ingredients when you do groceries. A quick check to see what ingredients you already have and you’re good to go. Running back and forth to the market for ingredients every day gets costly and wastes precious time.
The less trips you make to the market the less you’ll spend. Let’s face it, when you go for pasta you’ll likely come back with at least three other items you didn’t need.
Using these 5 tips will get you on your way to simplifying your meal planning routine. Even though it’s a little extra work getting it all planned, you will be very happy with the results and the extra time (and money) you have.
What other tips do you use to declutter your meal prep? What are your go-to simple meals you love to cook? I’d love to hear your ideas!