Meal Planning: Take the Stress Out of Dinner Time

Today we get to learn from the mom who wrote  “Small Children: How a Mother of 4 under 4 Keeps Her Head Above Water!”. She will be showing us how she feeds her family of 6 on a budget, with a meal plan and without any processed foods! I was at Jessica’s house a few weeks ago and I got to see how this amazing process works, and quite honestly it inspired me to plan more than I normally do.  She told me that while this lifestyle requires a lot of forethought, her quality of life has improved greatly on a day-to-day basis. So Jess…take it away! 

So, I find it hilarious that I am actually writing an article about meal planning. To be honest, I HATE cooking. In fact, hatred of cooking runs in my family. Ask my mom; I grew up on Pizza Hut and loved every bite. So before anyone thinks that I am some sort of cooking Super Mom, you would be dead wrong! In case anyone does not know, I have a family of 4 little rascals and food is always the most important topic of the day. I really enjoy eating healthy, but c’mon, making 5 meals a day from scratch sounds like my own personal hell. As my family has grown, I’ve come to realize I needed to make an effort to keep us all healthy, under budget and keep me from going insane. That’s when I discovered meal planning.

So here is my meal planning in a nutshell: I pre-make every dinner for 2 weeks, and I keep a “Healthy Foods List” on my fridge. I know it sounds crazy but it totally works for my big family. The upside is that I save a ton of money, cooking time and cleaning time. I don’t have to spend hours a day doing something I just don’t enjoy, and then cleaning it up. Slowly but surely I developed this routine for my family. I had spent too many afternoons thinking, “Crap, dinner is in two hours, I don’t have anything fresh and I don’t want to do this… mac and cheese it is!” Here are a couple of things I do, and if you have a big, hungry family this may help.

Tip #1 – Get a family plan!

This is key!!! I had to sit down with my hubby/kids and hash out our dietary goals, but we had to be realistic and not make meals that I wished everyone would eat. My kids are not gonna eat brussels sprouts and shallots every night, and my husband claims he would die without meat. Bummer. For my family, we decided that a sugar-free, dairy free, chemical free diet was practical and beneficial for all of us. Here are a few things we planned out: budget, diet, and shopping days. The key is making sure the whole family has a say, because if not, I may be eating my beloved brussels sprouts and shallots while my kids and Ryan are at Pizza Hut… again.

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{Jess’s actual monthly budget for feeding her family of 6}

Tip #2 – Get organized.

This may be the hardest part, but for organizers like me, it’s my favorite. It’s so easy to talk about getting healthy, but sitting down to do it can really feel overwhelming. Here’s what I do: I pick out 5 different meals. I choose a variety of different meats and carbs so that it does not feel like we are eating the same thing every night. Then I make a grocery list of all the ingredients (I double and triple some meals and it saves a ton of time and money). Normally this takes me about 1 hour.

Tip #3 –Shopping Day

Since I would never want to spend my precious weekend doing this, I choose to do my bi-monthly shopping trip on a weekday. I get up around 5:30 and hit up WalMart. It may seem crazy, but it’s the only time of day my kids are asleep and the store is empty. It normally takes me 1 ½ hours to shop. I choose Walmart because it is affordable one-stop shopping. If I had to make more stops it would kinda defeat the purpose of saving time and money. I just throw on my gym clothes, grab my coffee, smile and think, “It’s only twice a month, it’s only twice a month.” One tip I learned was never to buy produce for 2 weeks, because it will go bad. I hate wasting food so produce is the only thing I will get on a weekly basis.

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Tip#4 – Cooking (aka 4 hours from Hades)

If you love cooking this may be the best part, but for me I just kinda power through it. I keep the kids a safe distance from my kitchen and I make all 14 meals in about 4 -5 hours. I stick the meals in labeled freezer bags and put them in the freezer. Clean up is a killer but when I finally crash, the house smells amazing and the freezer is FULL of delicious and healthy dinners for my family.

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Tip#5- The Healthy Foods List

I quickly realized that even though I had good dinners, I needed a way to easily make other meals for my kids. That’s where I came up with my “Healthy Foods List”. I sat down and wrote out a list of healthy and quick breakfasts, snacks and lunches and stuck it on my fridge. Now whenever I wonder what to feed the kids I take a quick look at the list. The key to this is making sure I am always stocked up on these foods so that I never run out of options. I developed this habit over the past couple months and now I don’t know how I lived without it. It really helps me save precious time, money and keeps us all eating healthy. And the best part is I don’t have to stress about cooking anymore! Thank goodness.

 

Click {HERE} for our Kids Meal Ideas article

 

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PURCHASE

 

 

4 Comments
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