At the end of a busy homeschooling day, I am more than ready for some downtime. All I want is some peace and quiet. My husband and children, however, are equally enthusiastic for dinner.
Therefore, just when I want relaxation the most, I have to prepare a meal for the family.
This used to be a moment of stress for me as I tore apart the fridge, deciding what to make. Then, I began to plan my meals each week.
Here are some lessons I learned along the way:
1. DON’T overdo it.
I made this mistake when I first started meal planning. I planned on making a different dish from scratch every night of the week. These meals took me about an hour and a half to make, not even including time spent cleaning up after the giant mess they produced.
Now, I reserve bigger, more elaborate meals for Sunday, and I frequently make a double batch so I can have a meal in the freezer for a day during an upcoming week. That leaves the rest of the week open for easier meals, like one-pot dishes or paninis.
One important part of this is including an easy night. I always schedule a night for me either to reheat leftovers or make frozen burgers, depending on what groceries I have.
2. DO make your grocery list and meal plan coincide.
At first, I wasn’t too careful about this. I sort of glanced at the recipes to make sure we had everything, but did not do much beyond that. A few last minute trips to the store later, I decided to take the grocery list aspect of meal planning more seriously.
Now, every Saturday, before I go shopping, I sit down with the weekly grocery ad as well as any new recipes I want to try. I check my fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what I already have, especially any meat or produce that needs to be used.
Then, I formulate my weekly plan and grocery list before heading to the store.
Not only does this method aid my planning, it also lowers my grocery bills, since it allows me to reduce trips to the store. My grocery shopping trips are also more focused, so I can more easily resist impulse buys.
3. DO be purposeful with your plan.
Assign meals to particular days for specific reasons.
Here are some important factors to consider:
Which days of the week do I have the most time? Are there any days when it would be easier for me to make a crockpot meal instead of cooking at dinnertime?
Are there any meals that will have leftover ingredients that I need to use up? For example, do my stuffed shells use up half a tub of ricotta, leaving the rest to get moldy if I do not use it? If so, what meal can I schedule for later in the week to prevent waste?
4. DON’T beat yourself up if the week doesn’t go according to plan.
The meal plan exists to make your life as a busy homeschooling mother easier. If your weekly plans consistently do not work out, then the plans need to change, not you.
It is also totally okay to plan a pizza delivery night.
5. DO consider creating a meal plan for breakfast and lunch.
To avoid daily interrogations from my children, I started serving breakfast on a weekly schedule. It worked out well, so now I do the same for lunches.
Here is a sample plan:
Breakfast: Oatmeal and Breakfast Sausage
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Chicken Nuggets
Lunch: Canned Soup
Though a meal plan may not work for everyone, it has greatly reduced my daily stress levels and has allowed me to make a variety of tasty, healthy meals in less time.