I used to scramble back and forth to the grocery store almost every day buying a little of this and a little of that to make a dinner each and every night. I have one child who hates fish and one who loves it. Fish hater loves all things Mexican and spicy and my little seafood lover hates all spice. How was I truly going to make everyone happy and not lose my mind?
Meal planning was the answer, and it’s changed my life. At first, it wasn’t easy, I had to work at it, but now that I have it down, every week I feel less stress, I buy less food and we eat what we need.
Here is how I, a working mom of 2 kids with a husband who cooks only on rare occasions, puts it all together every week and saves money, time and most importantly my sanity.
I determined that the best thing to do was to sit down every Sunday morning with a coffee, my phone and some recipe books. I keep a few days of the week really consistent for my kids. It bores me to tears but the flip side is making a dish that I might love and that they will hate. I’m too tired to relive that scenario over and over again.
So we do things like:
Fresh veggies and hummus are always on hand as I prepare dinner. This lets everyone snack on something and not tell me “how hungry they are for the 10th time!”
Every meal I make a fast and simple salad. It literally could just be lettuce with oil and vinegar or if it’s going to be a bigger part of my dinner, I’ll add in avocados, tomatoes, seeds and more. My point for the salad is that even if my kids don’t eat it, I have hope that one day someone will say, “Please pass the salad”. I’m still waiting…….
Monday are always a pasta night. It will vary with what’s in the fridge to add to the pasta but no matter what there are always tomato sauce packs that I have made and frozen. I do that once a month, chop up garlic, onion, carrots and zucchini, saute them with some salt, add organic canned tomatoes and then blend it up until it’s smooth.
That base is used for pizzas and pasta and I love it because it’s filled with veggies for my kids and everyone eats it. I typically use Monday nights to roast a whole bunch of veggies for me and my husband as I’ll use them again in most of the meals throughout the week. I love roasted veggies and that helps me ensure that the meals are not just about my kids.
Tuesdays are Mexican. I change it from quesadillas to burritos to rice bowls. This night is always a winner because everyone has options on what they want to put into their tortilla or bowl. So that it doesn’t get boring, I mix up the protein using ground beef one week, pulled pork the next, then chicken, etc. I’m a vegetarian in a family of meat-eaters, and this night still hits the mark for me every time.
Wednesdays are typically fish, rice, and a veggie. This combo has so many options and we choose our fish and the veggie based on what is fresh and in season. My pantry is always stocked with different rices and grains so I vary those to keep it interesting.
Thursdays are usually leftover nights. I use this as my midweek reprieve from cooking.
Fridays are make-your-own-pizza night. This is the best and easiest night to have. Any kids that are over playing join in and are happy to also eat the dinner. I always have my tomato sauce on hand (see Monday) and we use whatever veggies are in the fridge, the leftovers from Tuesday if someone wants a mexican pizza, meatballs from last night’s dinner for a meatball pizza, etc. Pretty much anything can go on top of a pizza crust with some cheese (or no cheese) and taste great!
I leave the weekends open because we aren’t always home and around but there is always something in the freezer ready to pull out just in case we are.
Do I break out of this mold and make other things? Of course I do, but if you want to save money and find a way to not go to the grocery store every day, my advice to you is meal plan.
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Arndrea is the most enthusiastic person you will ever meet. She runs her own consulting company (and works part time for SPUD.ca) and is also kept busy by her two young children and a dog. She lives with them and her husband in Squamish, BC, where she enjoys running, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and generally being outdoors.