"WHAT'S FOR DINNER?"Uggh, even just typing that question out makes me stress out a little. I've been there, on a busy weeknight, when all of a sudden a room full of hungry eyes lock onto you like an interrogation spotlight.
Are you overwhelmed by meal planning and grocery shopping? Or are you just winging it on any given night? I know I have been this way before.
I finally decided to simplify. You have no idea how much I wish I would have simplified my meal planning years ago!
How did I simplify?
I stopped eating out.
I know that cooking at home seems more complicated, but it's really not. Why?
- It's healthier. Eating at home means you have better knowledge of what you are putting into your body and control over the size of your portion.
- It’s cost effective. There was a point in our marriage where my husband and I were eating well at home for less than $40 a week. You read that right -- it only took two President Jacksons cover 21 meals. These days, we are also concerned about using wholesome ingredients, so we traded out the boxed mac and cheese for a produce coop and local meats and still spend well under $100 a week for a family of 3.
- Cooking and eating together at home strengthens relationships--whether it's friends, family, acquaintances. If your meals are in sync, your lives will be more in sync.
- Self-esteem booster! Choosing a healthy meal can positively affect the way you see yourself, which may be one of the most important benefits of all.
I simplified grocery shopping with my Minimalist Grocery List.
A well-stocked pantry is the first step to simplifying your meal prep.
But uggggh I do NOT like grocery shopping. I REALLY don't like having to go back to the store at the last second. I REALLY REALLY don't like wasting money on groceries.
So, I came up with a system, and IT WORKS! I call it the Minimalist Grocery List!
What's special about this list?
--I freed myself by eliminating the foods from my diet that leave me feeling icky! It's amazing, when you start to pay attention, how many foods on grocery store shelves are junk. Instead of eating boxed snacks, we now eat fresh fruits and veggies. If you don't want to eat the junk, don't allow it in your house! (And, bonus, I've lost a lot of weight with this strategy!)
--It’s easier on your budget by allowing you to stockpile the items you use while they are on sale.
--Save time grocery shopping by limiting yourself to easy to find ingredients.
--MOST OF ALL, save time on planning meals and cooking because you will already have everything you need in your pantry!
You will already have EVERYTHING you need in your pantry! And that feels GOOD.
I created a Minimalist Meal Plan schedule.
A well-stocked pantry is the first step to simplifying your meal prep. The second step is having a reliable dinner schedule to default to.
I plan our dinner schedule by categories. I loosely follow the routine below:
- Mondays: rice bowls
- Tuesdays: tacos
- Wednesdays: sandwiches
- Thursdays: salads
- Fridays: pasta
- Saturdays: pizza
- Sunday: soup
Don't forget to make a meal plan every week!
Every Saturday, after picking up the produce from my co-op, I sit down and make a plan for how we are going to use that food in our meals that week. I post the plan on the fridge so that everyone in the family is able to access it. We are more successful at eating at home when we start the week with a stocked kitchen and when everyone is made aware of the plan!
The Weekly Nutrition Reflection Checklist
It’s easy to default to a few quick meals, but I try to use the practice of reflection to expose my family, especially kids, to a wide variety of flavors and textures and to encourage us to eat a variety of highly nutritious foods in moderation. My questions change over time and in different life chapters. Take some time to think of one or two questions of your own to add!
- Did I utilize a wide variety of vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors?
- Did I use more fresh foods than packaged foods?
- Did I primarily use lean meats and protein sources?
- Was my family exposed to a high level of sugar or sodium throughout the week?
- Did everyone in the family feel like they were able to contribute to our meals together in some way?
Keep it in perspective
Above all, meal planning is an opportunity to serve your family and provide a safe and consistent place to gather together daily. There is much more to life than meal planning.
I have to remind myself of the purpose of shopping for and preparing tacos on any given Tuesday. It's not because I love to shop or because I love to cook; it is because I love my family. I love spending time with them. I want them to eat nutritious food and have healthy, strong bodies. I crave the dinner conversation, even though the majority of the conversation in this chapter of life is interrupted with "No no, please don't throw that on the floor."
And, as a Christian, I ultimately find my perspective in this Bible verse.
Maintain a larger perspective. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take some time (yeah right, who has time... but seriously, try) to spend some time listing some things you are grateful for about this meal planning process. Contemplate what is meaningful to you. Life is fragile and can change in an instant, so keep track of what you are thankful for in everything today, in this moment, before it is passed.
I'll be your cheerleader! You can do it!
Grocery shopping and meal planning does not have to be a difficult, expensive, and time consuming process. If you are overwhelmed by meal planning, I can help. Here’s how: my blog, Brohgan.com, is committing to making delicious meals from a standard list of common ingredients that can easily be stockpiled in a pantry.
Would you like to be friends? Me too!
If you provide me with your e-mail below, I will send you a weekly newsletter on Fridays. This newsletter includes a meal plan for the upcoming week and some encouraging weekend links. If you sign up below, my gift to you is a quick, printable guide to assist you as you begin your minimalist meal planning journey!