We’ve all been there. Running around all day. Finally get home from practice or meetings or work. We are exhausted, the kids are fighting, and we realize we still have to cook dinner. Some of you might have the convenience of picking up the phone and ordering take out (all that eating out can really add up!), but here, that isn’t really an option. First off, we live in a small town. While we do have some take out places, they aren’t really convenient plus with so many diet restrictions for my youngest, it’s nearly impossible to get anything she can have.
Meal planning has been my saving grace. With some tweaking here and there, I have finally been able to find a system that works for us. Remember, if it doesn’t work for you, it isn’t working.
I had a few issues with most of the meal planning ideas that I was finding. My husband is a truck driver. He drives over-the-road and is typically gone from Monday morning until Friday sometime or even Saturdays. Once in awhile he gets to come home for a night during the week. He is also a picky eater which means that some meals we only do when he is gone. So because of his schedule, along with a other reasons, assigning a specific meal to a specific day just does not work for us.
I cook as much as I can from scratch. We do use some thing that are canned or boxed for specific meals but, for the most part, these are not our staples. This makes monthly meal plans and grocery trips near impossible but I do need to combine as much as I can because the nearest grocery store that has the specialty things that we need is about 40 minutes away. It’s really a balancing act that I’m not 100% successful at yet.
So when making my menu plan, I start with two weeks worth of meals. We homeschool so we eat most leftovers at lunch; we cook almost every night so I plan out 14 meals. I get out my recipes, my Pinterest boards and my “go-to meals” list and write out what meals we want. Sometimes it’s based on things that we have going on during that time (like camping), but I usually just go off of whatever we happen to have left in the pantry/freezer and add to that. I usually ask my family if there is a particular meal that they want but I make sure to include 6 meals that my husband will eat and try to save those meals for the weekend.
Here’s what we are having for the next two weeks:
- Honey Mustard Chicken & Potatoes– from Café Delites
- Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry– from Dinner at the Zoo
- Lime Shredded Pork– from New Leaf Wellness
- Garlic Lemon Chicken– from Stockpiling Moms
- Brats/Hot Dogs
- Brown Sugar Brined Pork Chops
- Maple Bacon Pork Loin– from Stockpiling Moms
- Beef Roast
- Honey Balsamic Chicken– from Taste and Tell
- Roasted Chicken
- Rustic Chicken Stew– from Who Needs a Cape (We actually use the leftover chicken from the previous meal for this one)
The first two recipes on the list are ones that we will be trying out for the first time so I don’ t have any feedback on these. Hopefully they will work out. Some of these recipes I follow exactly, some I alter a little bit, some are my own. If there isn’t a link, I will probably post the recipes sometime soon. Many of these are freezer meals, which I usually prep ahead. A lot of the time, if they are labeled “slow-cooker” I will alter the cooking method, also.
Once I’ve done my grocery shopping, I prep all of my freezer meals. This week, I made and froze the meatballs, lime shredded pork, 2 separate packages of garlic lemon chicken, maple bacon pork loin, beef roast, 2 packages of honey balsamic chicken, 2 packages of taco meat, and the vegetables for the rustic chicken stew. Altogether, I have 17 meals planned, some prepped ahead of time. When we’ve had a busy day, I can grab something from the freezer or I can plan ahead and throw something into the crockpot. I just cross meals out as we use them up. What are some of your sanity-saving tricks?