One of my biggest struggles as a parent is the never ending question of “What’s for dinner?”. I really dislike that question. If it were up to me I would eat cereal every night. Ok maybe not EVERY night, pizza is nice too haha. No, but seriously, every day when we get home it is always a scramble to throw something on the table for us to eat. And it never fails that I always succumb to the same 4 meals; spaghetti, tacos, chicken quesadillas, or red/ white beans and rice. (Here in southern Louisiana, we have this marvelous thing call Blue Runner Beans and I can make red beans and rice in about 30 min!) It’s like my brain doesn’t work past 6 pm and I can never think of something else to cook. Throw in dancing school and other evening activities and the only solution seems to be picking up a pizza on the way home. As part of my Kitchen Home Project List, I am tackling this re-occurring problem by creating a meal planning center in my pantry.
I love Pinterest, who doesn’t right? It is really a great resource for inspiration, including RECIPES! It is so easy to find a board filled with great recipes and links right to the blog that wrote them. Take some time after the kids go to bed to pin some recipes that look good. Then when you get a chance print them out and keep them in a file folder or planner. Also, there is always the option of going paperless with this and use your laptop or iPad when it comes time to start cooking. I can see a disaster waiting to happen with electronics in my kitchen with small children so I’m going with paper :).
One thing I also love to do is next time you are visiting with your mom or grandma, ask them how they make some of your favorite childhood dishes and add that to your file. Tearing out recipes from magazines is always a good way to collect ideas as well. Once you get a decent collection of recipes, separate them into different categories. I split mine up by beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and slow cooker. I also have a small pile of desserts and side items that I keep separate from my main course files.
Make a Plan
I have always been a planner when it comes to everything else in my life. I don’t know why up until now I didn’t do the same when it came to cooking! So to get my butt in shape I made a cute printable to plan out all of our meals for the week along with a shopping list. Every Sunday I take a few minutes to go through my recipe files and pick out things to cook that week. I know that we have dancing every Monday and Wednesday night so I make sure that we either have a slow cooker meal going that day or leftovers from another meal. Also, I can plan ahead if I know we have any other events that week or dinner plans with family or friends.
I can usually get by with cooking about 3 or 4 full meals a week and have leftovers the other nights. For some of my meals I make a large amount and freeze some for a small meal for another time. There really are so many options out there but the main component is PLANNING! Once I know what we are cooking for the week, I check my pantry and fridge for ingredients needed and make a grocery list. I usually stop by the grocery store on my way home from work on Mondays (with NO KIDS haha) and then I am set for the week.
You can access my free meal planning printable along with my other printables by signing up for my email list below.
Create a Meal Planning Center
I am a very visual person and the best way for me to remember to do something is by putting it right in front of my face LOL. So in order for me to really accomplish my goal of meal planning on a regular basis, I set up a cute meal planning center on an empty wall in my newly organized pantry.
I had three goals for my new meal planning center; storage for my recipes, place to display meal plan for the week, and place to write down a grocery list. I accomplished this goal by hanging a magnetic chalkboard that I got from TJ Maxx and a cute file holder from Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby also sucked me into buying the pantry sign, which I know I could have made myself, but for only $12 I said what the heck :). I organized my recipes into categories and labeled my files first by covering the tabs with some pink washi tape then with a clear label using this label maker. I made a “This Week” file to keep in the front that holds all the recipes that I am cooking that week so that I can find them quickly. There is also a binder with more recipes in the other file holder.
Other Meal Planning Resources
As you can see in the picture above, I have a binder called “eMeals Recipes”. A couple of years ago I signed up for emeals.com. Every week they sent me 7 recipes to cook along with a grocery list. They have several different types of meal plans to choose from depending on your diet. I am a plain jane kinda girl so I just got the classic comfort selection for a long time. I have also tried clean eating and low calorie. If you don’t have time to search for recipes on Pinterest and are not a picky eater, this may be a great option for you. I used a Groupon when I got my membership so it was half price. Also, I think just a year membership is enough to give you a ton of recipes. Just make sure you cancel your membership before they automatically charge you again for the next year.
Here is a blog that posts a meal plan each Monday and links each recipe (www.orgjunkie.com).
Lastly, I know there are several options out there that will mail you ingredients like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. I haven’t tried them out myself but have a couple friends that use them and love it.
Overall there are so many options out there to meal plan. For me and my family, having a meal planning center results in less stress and saving money. We also have less waste each week because we are only buying things we need for those planned recipes. Remember if you would like a free copy of my Meal Planning Printable, subscribe to my email list.
What is your favorite go to recipes? Tell me in the comments below, even share a link to them if they have one. I’ll take all the help I can get, haha!
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