Make Meal Planning Easier This School Year
Editor's note: When the school year begins, our schedules and priorities naturally change. At the very beginning of the year we tend to operate with the same kind of determined rush we experience on New Year's Eve. We tell ourselves this year we'll be more on top of things and our family members will eat healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners, not overly processed pastries in the morning and take-out at night. As our energy flags and the new routine becomes humdrum, we may fall back on our old ways, with rushed, unhealthy meals. Mom blogger Trina O'Boyle offers organizational tips that can keep us on the right path when it comes to eating homecooked, healthy meals.
This school year is a bit different for me since my hours changed. I work until 2:30pm which means I don’t have those few hours in the afternoon before the kids get home to get stuff done, like start dinner. We will all come home at the same time, and we will be consumed with homework. I needed to come up with a system that would help me stay organized throughout the week so I could get a healthy dinner on the table nightly. Making real-food meals is easy, but they require a little more planning. Here are 5 things I do daily and weekly to keep family dinners on the table nightly without stressing out.
1. Menu plan
This by far is the one thing I do on a weekly basis that keeps healthy meals on the table. Without menu planning, who knows what we would be eating, and I’d be stressed every night. If you’ve never done it, try it! Here are 5 reasons why you should.
2. Shop once
Pick a day that works for you to do your grocery shopping. It will save you a ton of time throughout the week. I tend to shop at a few stores a few times a month. Some weeks it’s just one, so I allow enough time on that day to get it all done. Maybe shop when your spouse can watch the kids so you can have a little time to yourself, too.
3. Prepare early
If you know you want chicken for dinner but it’s in the freezer, take it out the night before to defrost. Using the slow cooker? Try prepping the meal the night before so all you need to do the next day is take it out of the fridge and turn it on. Write your weekly menu on a chalk board in the kitchen to help remind you of what's coming up next so you don’t forget.
4. Prepare freezer meals
We will have a few nights out of the week that will be non-stop with sports and after-school activities, so it will be extremely helpful to have meals already prepared waiting for us in the freezer. I can either prepare meals ahead of time on the weekends or make double batches of meals and freeze the extras.
5. Use what's on hand
Toward the end of the week things can look a little bare. Don’t go back to the grocery store and spend more money; just use what you have on hand. Throw together a stir fry with leftover veggies, make a no-cook meal or simply have a leftover night. This is my favorite type of night because I don’t have to cook.
Real Food Menu Plan
Here one of my menu plans for a school week.
Monday: Organic whole chickens were on sale at my local grocery store, so I picked one up. I love beer-can chicken, which can be done on the grill or even in the oven.
Tuesday: Use leftovers from the chicken to make chicken Caesar salads with tomato soup.
Wednesday: I love using my Ninja cooking system because everything can be done in one pot. This Mediterranean chicken with artichokes and couscous is super easy to throw together and budget friendly, too.
Thursday: The boys and I are headed out of town for the weekend, and I want to clean out the fridge. Leftover Night it is!
Since we will be away for the weekend I will menu plan for the next week before I leave, then shop the evening I get back. I want to be all set when the next school week begins.
So that’s my menu plan for this week. I hope it’s inspired you to think outside the box when feeding your family. Just remember when you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with life that a little organization goes a long way. If you are still looking for inspiration, head over to my Menu Plans. On Pinterest? Head over and check out my Family Meals Board for more real food inspiration and become inspired over at Org.Junkie.
Trina O'Boyle is a Drexel Hill, PA mom of two boys. This post is adapted from her blog, O'Boy Organic.