Unless you’re a professional chef, we’re betting that one of the most stressful and frustrating parts of your week/day is meal planning. Finding a recipe, shopping for ingredients, chopping and prepping, not to mention the actual cooking part – it sounds exhausting before you’ve even started. That’s one of the reasons why so many time-starved people are starving for home-cooked meals. It’s all just so time consuming. But wait, it really isn’t if you do just a little bit of advance planning. If you can’t imagine three consecutive days without visiting a drive-through or picking up the phone for delivery, read on.
Sarah on “Living up to my resolutions”
“Cooking more homemade meals has been one of my New Year’s resolutions since I had my first child. But with a pretty busy home and work life, it hasn’t always panned out. This year, I am making sure that it is a priority. I want to save money, eat healthier meals, and have my kids remember Mommy’s special chicken or whatever they discover they love. These are all good reasons for more home cooking, so what’s going to be different this year and allow me to actually get it accomplished? Planning.”
Here are my top five tips for making meal planning (and execution) pain-free.
1. Don’t Go Cold Turkey. If you’ve been living on takeout and microwaveable meals and your oven hasn’t been on since the last time you reheated pizza, don’t try to tackle it all at once. Start slow and you won’t be as easily overwhelmed and likely to give up. Make one night your “from scratch” night where you try a new meal that is cooked entirely by you. Make that same meal once a week for a month or two until it becomes second nature. Then start on day two. In between, use items that are semi-prepared to rotate into your repertoire.
2. Plan for a Month. Don’t just plan one week’s worth of meals – plan one month. Ok, before you think we’ve gone completely mad, give us a second. If you make a theme for each day – say Meatless or Mexican Monday, Turkey Tuesday, Wok Wednesday, etc., then all you need to do is find four Mexican recipes for that month, four turkey recipes for that month, etc. and you’re all set. In one planning session, you can plan a month’s worth of meals and prep the shopping lists. It takes about 45 minutes if you’ve never done it before – that’s not much more time than it takes to plan out a menu for one week if you’ve never done it before. And having one month’s worth of recipes and shopping lists at the ready will keep you on track for much longer.
3. Sharpen Your Skills. What’s the best way to cut your time (literally) in the kitchen? Knife skills. If you know how to properly slice and dice, you’ll save yourself a lot of time in the kitchen, so sign up at a local culinary school. Make it date night and your husband will never utter the words “I don’t know how to julienne” again.
4. Plan for the Chaos. We all have crazy weeks, whether you’re traveling for work or have a two dance recitals and a soccer practice in three days. So look at your calendar for the week and make Sunday your get organized day. You can make some meals ahead of time and freeze them or simply prep the week’s meals by cleaning and chopping and storing in Ziplocs. What you do today will truly be a lifesaver come midweek.
5. Look Forward to Hump Day. If you’re just revamping your cook-at-home strategy, just make it to Wednesday. Enjoy leftovers on Thursday. Then on the weekends, enjoy pizza and/or restaurant visits.
We are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, inc (@getbuttonedup)., a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed women get themselves organized and co-authors of Pretty Neat: The Buttoned Up Way to Get Organized and Let Go of Perfection. We welcome your thoughts! Please send ideas and questions to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.getbuttonedup.com