Mealtime Strategies- Brainless Meal Planning
Even as a self professed meal planning nerd…I need brainless meal planning in this season of life where I’ve got a newborn, a very energetic almost 3 yr old and a 6 yr old in school! Real food just needs to get on our table. How do I make that simpler? I use a Meal Plan Skeleton.
Whats that, you ask? Well, it’s like theme planning. It takes a little bit of extra work up front, but I promise you’ll be rewarded weekly with how simple your meal planning will be! Here’s how I do it;
Plan your breakfasts.
I know. More planning? Whyyyy am I making you do that?! I promise that whether you have to get out of the house in the morning or not, knowing what you’re having for breakfast before you go to bed will make the morning easier on you. I don’t worry about getting lots of fruit or vegetables in at breakfast because our kids don’t have big appetites so we prioritize protein and carbs at meals, any snack is fruits and vegetables. My Breakfast Skeleton Plan goes as follows.
Monday- Big Dutch Babies. This is an oven pancake with many variations, except we just make the classic version. It’s quick to get in the oven, takes no pre-prep and we always have butter, flour, milk and eggs in the house. Monday mornings need that in our house.
Tuesday- Oatmeal or Baked Oatmeal. If I have time on Monday, I’ll assemble a pan of baked oatmeal and put it in the fridge to bake Tuesday morning. If not, we have regular oatmeal with a few add ins like cinnamon, hemp hearts, butter/coconut oil and maple syrup.
Wednesday- Toast/Bagels. If there is something in the freezer for bread or bagels, that gets used up first. If not, I’ll bake/make sure I’ve bought some bread for us to have for breakfast.
Thursday- Pancakes or Waffles. Pretty self explanatory. The world is your oyster with these.
Friday- Leftover Baked Oatmeal or Other odds and ends. This is a use up day. Use what needs to be used, which if I’ve made baked oatmeal, is that.
Saturday- Yogurt and Granola. These can be made during the week and just thrown together for an easy weekend breakfast. Sometimes the kids opt not to have granola on theirs.
Sunday- Yogurt and Granola again! Why mess with such a good thing?! I like to have meals be simple on weekends so that I get a break.
So now, when it’s time to make my meal plan, I just have to decide which oven pancake, what type of baked oatmeal, toast or bagels? etc and write it down on the day. I like looking at a list and to a certain extent, being told what to do. Kate! You’re having Pancakes or Waffles on Thursday! Okay thanks meal plan! We’ll have buckwheat pancakes this week.
Then you’re going to make your dinner skeleton. Put thought into what nights you like easier dinners, what nights you need to be out and a quick dinner is needed, and what nights you’ve got time for something a bit more adventurous. Look at the classics, like Friday Night pizza, which actually doesn’t work for us because my husband has guys night at a friends house on Fridays, so we have Monday Pizza night and leftovers of pizza at lunch for a couple days!
My Dinner Meal Plan Skeleton goes like this…
Monday- Pizza Night! I like to make more than we need so that we have pizza for lunch for a couple days.
Tuesday- Something with Potatoes. I know this is funny…but it just works. We like potatoes around here.
Wednesday- Pasta night! Woohoo. The boys love pasta. I’m not the biggest fan, so by putting it in the meal plan, we have it regularly.
Thursday- Something with Rice. This is where stir frys, salmon, etc come in for us.
Friday- Soup Night! Our school district has a 4 day school week, so Fridays I’ve got all three kids at home with me and we often go out and do something. Getting soup going in the crockpot in the morning always pays off on a night when I’m parenting alone. (Hubs with friends). We favour pureed soup because then the boys can’t complain about what’s in it.
Saturday- Breakfast for Dinner. Marius makes killer hash browns, so our default is hash browns with eggs and bacon/sausage/ham.
Sunday- Whatever! This is just where I fill in something I’ve been wanting to make, something easy usually seeing as its the weekend and I like to take a break!
So what else could you have for theme nights?!
Taco Night is always popular.
Kids Cook Night if you’ve got older kids! I can’t wait to have older kids who can cook.
One Pot Dinner Night.
Ethnic foods…Italian, Greek, Asian, etc.
By Protein…Venison, Chicken, Pork, Fish, Beans, etc.
Here’s a little caveat…If I’m making the meal plan and I’ve got something that needs to be used ASAP, whatever theme there is supposed to be, is ditched in favour of avoiding food waste. I’m trying to get better at avoiding waste, so even if it’s mid week and I see we’re suppose to have a pot roast with potatoes and carrots, I know those things won’t go bad (As long as I leave the roast in the freezer) and we use up whatever in the fridge is in need of being eaten.
So pick a day that works best for grocery shopping or you usually do your big shop, and sit down the day before to write down your meal plan. Pull out a piece of paper after dinner while everyones still chatting at the table and let them help. What type of soup do you want this week? Do you want baked oatmeal or cinnamon oatmeal on Tuesday morning? This doesn’t have to be just your job as the cook, delegation is king! You can do this!