Meal planning is the backbone of your day as a stay at home mom. Without it, you never feel in control or on top of things. You always feel like you are scrambling, hurried, stressed. In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I would encourage you to take a look at your meal planning FIRST if you are feeling overwhelmed by your life right now. Get the backbone in place and work from there.
Over the years I’ve followed many different methods of meal planning.
I really like to shop once a month and plan an entire month’s worth of meals at once, but sometimes that isn’t feasible. Sometimes a rotating list of meals needs to be put in play in order to simplify your life. Sometimes you need to only plan a week at a time. Sometimes you are lucky to get a few days done and send your husband to the store for those items!
My grab-n-go list was easy to plan and convenient to use. I could choose a meal based on what kind of day I was having. However, it did not allow for any meal forethought, so if I hadn’t thawed the chicken or put the roast in the slow cooker, I was up a creek. In a large family, this doesn’t work out so well. I also ended up only choosing the easy, no-prep meals and left the other (potentially more healthy) meals for “another day” – a day that never seemed to come.
While visiting a friend, I noticed her weekly menu plan posted on her refrigerator.
Lo and behold, they were from my friend Jamerill’s blog! They were exactly what I needed! As a homeschool mom, I need breakfast, lunch AND dinner planned. And it helps tremendously to have snacks in place as well.
So, let me give you some tips on meal planning that will help you pull together one that provides a great backbone to your day:
1. Choose where you will get your recipes from. Sometimes I use cookbooks I have on hand, sometimes recipes from my recipe binder, but lately, I find most of my recipes are coming from my Pinterest boards!
Sometimes I can knock out a menu in an afternoon. When planning several weeks, it can take me several days to get the whole thing finished. I never wait until I’m out of food and desperately needing to head to the store. Start early and avoid the stress!
2. Write in pencil! Your meals will change due to unforeseen circumstances. Our stove stopped working a couple of weeks ago, so I had to revamp our menu to reflect this. Also, any meal you don’t end up using can be erased from its day and written in a new day or at the bottom of the page to carry over to another time if so desired.
3. Make notes as you go.
Remember, I said this is the backbone of your day. Your meals are a direct reflection of your life. Write in notes about your day on the menu plan itself. I have piano lessons and my Weight Watchers meetings marked. I also have notes like “order Azure” and “make ranch dressing” noted at the top of my page. But also mark down things like “thaw hamburger” and “soak beans” in the appropriate places. For instance, say I want to serve beans on Wednesday night. I need to soak them overnight on Tuesday. I make a note to myself off to the side of the Tuesday Dinner box so I remember to do this. Having these little notes is KEY to making your meal plan work.
4. Make your grocery list as you go. Don’t wait until you are finished with your menu to go back and input all you need. Do it together. Find a meal, list it in a good spot on your planner, scan ingredients and mark down what you need. I use a Master Grocery List that helps me keep track of staple items as well as new things needed to make the meals on my list. (Note: You can find my Master Grocery List HERE, but be aware that your list will probably be different. In fact, this list is 5 years old and is VERY different from our current list! Use it as a guide to create your own!)
5. Plan everything! Plan your sides, your snacks, even your beverages! Put Special Night on there and Potluck on there. Do your very best to pull together a “backbone” that can withstand the pressure of your day.
6. Look at your menu plan every day several times a day. Mine is on my refrigerator. It has to be in a prominent location where you will be able to glance at it over the course of the day to be sure you are on track. (Mine is next to the Table Chores list and my At-a-Glance Schedule.) Do you need to get something out of the freezer for tonight? It’s on there! Need to prepare for a coming birthday? It’s on there! Again, this is your backbone for the day. Using it to its full advantage is necessary!
Looking for more meal planning related links? Try these:
Large Family Recipes
Once a Month Shopping Series
Menu Planning ebooks from Sheri Graham – I love her stuff and yes, that’s my affiliate link!
My ebook Creating a Peaceful Home has a section on meal planning too!