What’s for dinner?
No question can raise anxiety and cause chaos quicker than that one. When your eight year old finds you in the kitchen she assumes that you’re cooking, not trying to figure out where you left the checkbook. She looks hungry and you realize there is a little rumble in your belly.
You have two options:
A) Hope that you have some rotisserie chicken leftover from the weekend to make sandwiches.
B) Gather her and her sister in the car to hit the drive thru at Subway.
Neither sounds great, but you don’t have the energy to think of anything else right now. She’s looking at you with expectant eyes. You know you have to make a decision and quick. Once she figures out you don’t have a plan for dinner, she’ll be handing you your phone with the Domino’s app already open.
Now imagine a different scenario. She comes into the kitchen and you ARE cooking. Your meal plan written on the white board says turkey and black bean tacos. Now when she asks what’s for dinner you can say with confidence, It’s Taco Tuesday! Dinner is on the table with plenty of time left to pay bills, do a load of laundry and get EVERYONE to bed on time.
The meal plan you’ve made isn’t fancy. It doesn’t have every meal for the entire day on it and there isn’t any calorie counting. It’s quick, simple and functional. It’s a meal plan you’ll actually use.
Your 5 step plan for stress free meal planning is here.
Step 1. Have TWO breakfast options that you like and are easy.
Habits save willpower, so do limited options. You wake up and you have either a mug soufflé or eggs and oatmeal, for example. Make sure you always have the ingredients for your quick breakfasts choices on hand and on the grocery list. These options won’t change week to week, but maybe month to month or by season.
Step 2. Choose TEN recipes for dinner that you and your family enjoy.
Pick your tried and true clean eating favorites and save experiments for another time. You want to pick five recipes that are less than 30 minutes and five recipes that are more than 30 minutes.
Step 3. Choose TWO easy button lunch options for when you don’t have leftovers.
Again we are limiting choices. Leftovers are the default choice. Fall back to healthy but easy fast foods like Amy’s Organic Chili with a sweet potato or a Go Picnic meal when you run out of leftovers (or forget your lunch at home). These options stay constant as well, as your week will vary based on leftovers.
Step 4. Look at your schedule and determine what nights require a quick meal and what nights may give you a little more time.
Plug in dinners accordingly. Be realistic with yourself. If being at home is going to be IMPOSSIBLE plan what healthy choice you are going to grab while your daughter is at dance class and you run errands before picking her up again.
Step 5. Make your grocery list based on your breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
Use paper and pencil or an app, it doesn’t matter. Just be sure to check staples (pepper, olive oil, etc) and add your favorite snack foods. If you have apples, raw almonds and Luna Bars on hand you are more likely to eat them instead of the graham crackers your girls love.
Now you have a plan that you can use, recycle and revamp as needed! You can make new plans each season to accommodate what’s fresh in the stores. You might want to declare one week “experimental” and ask everyone to contribute a new idea they want to try. Try theme nights (Taco Tuesday, Meatless Monday, Crockpot Saturday) if that helps too.
You can do this. It might take a little time to get your recipes picked at first but once you have them you’ll be amazed how quickly your meal plan comes together. I put mine in my fitness planner but you might use a white board or the monthly calendar in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter how you plan, it just matters that you have a meal plan that makes sense for you. Even if you don’t follow the plan 100% you will still save yourself time during the week, money from not eating out as much and the panic of having no idea what’s for dinner.