When it comes to preparing healthy, nourishing meals for my family, I’ve found that meal planning is absolutely critical for success.
In fact, when I stick to a meal plan, my grocery budget is even less than it was when we still ate a more conventional diet! It’s also less time-consuming.
There are several factors that I’ve had to consider that make my meal planning unique though:
I don’t cook every day.
My hubby isn’t always off in the evenings, and we have extracurricular activities like dance and karate virtually every night of the week. This means that at least a couple of evenings a week, I’m playing taxi right during dinner prep and mealtime. So, I cook about three evenings a week and we eat leftovers or something simple on the other nights.
I don’t plan out breakfast, lunch, and dinner like I see many meal plans do.
We have eggs for breakfast a couple of times a week, the rest of the time it’s pretty much “fend for yourself” (I try to keep biscuits, English muffins, fruit, etc. on hand). Lunch is usually similar: sandwiches or leftovers, but not a planned meal. So, I really only schedule dinner, and then decide what days I’ll need to make baked goods like bread or biscuits.
Many of the meals I make require advance preparation, like soaking.
Most of the preparation isn’t hard or time-consuming, but it calls for different habits to be formed. I’ve had to train myself to check to see what I’m planning to cook tomorrow, so I know if I need to do something like soak beans or start a sourdough batter the evening before, instead of not thinking about it until the day of. I actually think this is a real advantage of this way of cooking, because it reduces my prep time right before the meal, and it really takes literally minutes the night before to get things started. Breaking meal preparation into several shorter steps rather than doing it all at once is easier to fit into my day.
So here are the main tools in my meal planning toolbox:
A menu plan subscription.
Recipe-sharing sites, link-ups, cookbooks.
Finally, I sometimes browse conventional recipe sites and cookbooks for recipes that can be adapted, and I’ve converted some old family recipes and favorites too. Since my time is limited, I only devote a small amount of it to these.So there you have it. The essential tools in my meal planning system. Next week, I’ll share my typical routine with you, and show you exactly how I make these tools work for me.