The dreaded Meal planning.

A miracle has been done in my household. After 5 years of culinary chaos, I have finally figured out "meal planning"

Prior to this, I would have an anxiety attack everyday around 3 pm.
My husband would be home around 5 from school. So for 2 hours, I tried to figure out what we would eat for dinner that day.
Sometimes I would book it to the grocery store to buy a frozen pizza. Or we would have "left overs"..which would end up really being he would end up making something for himself while I and the kids ate was a sad fate for our family. It definitely was the cause of many feuds between my husband and I. I was so focused on how annoying it was to have to make dinner me me, right? And my poor husband came home exhausted and hungry to a wife who wasn't doing her role in making sure he was fed.
Sigh, pathetic!
I got sick of being pathetic. I was sick of being disappointed myself in not doing my part. And my husband was most likely sick of me not making dinner! (I may be exaggerating. This didn't happen every night but it sure felt like it!)

So what changed? Well it hit me after having my 3rd child. It hit me hard. Things were very chaotic and disorganized. I rarely had time for me and my thoughts. I was having a hard time juggling 3 kids and everything else I had to do for my home. Plus, I had to cut out dairy from my diet for my baby boy. That added more stress in finding meals that were dairy-free and still easy/good to eat. And it was at that point that I knew I needed help.

I had read up on meal planning and had tried to do it in the past but nothing ever stuck.
I think the main thing for me was that I was doing it alone. I felt lost in what my family wanted when all I needed was to just ask! Most of the time when I would pick a meal, it would be something my husband or kids didn't even like.
So finally it dawned on me to include my kids and husband with planning the meals :)

Here's what I did:
-I grabbed all my cookbooks and recipes I had. I went through each of them and browsed for meals that had no dairy in it. How would I remember these meals? I wrote a list. First writing what cookbook it was from, then the title of the meal and page number, like below: (please excuse the scribbles. My daughter got a hold of this :) )
After you get a good-sized list, include your other family favorites that you like to eat too. I just had my husband write a list of meals he likes. So then I had PLENTY of meals to work with!

-Next grab a calender.
You can use your one hanging in the kitchen or you can go buy one at Michaels for $1...something that you can view quickly.

I plan weekly.
That's just me.
You can easily plan 2 weeks or even a month! It's up to you and what you like.

-Then you plug in meals. Remember to include things going on with your family. Tuesdays nights, you might have soccer practice or carpool so you'll want to do something easy for dinner...maybe a crockpot? Or left overs.
***don't underestimate the power of crockpot meals!!*** (time savers for sure. Great for when you will be busy around dinner)

Here's a pic of my meal planning calender. There are family favorites that we repeat. We also have leftovers a couple times a week. Thursdays is for sure leftovers because that's when my husband works at night and brings a meal to work. Once you do this, you realize that you don't need 7 meals each week! You only need 3-5 meals, depending on what kind you'll be making. So the idea of it can be scary but realistically, it's not that bad :)

It's definitely a work in progress. I usually fill in the week then go over it with my husband. He's must more realistic with leftovers and making sure we use the food we have as much as possible. So there are arrows and crossed lines.

-Next Start making your grocery list.
Start with essentials like milk, bread and whatever else you ran out of that week. Next, look at your recipes you are using this week. Add any ingredients that you need for them. Here's my list I made this past saturday.

-I go to the store on Saturdays.
I am still in no shape to go to the store alone with 3 kids during the week. We have made it into a fun family outing on Saturdays.
I rarely go to the store anymore during the week, which helps save $$ and gas. And if I do need to go to the store, it's for perishable items, like veggies.

So that's it! We repeat this process each Saturday morning. It has become a tradition in our home! Things run more smoothly when 3 pm come around each day.
I hope this helps you in your organization with meals too. And let me just say I am no master to this. I am still in training. But I am happy to say that I am a work in progress and glad that I have started on this path.

Find something that works for you and your family. I promise things will become more orderly and less stressful!

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