It’s April, which means May is coming. And, while this simple knowledge may mean nothing more than flowers and allergies for some of you, for many others it means heart palpitations as we realize stress, as in major stress, is coming. For moms, the last 4-5 weeks of the school year can age you more than any sunburn ever has. So, prep we must. When we ran into Mridu Parikh and she explained her simple steps for meal planning, we knew she had to share it with you. Try this plan in the next few weeks and when the end of April hits, and insanity ensues, at least you’ll have a dinner plan.
We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled FACES series next week, but this week, our first Monday in April, is all about giving you a plan to feed your family, as the drive-thru lane sees too many of us as the end of the school year draws near.
5 Steps To A Year Of Meal Planning
It’s 5 p.m. and the panic sets in. What are we going to eat for dinner?
You might even have your act together and have already gone grocery shopping on the weekend. So the fridge is full and the pantry is stocked. But you still have no idea what to make. You’re sick of your go-to pasta meal and you’re pretty sure that these carbs can’t be good for anyone, even if your kids ask for it night after night.
You open your fridge, your freezer and your pantry, praying a recipe will magically appear in your mind: a simple and delicious meal you could whip up before your family starts whining about how hungry they are. But no matter how many times you scan all your food areas, you come up short. And with every minute you lose, your stress level goes higher and higher.
By this time of the day, you’re already fried and dinner becomes another stressful task you add to the mix. You know planning ahead would help, but who has the time and motivation on Sunday night when you’re preparing everything else for the week?
I’ve been in this stressful situation too many times. But I’ve discovered the easiest and least resistant path to meal planning and it only takes five easy steps. If you’re okay without tons of variety, you could use this for the whole year (not counting the holidays).
Heads up, this first step requires the most work and then it’s easy-peasy after that.
Step #1: Get 10-15 sticky notes and write one dinner meal on each one. So your notes might look something like this: spaghetti and meatballs, turkey burgers, tacos, chicken noodle soup, etc. I know it can be tough to think of so many meals at one time. So this is where your years worth of recipe cutouts and dusty cookbooks come in handy.
Grab a pile of recipes or shuffle through to bookmarked pages and write down a list of dishes your family would enjoy. Remember, the goal of this project is to simplify your life, so don’t choose recipes that take a lot of steps, are complicated or take a lot of time.
If you’re stumped for ideas, Google “simple dinner recipes” and you’ll see dozens of sites to choose from with hundreds of recipes. The good news is you only need 10-15 of them, so choose quickly and wisely. (Remember, this step is the heavy lifting and it gets much easier after this step).
Step #2: On the back of each sticky write down the ingredients you’ll need to make each meal. Like for that spaghetti meal you’d write: one box of spaghetti, one pound of meat, one jar of sauce, Parmesan cheese and a bag of salad.
Step #3: Get a large calendar that you can hang in your kitchen and/or your command center. Somewhere you have easy access to it and it’s visible for everyone else in your family. That way you can avoid constantly being asked: “what’s for dinner?” Or at the very least, you’ll have somewhere to point to when you do get asked.
Step #4: Put one sticky note on each day, Monday through Friday, either over two or three weeks, (depending if you have 10 or 15 meals written down). I like to keep my weekends open because we generally order in a pizza, eat out or have leftovers on those days. Now you have a plan for the next few weeks of exactly what you’re going to eat and what groceries to buy.
The beauty of having the ingredients on the back of your sticky notes is that you can pull them off your calendar and take them with you to the grocery store. You don’t have to create a separate shopping list every week. When you get back home you simply stick the notes back on your calendar.
Step #5: When you’re at the end of your planned weeks, remove the stickies and place them on the next couple of weeks. You can leave them in the same order or like me, mix them up before sticking them back on.
And voila! Months and months of meal planning with instant shopping lists at your fingertips.
Added SB note: Even if you get down to seven meals that your family likes and are easy to make, stick with them! May is coming and having a plan with some consistency will be a nice change of pace. You have April to get into this habit and you will be thanking yourself next month!
We are big fans of the way Mridu relates to us normal people who want to be organized, but find it more difficult! She has a way of breaking it down into simple tasks that we can accomplish.
For more of Mridu’s simple and doable tips for staying organized and on-task, check out her five-day free organization workshop here: lifeisorganized.com/freebie.