Oh, busy mama. I know that you’re tired. It’s late afternoon and you’ve almost survived another hectic homeschool day. The clean laundry is dumped out over the couch. The baby’s about to awake from his afternoon nap. One child is still working nearby, trying to correct their math. Two kiddos are sent outside to play, but before closing the door, one looks up and asks the dreaded question…
‘What’s for dinner, mom?’
Stop! Let’s halt this scenario.
This daily question doesn’t have to be faced with apprehension.
Here are a few easy steps that have kept this mama of five sane over the last several years…
1) List the Main Dish
Make a list of 20-30 main dish dinners that your family enjoys. When plotting out our meals on the Menu Plan sheet (step 2), I refer to my Main Dish List sheet which contains about 25+ meals that we can rotate through. Having a Main Dish List makes the chore of planning meals for each night of the week so much quicker! It means that I don’t have to recreate a meal each time. I just need to choose one and write it in!
2) Print and Plot
I use a printable Menu Plan sheet for each week in which I chart out our dinners. I like the sheets because I can add any notes about activities we are doing each day, evening commitments, a reminder to thaw a meal the day before it is needed, etc. The sheet also has a sidebar to list items required to purchase. I usually plan meals for 2-3 weeks at a time (marking them in pencil for flexibility), utilizing my Main Dish List. Although planning for several weeks may sound daunting, I’ve found that it actually saves me time and mental energy in the long run.
3) Shop, Wash, & Chop
Once you’ve made your meal plan and have a list in hand, you are ready to shop! Since you are planning in advance, you could easily choose to visit the store less frequently, but our family still gets groceries weekly. That’s just how we roll. You may wish to wash and cut any fresh fruits and vegetables after returning from the store in order to save you even more time during the week as well.
4) Follow the Plan
As much as possible, try to stick to the meal plan that you have written. It can save both time and money. However much you plan though, it is inevitable that you’ll choose to have company over at the last minute or have an activity come up that can throw off your meal plan. If you wrote your plan in pencil, you can easily switch a couple of meals around or circle them as a reminder to save them for your next round of meal planning.
One last suggestion…. Consider choosing meals that can either be prepared in the crockpot or can be doubled and frozen. It isn’t much trouble to either double a meal or divide it in half for two 8 by 8 dishes. By doubling or splitting the portion (depending on your family size), you can then eat a meal that night AND freeze an identical meal for a future date! (Do make sure to keep track of what’s available in your freezer.)
The ‘What’s for Dinner’ question should be anticipated daily. With one quick look at your Menu Plan sheet, you’ll have the answer! Now, if only the meal would make itself. =)
This is just one way we’ve attempted to make meal planning manageable in our own home. What meal planning suggestions do you have for busy mamas?
FREE Meal Planning Printables!
Printable Main Dish List– to list your family’s favorite dinner meals
Printable Menu Plan– a sheet to plan your dinners and grocery list
Printable Freezer Meals – a sheet to keep track of what’s in your freezer