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How Simple Meal Planning Can Save Your Sanity On the Weekends

I’ll be honest.

Weekends and I have fallen on hard times.

What was once a field of daisies, butterflies, and Yanni has devolved into mud, mosquitoes, and Daft Punk.

From Wednesday on, I anticipate the weekend…the extra sleep, the football (off-season stinks), the reading time, movies, snuggling on the couch with Hubster, comfortable pajama pants, no makeup…

Then Friday afternoon comes.

And I realize that there is something growing on the bathroom floor under the shower mat, no one has clean underwear, and the only thing inside the fridge is an over-achieving carrot, desperately try to root down into the bottom of the vegetable drawer.

The budget hasn’t been done. Homework to be checked. Emails to be read (and replied to).  And someone around here is hungry.  (Always. Someone.)

*sigh*

Do you ever feel like that?

Like you’re holding on with your fingertips to relax on the weekend, only to wave forlornly as it passes by?

Keep reading, friend. We’re going to reel in that weekend, once and for all.

Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?
The Eternal Dilemma

Enter, from stage left, Meal Planning Therapy.

It’s my attempt to bring more peace to the endless war with Weekends.

In the arena of food preparation, I’ve got two very big things working against me.

  1. I hate being bored.
  2. I’m not talented enough to be “creative in the kitchen”.

Let’s start with the first one.

I Hate Being Bored

Taco Tuesdays sounds like such a great thing.  To know, week after week, that you are always going to have tacos.

Unfortunately, I get easily bored with Manicotti Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wrap Wednesday, Thai Thursday, Fish Friday, Spaghetti Saturday, and So-Not-Cooking Sunday. (Scratch that. I’m great with Sundays.)

My tongue demands to be sizzled, sparkled, and scintillated.  It likes adventure.

This naturally leads me to my second problem…

I’m Not Creative in the Kitchen

My mom (whom I love! because I know you’re reading!) didn’t teach me much about cooking.

The first recipe I ever made as a new wife was something called “Five Can Casserole”.  (Stop reading here if you have a gag reflux.)

It contained:

  • 1 Can of chicken (Yes! Chicken comes in CANS!)
  • 1 Can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 Can of chicken broth
  • 1 Can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 Can of  chow-mein noodles

It was ba-nasty.

And it has the honor of being the only recipe in the history of our 17-year marriage, that my husband actually asked me never EVER to make it again. 

Fortunately, we have something called “The Food Network” that has transformed me into something that can throw parties and actually get a few compliments…as long as I have a recipe. 

You see, I can’t “wing-it” with meals.  I’ve tried.  We eat out.  

This means I have to have a weekly cooking plan. Have. To. 

In recent years I’ve managed to successfully whittle the meal planning process down from 60-minutes to a whooping 18.  (I timed myself just for this post!)

Here’s how:

How to Tackle Weekly Meal Planning Like a Boss

Here are the 4-steps I take every weekend to get the Meal Monster under control.

Meal Planning Step One: Choose Your Meals

Break out your weekly calendar and see what’s coming up.

  • Which nights do you need something in the crock-pot or premade?
  • Which nights are you cooking for more people than usual?
  • Which nights are pizza?  (There’s always one…)
  • Which nights need to have leftovers?

Take a look at your schedule, and then think through what meals would serve best on those days.

Then pull out your favorite cookbooks, thumb through your favorite recipe collection, or (which is what I do) have eMeals send you a weekly meal plan. You can even try it for 14-days for free!

I’m currently using the Kid-Friendly Meal Plan, but they have 15 other plans to choose from if you’d like something else.  (It’s the best $5 I spend all month.)

Meal Planning Step Two: Write Out Your Plan

After you’ve identified the meals you’re going to make next week, write them all down in a Master Plan.

I’m a paper-person (ironic, since I blog), so for me that’s Erin Condren’s Week-At-A Glance Extra Large Notepad.  After all, what use is a plan unless it’s written down?

Meal Planning Step Three:  Create a Grocery List

If you are using eMeals, they include a grocery list every week. That said, I usually create my own because there’s always a few things I need (like toilet paper) that aren’t on their list.

Maybe it’s Type-A Heather showing up here, but I like to type the list out and divide them by categories – in the order of how I get to them in the store.

I’ve found that I can cut the shopping time in half and avoid double-backing in sections I’ve already gone through.  (Nothing annoys me more than backtracking…)

Meal Planning Step Four:  Hang up Your Plan

Step Four is really just a “show off” kind of step. It’s like being 5 years old and having your artwork on the fridge. Only this shows that you actually do attempt to feed your family healthy foods…most of the time.

You’re not going to blast through the restaurant budget this month. You, my friend, are actually going to cook. (Even if you don’t, when guests come over they’ll be impressed that you MEANT to cook Coq au Vin…)

Am I the Only One Around Here…

Who struggled with the “Weekend Womp Womp” of endless tasks?

The meal planning that used to take me hours has been cut down to smooth 30 minutes. I open an email, pick out a few delicious favorites, shop, and cook. Don’t you just love being pampered?

Try eMeals here for free for 14 days and experience it for yourself!

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9 thoughts on “How Simple Meal Planning Can Save Your Sanity On the Weekends

  1. I’m totally obsessed with meal planning.  I’d add one more step to what you’ve mentioned though: check the sales!!  Sundays I sit down with the local circular and our calendars for the week and figure out the recipes.  It keeps us fed all week AND on budget 🙂

  2. Grocery IQ app is awesome! It’s synced between my husband and my phones so it’s easy for both of us to update and whoever is shipping has the list.

  3. Goodness, I’m glad I’m not the only one who manages to drown in housework. And I only live in an apartment! God help me when we move into a house. As for meal planning, what I try to do is cook two massive portions of food (one dish on Monday and the other on Thursday) so that there is enough for leftovers and for my husband to take to work. In the freezer we always keep lebanese bread for nights when we want to make pizzas. We make these using ingredients we always have in our fridge/pantry. It makes for a quick cheap meal. Now that bub is pretty much eating what we eat, it makes meal planning that much easier. I also try to keep cooking for evenings when I ddon’t have to bath my daughter. It’s one less thing that needs to be done, especially when my husband will be home late from work.

    That’s about as far as my expertise goes. I still have to figure out how to get actual house work done on time.

    1. There’s something so comforting about knowing there’s something premade in the freezer. I need to make myself have that feeling more often! 🙂

      BTW, I’m totally with you on the housework thing. In fact, let a “little birdie” tell you that there’s something coming up on Incredible Infant this spring about this. I’m SUPER excited about it, but can’t say anything yet…. But I’m grinning ear-to-ear because you’re going to love it. 🙂

  4. The weeknight meal planner subscription from Real Simple has changed my life! The meals are healthy, lower in calories, and in most cases can be whipped together in 10 minutes. For a full-time working mom with 2 kids under 2 I finally feel like I have a grasp on our (adult) meals and groceries.

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