Meal Planning Saved Me From Stress

Just like many other women out there, after the holiday season, I am taking January to make healthier choices for my family and me at meal time. The best way for me to do this and make sure it sticks, is to plan out our meals, most importantly supper. Some decide to plan out their meals for the week ahead. Learning from an amazing friend that planning your entire month, all at once, is much easier and less time-consuming than planning week by week.

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When the stress hits…

I cannot tolerate when 3 pm hits and I have no idea what I am going to make for supper. The stress begins to well up inside as I have not taken anything out of the freezer to thaw. My kids’ schedules for the evening is a bit frantic and not to mention that I want to take time in the evening to blog. Besides all this, I then can no longer focus on my work because it’s 3 pm and I don’t know what I am freaking making for supper.

Cooking the actual meal actually stresses me out. I cannot tell you how much I do not like being in the kitchen. I cannot comprehend how one can spend an hour in the kitchen to make a meal that takes the family just 5-minutes to eat. Well, in my home it only takes 5-minues because I have 4 boys, ages 9 to 16. There even are nights where they are done before R.H. (my hubby) and I even sit-down – which makes a dinner date for 2 just as fun as eating with the family. Oh, and I did mention that I have picky eaters who have made it difficult to cook for? Ya! Add that to the equation of my stress factor.

There has to be a better way

As I am the one in the home who does the cooking, I had to come up with a way to remove all the stress from the entire meal planning and cooking thing. I wanted to learn how to enjoy every moment. From creating the meal plan, to the grocery list, grocery shopping, meal prep and the cooking. I needed to create a way where I found the joy in every element of all the above.

I decided to make it fun by creating a schedule and lists – I love making both of these!

My monthly process to meal planning

First, I take a piece of paper and I write down the days of the month down the left side (so high-tech). Next to the date I write down any events and appointments that are happening that evening. Based on the evening events I then choose a supper time for each day. I then add a menu for each day, which does include take-out nights. Hey, a girl needs a break every once and a while. Lastly, I place a ‘Q’ beside any supper times that require the meal to be completed, from start to finish, quickly. I also place an ‘R’ beside any times where R.H. will need to cook as I am not going to be home.

Meal Plan Process Step #1
Meal Plan Process Step #1

Here is a secret to having hubby cooking

When R.H. needs to cook, I choose a menu that he enjoys making. This way R.H. is happy and can enjoy his time in the kitchen as he is on both the cooking and cleaning duty.

Second, I take all the information I have written on my high-tech piece of paper and I add it all to my Google calendar. I add the menu and time to each day of the month. Please note that I already have all the afternoon/evening events in my Google calendar. So, when adding the meal times and menus to the calendar it confirms that my timing is in sync with the evening agenda. I also create this as a separate calendar marked ‘meals’ so that I can add R.H. and my sons to this exact calendar. This way they know when and what is for supper. This keeps them from asking ‘Mom, what is for supper?’ the moment they walk in the door from school. Also, if I am making a meal that they don’t care for, they know that it is up to them to make their own supper that night.

Sara's Meal Calendar
Sara’s Meal Calendar

Third, usually on Saturday evening, I look at the menus for week ahead and I create a grocery list. I only purchase what I need for the menus, as well as breakfast, lunch and snack items. R.H. and I work from home. Our lunch usually consists of either homemade Italian wedding soup or supper leftovers, which makes it all easy for the mid day meal.

Daily Meal in Google
Daily Meal in Google

Let’s make a list

I create my list in word as I go through each day of the week. This means that there is no rhyme or reason to my list. So, I choose to place a 1 thru 5 beside each item. The numbers are based on how I roll around the grocery store. Once the list is made, I use the auto-alpha button in Word to automatically put the list in order, based on my grocery store navigation. This also re-leaves stress while shopping as I don’t forget anything. You won’t find me running end to end and then back again grabbing missed items.

Grocery-List-for-the-Week
Grocery-List-for-the-Week

Let’s save some money

Forth, I invest a bit of time into price matching. I use an app called Flipp. As I go through my list, if there is a better price for the item (at a different store) on Flipp, I then place an ‘X’ next to the item on my list. This saves me time at the grocery store, as I don’t have to waste time searching the app while standing in front of the meat counter. And, can I just add that the wi-fi in grocery stores stinks! It can take quite a while to search every item while standing in the store.

The last thing I do before I head to the store early Sunday morning is to prepare the fridge and cupboards for the new goodies coming into the kitchen. This way when I come home with my hands full of grocery bags, I am not stressing out trying to fit the new goods into their proper places.

How long does this actually take?

You may be thinking that all the above must take hours to work through. The first time you work through this, it will take time. But just like most things, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the faster the process will become. I do find that the process at the beginning of the month does take the longest. Then the week by week process is quick. For the month of January, the entire process was 2-hours in total. What I know is that these 2-hours will save me around 5-hours a week preparing, thinking and planning. As well as many hours stressing over supper, daily. The later is the most important to me.

Coming up next

In a future blog, I will share how I invest approximately 2-hours on a Sunday preparing all my meals for the week, including snacks for the family. The meal prep saves me about 6 hours during the week as well. This is the final step in, my sanity and how I have embraced a process that I do not love. All this has helped me to Live Beyond Satisfied… until the day I can hire a chef!

It is a choice

I am finding a new-found love for having the ability to prepare food for my family. I pour love into the entire process and the cooking because I do believe that the love and energy I give to this process and to the food does end up nourishing the bodies of my family members. Just because I don’t love the process doesn’t mean I cannot do it in love. I love my family and I want them to eat well and make healthy choices. Whatever I can do to help them is such a blessing to me.

Should you want to learn more about taking the control back and owning your schedule, be sure to check out Your Schedule Is Yours, It’s Time To Own It.

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