A practical post on meal planning from Jen of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Jen is an expert meal planner for her family of 7. She blogs about frugal living and the beauty and bedlam that is her life.
The 5:00 o’clock dinner bell gongs, and the dreaded, “what’s for dinner” question haunts us. Do they really need to eat again? Sheesh - didn’t I just feed them?
When I mention meal planning, most women run for the hills because it is just one more thing to cram on our overextended plates. We know there’s a benefit in having a plan, but the thought of having to actually sit down and work it through leaves us frazzled and overwhelmed.
For many of us, this is the most difficult aspect in making your home a “soft place to land.” Our families need to eat…every day…all the time…and that cooking rut grows deeper. So how do we get around this lack of follow through? Just do it – with small baby steps!
I had written another post (in my mind), with some general suggestions for conquering Meal Time Mountain, but after brainstorming with some friends, they finally declared…“Jen, seriously, just tell us what to do, so we can copy you.”
That’s a scary statement, people…but here goes.
I did a one hour challenge to see just how much I could do to prepare for future meals. I attacked this mission with fervor, and planned on conquering it. Here’s what I did:
I had already thawed the meats, and started a crock pot full of black beans that morning. So I fired up my best friends for the evening – my rice cooker and grill.
I grilled ten combined pounds of chicken, pork and hamburger.
While I (technically, my 13 year old son) was grilling, I fried six pounds of hamburger meat, and started my rice cooker and made two separate helpings of brown rice and basmati rice.
One hour later, I had eighteen chicken breasts and pork chopped, sliced and diced.
The rice, beans and seasoned hamburger meat were completed and divided into baggies.
Every thing that I had just put into Ziplock bags now offered a minimum of 15 possible meals choices that I can cook up in minutes. Since I have an “emergency corner” of foods that I am never without, I can draw from this stockpile on any given day. I highly recommend doing this – even if it’s just with a few items.
These are the items that I always stock.
1. cans of diced tomatoes
2. cans of cream of mushroom/chicken soup
3. flour tortillas
4. shredded cheese
5. frozen vegetables
8. spaghetti sauce
9. Sour cream
10. A few Pillsbury-type items: pie crusts, biscuits, pizza crust
With these items and the food I just prepared, I can make:
• Chicken stir fry
• Enchiladas or burritos
• Simple chicken casserole
• Simple Chicken pot pie
• Taco salad
• Taco dip
• Taco pizza
• Grilled Chicken salad
• Shredded pork with BBQ sauce
• Stuffed biscuits with salsa or spaghetti sauce, hamburger, and cheese
Kimba here: Jen is going to post a more detailed explanation of how she assembles these meals on her blog.
Whew, can you believe it? I was just getting warmed up. I’ll have to finish at my blog. And don’t worry if you don’t have much freezer space…all of that only took up this little bit of room in my freezer.
Look at all I got done with one hour and 15 minutes of intentional time set aside to conquer this mealtime mountain. If I can do this…you can too.
I am passionate about families spending more time connecting at the dinner table and less time being frazzled with the process. With simple meal planning, you not only save time, and HUGE amounts of money, but you enjoy the lost art of shared dinner conversations which makes this priceless.
Let’s continue to make our home a soft place to land by taking time this week to move from best intentions to answering the “what’s for dinner question” in our own home.
From Kimba: If you have meal planning questions for Jen, leave them in the comments section and Jen will be around to dialogue and follow up.
Thank you, Jen! I'm thrilled that you were able to share your meal planning process with all of us. I am so blessed to call you my friend. Be sure to visit Balancing Beauty and Bedlam for follow-up posts on her meal planning process.
Click here to read the previous posts in this series.