Anyone who has known me longer than 10 seconds knows I love to cook. I am one of those weirdos who loves to chop veggies and finds the very act to be a balm to my soul. I have been known to get irritated with my family when they ask if they can help with dinner prep because, dude! THIS IS THE THING I LOVE! DO NOT TRY TO TAKE THIS FROM ME! I think it’s one of those situations where it is a task that using a part of your brain you haven’t been using all day, so the action of it almost comes as a relief. That’s right, I just said dicing veggies can be a relief. Don’t believe me? Go chop up some celery and tell me you don’t feel better about your life. I dare you!
Of course, owning three small business and having kids with loads of activities makes meal prep a nightmare sometimes. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve been sitting at my desk at 6:45pm, frantically getting one more email out before I race out the door when I’ve realized I have absolutely no plans for dinner. Nights like that usually end in a phone call home asking if they want pizza, Chinese or fried chicken. Those last minute, desperate phone calls took up the nights of the better part of the beginning of the year. I was swamped with work! How was I supposed to provide for my family financially AND STILL MAKE THEM DINNER? Yet, as my waistline expanded and the amount of money we were spending on eating out seemed to quadruple over the course of my busy months I knew I had to get a handle on meal planning.
I have been an avid meal planner in the past, especially when I’m focused on getting strong or running a race. But I wasn’t focused on either of those things this time around. I was focused on getting some quality time with my kids and husband around a dinner table though. With my long work hours and many nights away on shoots, I want dinner to be a sacred time in our house. A time when the screens get shut off and we have some honest to god face-to-face time as a family. I also wanted to get my kids involved more in choosing our meals as well as preparing them. Both of my kiddos took a cooking class over the summer and loved it! Lauren especially seems to be drawn to the kitchen arts and I have really enjoyed having her in the kitchen with me helping with our meals. There is some sort of magic in knowing the work that goes into a meal, because that work equals love to me. And I hope that having my kids participate in the building of a meal, no matter how simple or complex it might be, helps them understand that to me, creating the food they eat is another way I show them love.
So, as usual, I turned to my Bullet Journal and to the internet to help me really start meal planning again. I happily fell down some hashtag rabbit holes to see what other people were doing for meal planning. The thing I noticed most, was people were making it WAY more complicated than I needed. We have the breakfast and lunch thing down pretty pat. Much to my chagrin, my kids are die hard Honey Nut Cheerios fans, and while I usually try to shove some protein in as well via a smoothie or an egg, our breakfast routine isn’t something I need to track as much as dinner. Same goes for lunch. The kids request specific things, or request to NOT have specific things and we toss it in their lunch bag before we race out the door. My son tends not to eat his lunch at school if we pack more than two items because DUDE! THE FOOD IS STANDING BETWEEN HIM AND THE PLAYGROUND! So he ends up with crackers and cheese and applesauce A LOT. Again, this just doesn’t seem like something I need to track. And as for us grownups, we are all about leftovers for lunch. Easy, breezy and keeps me from running to Chipotle at the first rumble of hunger, which IS great for my pocket book, but also – CHIPOTLE! But I digress.
So! I started some planning of dinners! I played around with the format in my BuJo for a couple weeks (as those of you who follow me on the Snapchat know) and finally landed on something that works for me. Here is my layout at the start of the week:
My meal plan week starts on Monday, as I do my planning and shopping on Sundays usually. I don’t want to also be shopping and prepping for dinner stuff for Sunday night so Monday works best as a start for me. The thing I love most about the BuJo system is you don’t have to do this the way I am. If you shop on Wednesdays, maybe your meal plan week starts then or Thursday. You do you! And feel free to play around and see what feels right. As for me, I love having a good idea of what’s coming up. It’s helpful to see what ingredients I’ll need for the week as well so I can prep more ahead of time. I will chop up any veggies I’m going to use the first few days of the week on Sunday, make any big salads I want for lunches or quick meals, and prep some of our go to fast foods like grilled chicken and blanched veggies. I also make sure there is a meal I can work those extra food items into by the end of the week if they aren’t all used up for lunches or snacks.
When I’m planning out our meals I take a lot into consideration. I look at my work schedule, to see how late I’ll be in the office or on a shoot. If I won’t get home until 7pm, dinner better be done when I walk in the door or take much less time – I’m talking 15 minutes or less – to make. I also take the kids activities into consideration. I know on Tuesday’s, LJ will be hungrier because she will have just gotten home from 90 minutes of playing golf and I’ll want to make something yummy and filled with protein for her to get a good recovery. I also make more food than we will eat, because I do want there to be leftovers for lunches. However, this past week I may have overdone it. I didn’t work a “leftovers” night into the menu and by Thursday the fridge was bursting with Pyrex containers filled with leftover chow. We decided to abandon the planned meal of Meatballs and Zoodles (one of my under 15 minutes meals) and eat some tasty leftovers instead. Sometimes this is the best because everyone can eat their favorite thing! Our week of dinners looks like this:
Every week that I do this I am learning more about my family, what works best for us and how I can save time on making good food for my family. The greatest thing about this is it’s adaptability. I don’t feel like I can’t change something or mix it up if needed. Being able to forgo cooking a new meal for a night of leftovers and games is just what we needed – and it was almost exciting to draw a line through that planned meal and write LEFTOVERS below it. It was glorious. We also added some things to list! I made some waffles for breakfasts and the freezer (because you know what? Breakfast happens every damn day, y’all!) and came home to a delicious apple pie my cute husband decided to make from scratch one evening. SO of course, I ad to take picture of those things too!
I am so happy with the way meal planning with my BuJo is working out so far. I feel like there are still some kinks to work out and I’m sure, as usual, my layout will change over time as well. But I feel much more organized, we aren’t eating out with nearly the frequency we were and I am doing a great job taking my lunch to work. Such a great job, in fact, that I finally bought a microwave for the office so my leftovers didn’t have to be consumed cold anymore. Way to go me. So what about you? Are you planning your meals? Weekly? Monthly? Share your ways with us!