I used to think that meal planning was for type A crazies with WAY too much time on their hands. I mean, who has the time or energy to think more than a day or two ahead about food, let alone a week or a month! But deciding on dinner has always stressed me out. Pulling something out of the freezer in the morning left my family with a very boring revolving door of baked BBQ chicken, baked shake-and-bake chicken, or (here’s where we get exciting…) spaghetti. Or I would tell my husband to pick up a pizza on the way home. Or I’d run to the store at lunch and spend $30 on fresh meat, veggies, and starches, as well as whatever else called out to me from the aisles. Which means that my overall dinner planning was stressful, blah, and pricey.
When I decided to be an ORGANIZED mom in January as part of my Ultimate Mom Challenge, one of the things I wanted to tackle was meal planning. My sister swears by it. She has her whole month mapped out. I didn’t know if I was ready to go too deep into it, but I definitely wanted some structure at least a week out.
For Christmas, my sister got me “20 Slow Cooker Dump Meals for $150” by the blogger I Am That Lady. Any other month I would have tossed this in the “maybe someday” pile, but for my January goal of being an ORGANIZED Mom, this was perfect!
The first weekend of the new year, I grabbed my husband and son and took them to the store with our grocery list in hand. Bringing my family with me served two purposes: #1: A big part of my Mom Challenge is to involve my family as much as possible. A lot of things I can easily tackle myself, but I want my whole family to grow with this experience. #2: I wanted to see how hard this would be with my toddler son. He is not much fun at the grocery store. He constantly tries to crawl out of the cart, he wants his hands on everything, and he’s very impatient. My husband was tasked with taking him home if things got out of control (we even took two cars to the store). I wanted to know if this was something I could do on a monthly basis, without requiring a babysitter or other special conditions. Fortunately, everything went smoothly, mostly because we came armed with snacks. While the store trip took about an hour, we made it through in tact. In the end we spent $165, which included a few miscellaneous items not part of the meal planning project. I was extremely pleased with our shopping results!
But the fun was only just getting started. Now we had to make the meals. My husband and I started the process while my son entertained himself. That lasted about five minutes. We realized we’d have to wait for naptime to get our hands dirty. Fortunately, my son took a two hour nap that day, which is precisely how long it took us to prep the veggies, sort the ingredients, and bag up 20 freezer meals. Having my husband’s help was key. I think alone I would have had to tack on another 30 minutes of work (and one more trip to the store because we ran out of cumin half way through).
In the end, we had a loaded freezer of dinners and the satisfaction of a job well done. Once I mapped out what to eat when, factoring in events and trips planned during the month and some nights for assumed leftovers, I had the entire month of January dinners organized! It felt so good to know our month was set, pre-paid, and done together as a family!
I will definitely continue to do meal planning in the future, for the cost savings and peace of mind alone! I’ll need to read up on other freezer meal recipes and I’d like to try meal planning services at some point, but since I’ve got 15 meals sitting in my freezer right now, I’m not in any time crunch.
Any tips for a newcomer to the meal planning game? Do you swear by meal planning, or mostly just swear at it? I’d love tips and ideas for other ways to organize and prepare meals!
See more of my January Ultimate Mom Challenge posts here.
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