Getting food on the table on a daily basis is a struggle in and of itself. Add the challenge of getting it done, plus squeezing in a run or workout and, well, something’s gotta give and often it’s the exercise.
Let’s stipulate that we’re all very, very busy.
That’s where I come in. In the interest of full disclosure, this chica is blessed that her kids’ abuela makes dinner on weeknights.
That doesn’t mean other things don’t take up my time, namely an often-more-than-full-time job that I love, shopping, blogging and taking care of the fam, our two dogs, our favorite cat and all the messes we generate.
Here are my best tips to help cut down on the time-suck that is meal planning and cooking so that you can still squeeze in some time for yourself: [Disclaimer: I am not a dietitian. Use your judgement when picking your meals so that you’re feeding your family the healthiest meals you can.]
Who has time to do that, right?! Let me tell you how to get it done quickly and easily.
Once a week (for me, it’s usually Friday nights or Saturday mornings before my gym time/run), I sit down for about 10 minutes to plan the meals for the week.
The first time around, grab some paper (it could even be the back of an envelope) and start jotting down your easiest, go-to meals that you know your family will eat. Or use your note pad on your smart phone.
I’m talking thin, whole-grain spaghetti (it cooks faster), a jar of marinara sauce, frozen meatballs (turkey or tofu if that’s what your family likes), rolls and a green salad. Voila. Monday’s taken care of.
Breakfast for dinner. Hamburgers (or veggie or turkey burgers) on the grill with baked sweet-potato fries and corn. A roast in the crock pot with extra veggies and potatoes. Boom. That’s Tuesday through Thursday already.
Adapt the list for those days when you know there’s a family activity. I even try to plan for nights when all we do is order pizza or if we know we’re eating out.
Pick up groceries for the list
Make sure you have your meals’ ingredients by making your grocery list at the same time as you plan your meals.
Running to the store to pick up a jar of spaghetti after work turns into a $50 45-minute adventure.
We usually eat the same things for breakfast and often eat leftovers for lunch (or simple things like sandwiches), so I don’t plan those meals, but you could.
For your second week, don’t get too fancy, but add a new recipe or two. Or make-ahead one dish over the weekend. I often ask my family if there’s anything in particular they want to eat that week.
But make sure you make both a meal plan list and a grocery store list.
Do the same for weeks three and four.
By week five, you can start over with the list from week one. And so on.
I have a stash of lists in the junk drawer in my kitchen. Some weeks, I start from scratch. Other weeks, I just grab an old list and shop for those meals.
But, it’s boooring!
Yeah, maybe a little if your family likes a lot of variety. Involve them in the planning. I bet that you can come up with a list of two dozen go-to meals right off the bat.
To spice things up (I crack myself up!), go through your old recipe books or pick up a cooking magazine at the grocery store.
AllRecipes.com also rocks, as does my new, most-favorite blog, Chef in Training. Oh, and Pinterest, of course, is a fantastic place to find and keep new, easy recipes. I have boards for recipes, baking, blogging and other fun stuff.
I also encourage you to dust off your crock pot and George Foreman Grill if you have one in the back of a kitchen cabinet.
The grill makes the best hamburgers, steaks and chicken, plus you can throw the metal plates in the dishwasher.
Hope that getting your week’s meals in order will turn into more miles on the road (or ‘mill). Happy running!
Do you plan your meals ahead of time? What’s your favorite easy recipe? What about a recipe resource/website? (Click on “read more” to leave a comment.)