Posts Tagged ‘meal planning’

Meal Planning 101

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

meal planning 101We all plan meals, whether monthly or mere minutes before they hit the table. Purposeful meal planning is all the rage in circles of moms trying to find the time to get it all done while on a budget.

At first, planning meals may feel burdensome, like one more thing to do in your already busy day. The fact is you are already planning meals, but doing so in advance can save you money and time, as well as help you to be more thoughtful about what you want your family to consume overall.

First, take note of what you are already eating. It’s happening whether the meals are planned or not. Try to recall the meals of the last week (or write down your meals for several weeks to get an idea). Assess what you like about your dinners and what changes you’d like to see over time. Perhaps you’d like to add more veggies, eat less take-out, eat fewer fried foods, or just add more variety.

Next, consider what you already have on hand. Planning meals requires buying ahead of time the particular ingredients of each meal, but you also need the basics always in stock at home. This can vary for each family but sugar, flour, basic spices, olive oil, vinegar, beans, tomatoes, pasta, rice, and so on based on your inclinations. You can also prepare your kitchen by having a no-buy week, weeks, or month. This is great incentive to save a few bucks to stock your kitchen with basics for the future.

With all of these things in mind grab a pen. On a calendar (whether fancy or just a sheet of paper with days jotted down) write out a meal plan for one or two weeks. You can also plan breakfasts and lunches. I don’t write these down in advance but rather have about 10 go-to meals that I keep fairly in stock, based on sales.

When I don’t plan meals I can feel frazzled by 5 PM. In reality the dinner hurdle is not as bad as I think. I plan about five meals knowing that we will have one or two leftover nights and possibly a pizza take-out night (or something similar). We also have a night where we eat dinner at the church. Suddenly my week only needs 4 meals to make it through. I also now include a night or two per month where I take random things in my pantry and make magic happen. This helps to keep my pantry and fridge tidy.

Running short on ideas? Pinterest and Google are your best friends. If there is a brand you like (of a condiment or other staple, like Annie’s Organic), roam their boards. Gather ideas and brainstorm. You can also search recipes by main ingredients (vegetable casserole) or ethnic variety (Italian). If you use a crockpot or pressure cooker you can find a treasure trove of appliance-specific meals. Some moms do freezer meals and fix everything at once so they only have to cook one weekend a month!

Ask friends for their favorite recipes and, most important, ask your family for some of their favorites or requests! To keep track create your own Pinterest board with links to recipes, bookmark recipes, write them down, or print them out into a binder. No matter how keep your recipes, if you use Pinterest for specific types of meals regularly, it will start finding them for you—even easier!

If budget matters to you plan your meals by what’s on sale. You may be able to look online at your local grocer’s website or by circulars/mailers that arrive to your home or that can be picked up at the front of the store. Incorporate coupons as you see fit. When you have space, buy sale products for more than just the one meal (in other words in bulk, based on how much space you have at home). Also plan meals that use similar ingredients. Perhaps you only need one cup of mushrooms for Monday night but you can save money by buying the large pack, so plan a meal that uses them again by Wednesday.

Plan for the week and make a list of the ingredients you’ll need to make that happen. By going to the store only one or two times a week I don’t fight traffic or dwell the aisles of the store as often, saving significant time and money (because all time and money is significant these days!). In the beginning you may find planning rather intensive. Take small steps. Don’t try to overhaul everything from the beginning. Start with what is comfortable and incorporate any changes slowly.

At the end of each week, assess what worked well and what didn’t. Keep a list of favorites so you can incorporate them into your rotation. Make a list of any pantry staples you need to replenish so you can purchase them during the next week’s shopping trip.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 6 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Make-Ahead Meals Will Change Your Life

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

make ahead meals

When my now five-year-old daughter was born my mother in law came to visit us and stocked my freezer with homemade meals. It was so unbelievably helpful that just last month I paid it forward to my sister-in-law, whose first baby is due next month. I was working full time when my daughter was born and having a supply of healthy meals to grab out of the freezer was amazing.

Since then lots of things have changed for my family–I work part time from home now, my daughter is in preschool three days a week, but even though I technically have more time to prepare meals for the family being prepared with make ahead meals is still an absolute game changer.

There are a few different ways you can go about doing this. Some people like to spend one day a week shopping, meal planning and prepping for the week. That means being prepared with a meal plan, getting everything you need for the week and prepping. You can wash, chop and even roast vegetables, cook grains, and even season or cook your proteins.

You can even take it a step farther and portion out lunches for the week for anyone who needs one.  Breakfasts can be done the same way–making egg muffins, overnight oats, and baked oatmeal, healthy breakfast breads and cutting up and portioning out fruit. This kind of planning works great for family meals and even for preschool or school lunches.

The downside is that it will take up a good chunk of a day- if you have the flexibility to do this on a weekday that’s what I try to do so it doesn’t eat into our weekend.

Another way to go which is probably my favorite is to take time to load up the freezer. You can either take one day a month to get it done or just double and triple portions of everything when you cook. If you’re making a casserole make three instead, have one for dinner and stick two in the freezer. If spaghetti and meatballs is on the menu for dinner triple the meatballs, then all you have to do is boil some pasta, toss together a salad and throw in the already made meatballs.

Breakfasts can be done the same way to be stocked in the freezer and so can so many school lunches. Pancakes, waffles, French toast–they can all be frozen and re-heated in the toaster. Think of anything that you would buy frozen from the store and you can easily recreate them at a fraction of the price and with healthier ingredients. These can include breakfast burritos, homemade pizzas, I love using pie crusts for making things like homemade pop tarts or filling them (or pizza dough!) with savory ingredients like chicken and pesto or ground beef and cheese.

The more prepared foodyou have in the freezer, the less food prep you’ll have to do the rest of the week. So if you’re scrambling around trying to figure out what’s for dinner or what to pack in a lunchbox, give it a try and I guarantee once you get the hang of it you’ll save yourself a lot of time!

Jacqueline Banks is a certified Holistic Health Counselor. She works with women in all stages of motherhood, from mothers struggling with conception to those trying to get their groove back after pregnancy to ensure the best health and nutrition for both mom and baby. 

Dust off your Crock Pot and Get Ready to be Inspired!

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

A friend of mine shared this photo with me. She spent $350 and 4 hours putting together 40 crock-pot meals for her family of 6! Check it out:

She is a full time working mama of 4 busy boys. Coming home in the evenings after work, sports practices, school events, etc made dinner time kind of hectic for them. Being the resourceful mama she is, she made a plan that would allow for more quality family time in the evenings AND save them money. A trip to the grocery store and a few hours later, she has healthy, ready-made, meals to throw in her crock-pot in the morning. And will come home in the evening to a yummy smelling, home-made, family dinner …FOR 40 NIGHTS! I am in serious awe!

She shared a few tips:

  • Select 20 recipes and double them. This cuts down on the initial meal planning and prep time.
  • This is the perfect opportunity to buy in bulk. Do so and take full advnatage of the savings.
  • Clearly label each bag, including any extra that need to be added at the end of cook time such as rice, noodles, etc.
  • Use a food processor to assist with all that chopping.
  • Use pintrest to find crockpot recipes that freeze well. My friend did a trial run with a few to ensure they would taste yummy once thawed.

After chatting with my friend about this, I know exactly what I am asking for for my birthday this month…a family sized crock-pot! ;) Yep, believe or not I have never actually used a crock-pot. Although now I am super eager to try something like this for my family. What about you? :)

Do you use a crock pot to simplify family dinners? Any tips, suggestions, or links to share? Would love to hear from YOU!

-Sarah

Tasty Tuesday with a Twist: A Video Tour of My Pantry

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

For many, many years I cooked meals out of a pantry that was in complete disarray. When I would get home from the grocery store I would put the food wherever there was room on the shelves with no rhyme or reason to their location. I was just happy to get groceries from the car, into the house, and unpiled from the kitchen table. It actually never even occurred to me to be more systematic about putting groceries away.

That is until I saw a few photos from a friend’s immaculately organized kitchen/pantry. She happens to be a pretty incredible cook who prepares deliciously clean, whole foods for her family. I felt inspired by her photos and really liked the idea of grouping food items together by category. So when we moved into our new house that seemed like the perfect opportunity to get my pantry under control. Additionally over the previous year or so I had become more adept at feeding my family; including knowing what were staples in our diet and how much we consumed during a typical week. Thus I had a better idea of how to adequately stock my pantry.

After almost a year of cooking from a well-organized and well-stocked pantry, I fully appreciate how it has positively enhanced the task of preparing healthy meals for my family. It makes meal-planning way easier, writing a grocery list is a cinch, food preparation is much faster, and our overall grocery bill has been reduced.

Because I share so many recipes here, I thought I would invite you all into my pantry! :) Perhaps seeing what works for our family might help you develop a helpful system for your own family? I know I am very grateful my friend shared her photos with me many moons ago because it had a definite impact on our daily lives.  Feeding our family is something most of us do multiple times a day so efficiency with meal planning and preparation is a high priority for most mamas! :)

(more…)

Friday Family Spotlight: Meet Jill’s Family

Friday, December 14th, 2012

I really enjoy introducing you to some of the families here at Breastfeed.Babywear.ClothDiaper.Naturally! It’s been a really fun way to get to know our readers better! This week I am excited to spotlight Jill’s family. They are blessed to live on 8 acres in the country. Jill has some great tips for meal planning and establishing a daily groove with your kids. Read on to learn more….

Who are the members of your family? 

Matthew, Jill and 2 daughters: Keeley (4) and Brennan (1). We live on 8 acres in the country. My husband has worked on machines that go underwater and up in the air. I  stay at home and keep my feet on the ground.
Describe your cloth diaper stash:

Full circle: I started out with prefolds and covers for a newborn, then added pockets and All in Ones, and have just re-stashed with some flats and prefolds as pocket stuffers, kind of a ‘best of both worlds’ attitude. You get the great fit of a pocket with the old-world of cotton/hemp inserts that absorb well and wash up wonderfully!

Describe your daily routine:

One of my friends introduced me to the EASY routine for babies (eat time, awake time, sleep time, you time). We still go around this type of schedule for both kids, you just have to adjust the time in between the ‘sleep’ the older they get! I sneak in kitchen and laundry chores while the kids are eating at the table. I don’t really get ‘you’ time anymore because my kids sleep at different times, but I do the things I CAN do while each kid is awake (for instance if I sleep late, then while the baby naps in the morning, the 4 year old watches tv while I shower).

What are some of your favorite “me” time indulgences?

I rarely do things just for me, I can’t justify the expense, so instead I take great happiness in just getting to paint my toenails a fun color, reading books from the library, or watching ‘crime’ tv shows after the kids are in bed.

What’s your number one secret for stretching a dollar?

Meal planning with leftovers. I like to make a bigger item like a roast chicken and then get several meals like soup, enchiladas, and sandwiches out of the same main dish.

Share one special family tradition you have?

On Christmas Eve, we take the kids to church services in their pajamas and read the Christmas story from the bible and ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ to the kids before bed!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Hands down, it would be to take a short nap and be completely refreshed. My kids ‘split’ naps so there’s never a ‘break’ in kid caring. On those rare opportunities that they are quiet at the same time, I don’t have enough time to get a real nap, but if 10 minutes was enough, I could probably sneak that time in somewhere and be a whole different person!

Thanks Jill for sharing your family with us! I love the idea of an EASY routine! I have never heard that before…sounds like a great daily rhythm for you and the kids. :)

Would you like to have your family featured in a Friday Family Spotlight AND win a FREE $10 gift certificate to Mom’s Milk Boutique for your participation? If so email sarah@momsmilkboutique.com with the subject line “Friday Family Spotlight Inquiry” and share something interesting about your family in your email message.

Happy Friday Everyone!!

-Sarah