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Saturday, December 10, 2016

How I Plan Meals

     If you've read my blogs before, follow me on instagram/facebook or know me personally, then you already know that I'm a mother of 3 children under the age of 3. If you are like me, a mother, you understand the struggle of managing time wisely. If you aren't a mother, I'll try to paint a picture (=
Babies are highly dependent on adults. They need to be fed, burped, changed, and even need help falling asleep sometimes. Toddlers need our help with changing them, feeding them, and sometimes (most times) entertaining them. So imagine 2 toddlers and a baby. All dependent on you. 

     I've told people before, my life at the moment is a repeated cycle of changing diapers, clothes, prepping food, cleaning up after meals and then cleaning up toys or their messes. On top of that, nursing an infant at random times. Busy busy busy. Yet my other homemaking responsibilities haven't diminished. I still need to try to keep the house tidy/clean, prepare food for myself and my husband, do our laundry, and so on. Life doesn't stop when tiny humans join our families haha 

     I used to dread meal prep. It was always frustrating for me to find new recipes for dinner. After having children I had to find recipes that wouldn't take up too much of my time. Then I had to write down all the ingredients I would need for those recipes, go grocery shopping and search for each item. It took up SO much of my time and energy. On top of that, I would spend an hour or so preparing each meal. This was due largely to the fact that I've never made the meal before so I was taking more time trying to make sure I didn't miss any steps.
     One day I thought, there has got to be a better way to make healthy homemade meals and not waste half my day on preparing them. My family isn't very picky when it comes to food, so this works well for us but might not work so great for others. 

     I picked out about 14-ish tried and true recipes that I knew my family had liked in the past. Some of those were soup recipes ( I really enjoy having soup for lunch). I printed out each one and put them in a binder. 

     I take out maybe 4 or 5 of the recipes that are at the front of the binder, look through the ingredients, write down what I don't have in the pantry (we buy a lot in bulk) and make a grocery list. Then make a quick grocery run for those items. I hang up the recipes in whatever order I want to make them. Within the next 4-5 days as I make a meal from a recipe, I put the recipe back in the binder at the very end of the "Dinner" section". I usually make more then enough food for 2 adults and 2 toddlers so we have leftovers for lunch the following day. Sometimes I even freeze half of the meal (if its freezer friendly). I call this a  "repeat menu". 

     I have 5 different sections in my binder labeled "Dinner", "Soups", "Sides", "Sweets", and "Remedies".  The "Dinner" and "Soup" section gets rotated. The others I don't use as often. 

     I've noticed it helps me save time by not having to look for new recipes every time I sit down to meal plan. Writing down the grocery list goes by a lot faster because I'm already familiar with the recipe ingredients and know what we currently have in the pantry. 
     I enjoy cooking, and like to try new food, but in this season of my life, I have no extra time to devote towards experimenting with new recipes. My husband and my children are my priority and need my attention more than meal planning/prepping. 
     As for breakfast and lunch, I tend to stick to the same things. For breakfast we have oatmeal, scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, toast, fruit, or on occasion cereal. For lunch we have leftovers from the previous nights dinner, Annie's mac & cheese, soup, hard boiled egg, steamed veggies or some type of sandwiches. I try to have these items on hand at all times.

     So here are the recipes I use in my repeat menu. I aimed for super easy/fast prep and a few are either casserole or one pot style. 

Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas (one of our favorites)
Easy Lo Mein (I get frozen orange chicken from Costco to make along with this)
Chicken Pot Pie (I've adjusted this several times, depending on what I have on hand)
Herb Roasted Chicken (I've adjusted the herbs in this one to our liking)
Meatballs (I make this in a large batch and freeze half or even more for later)

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup (my favorite!!)
Okroshka (I make this only during summer, because it's a cold soup)

     I hope this gives some ideas for other mothers out there who struggle with meal planning (=

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