How I Took Control of My Life with Meal Planning

Kids yelling “MOM – What’s for dinner tonight? What? I don’t like that!”  “MOM, I’m starving and I have to be at hockey in 20 minutes.”

Me, looking in the fridge wondering what I can make that’s nutritious and takes 5 minutes to create. Panic sets in; total chaos erupts in the kitchen. 

Sound familiar to anyone else?  

Then, one day I had enough! I knew that I needed to take control of meals in our household. We were making trips to the grocery store every other day and not always paying attention if the meals were balanced or not. I was coming home starving from work because I hadn’t eaten enough and would eat whatever I could while I was trying figure out what was for dinner. 

I’m not a nutrition expert – but I do know that when I eat better, I feel better. And when MOMMA feels better, everything works smoother at home. 

How I Took Control of My Life with Meal Planning | Duluth Moms Blog

I did some research, reached out to friends that I trusted and stumbled upon a program that worked for us. Now, I’m not going to push the Beachbody 21 Day fix program; I’m here to talk about how meal planning has reduced the stress in my house, increased communication, and has led to healthier meals. 

Step 1:

Sit down as a family and have a conversation about meals, especially dinners. What do they like, what are their favorites, what don’t they like. Listen to what they are saying! I’ve found that sometimes, I can tweak meals so I can have a healthier version of what they are eating. Every week, I will ask the kids what they want for dinner. This week’s suggestion from my 10-year old son: shrimp, tacos, and stir fry.

Step 2: 

Look at the calendar for the upcoming week – what activities are going on, what nights will be rushed, what nights will your family be eating in shifts (I love having us all together, but some nights that’s just not realistic), and what nights can we enjoy a meal together. Identifying what nights you need to have meals ready for becomes a lifesaver. 

I also look at the school lunch menu and ask the kids if they want to take cold lunch during the week. It helps to know ahead of time what days we need to pack lunches. 

Step 3: 

Pull together your favorite meals and determine what we can make ahead of time. Doing tacos and spaghetti? Swap out hamburger for ground turkey and brown it up on Sunday night, so it’s ready for the week. I tend to keep it pretty simple, I don’t try out a bunch of new recipes each week, but I do try at least one. I try to have that on a night I know I will have time to prepare or that I can make up head of time. (Don’t worry, I’ll link to some of my favorites!) I also rotate recipes throughout the month. I don’t want to do the same thing week in and week out. 

Write down your plan. You can do a simple Google search for meal plan templates or you can just be like me and use a good ol’ piece of paper. I keep telling myself each week that I’m going to make it fancier and track everything on a spreadsheet. However, this works for me. And that’s one of my biggest pieces of advice to you – keep it simple and make it work for you!  How I Took Control of My Life with Meal Planning | Duluth Moms Blog

Step 4: 

Make sure as you’re writing down your plan that you take note of ingredients that might be needed. I always do a quick look through to see if I have everything at the house, otherwise it gets added to the grocery list. Do a quick review of what can be made up prior. I like to do all my food prep on Sunday for the week. 

Step 5: 

Get that grocery list and head to the store. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Aldi and do 80% of our shopping there. I love bringing my daughter with me, we pull out the list and make sure we get everything. Again, pulling the family into the planning of the meals. 

Step 6: 

Prep away! I look forward to this time and honestly, the 2 hours I spend on food prep will save me hours during the week. Don’t be afraid to open up that wine bottle and have a glass or two while you are prepping. 

Set aside the stuff you are going to make up prior. This week for example, I made up the burgers, taco bake, quinoa, and salsa ahead of time. Along with my chicken salad for lunch and hard boiled eggs for snacks. Turn on your favorite music, podcast, or TV show. Lately, I’ve been jamming out to Cloud Cult.

I try and put the food in containers that work to quick grab and go. My husband loves this BLT Chicken Salad recipe for lunch. I’ll put in several containers and he’s ready to grab and go when packing his lunch. 

Step 7: 

Relax when you hear “MOM, what’s for dinner?” – consult the menu hanging on the fridge and heat it up! 

Don’t be afraid to embrace leftovers! Friday night at our house becomes a smorgasbord of leftovers from the week. It might just be my favorite meal of the week!

Remember, don’t over complicate it. Start off simple; as you get more comfortable, search out new recipes for your family to try. Have your kids look for recipes they might like. Figure out what works for you and stick to it. I promise you, as time goes on, you will be relieved not to be spending time worrying about what’s for dinner and trying to sneak in another trip to the grocery store. The best part is you will feel better by providing meals you can stand behind to you and your family. 

Favorite Recipes:

Chicken Salad – seriously I eat this almost everyday for lunch!

Penne with Chicken and pesto – everyone (all 8 of our children) love this one! 

Easiest Butternut Squash Soup – a favorite of my husband!

Zesty Quinoa Salad – you can bet this is what I bring to potlucks! 

Baked Salmon, Shrimp and Asparagus – this is the meal all my children make sure they are home for! 

Link to my Pinterest board

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