Soft jazz plays in the background.
A glass of red wine rests on the
I just adore these couple of hours spent in the kitchen, decompressing from the day and lovingly preparing dinner for my family.
Dinner prep at our house looks a lot more like this…
I glance at the clock sometime around 4 pm and let out a groan.
Dinner! What are we going to have for dinner!?!
I know, we’ll have cereal!
I mean why isn’t cereal a respectable dinner option? Nobody scoffs at eating cereal for breakfast! So why not have it for dinner too!?!
For the next couple of hours, I forget that I actually know how to cook.
It’s like I have dinner-time amnesia or something and I’m completely puzzled by this new concept known as dinner.
And who are these strange people in my house that appear to be hungry? They want to eat!?! Again!?!
Oh, the nerve!
And since baking, (which I absolutely adore, by the way!) does not exactly count as cooking a healthy dinner every night, (boo… so unfair!) it is easy for me to feel perplexed by my time in the kitchen.
Honestly, dinner time catches me by surprise way more than I care to admit.
I would love to say that I’ve created a rock-solid system for getting dinner on the table with ease every single night, but sadly, this would be a lie.
And while I wish I could tell you that over the years, I’ve fallen in love with cooking, I’m afraid this is not actually the case.
Sorry to disappoint you.
But all hope is not lost!
The good news is that with some trial and error, countless mistakes, plenty of meltdowns, and the good old fashioned passage of time, I’ve learned a handful of tricks that work quite well for me.
Nothing fancy. No special gadgets or gizmos. Just a super simple strategy that helps me feed my people with little to no complaining.
And that’s a HUGE win for my entire family!
I’m going to share my little method with you.
My How to Meal Plan When You Hate to Cook method!
Now, do I follow this religiously?
No, I don’t.
Because life is nuts sometimes and things happen. But when I’m organized enough to follow this basic plan, things are much smoother come say, 4pm.
Does this make life easier and dinner time less stressful?
In fact, recently I’ve been finding my rhythm a bit more and have been much more consistent with meal prep. And it really is making all other areas of my life more relaxed.
So, are you ready!?!
To have meals that are…
- Simple to prepare
Questions to ask yourself:
1. What do my family members like eating?
What do all, (or the majority of) your family members like to eat? Is everyone on board with spaghetti? Tacos? Soup and salad?
Because there is nothing worse than working hard in the kitchen only to have your darling offspring turn up their noses at what is on their plates.
Here’s the thing: If you know your children hate squash and moan and groan when you try to make them eat it, maybe it’s time to stop serving squash!
Try finding another veggie or two that everyone enjoys, (or at least tolerates!) and I guarantee that dinner will be a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
Go with what everyone likes!
2. What are the simplest meals FOR ME to prepare?
We operate best when we keep things simple. A seasonal framework also helps to keep options limited. Using seasonal produce means your food will be fresher, taste better, and be cheaper than buying produce that is not in season.
Attaching specific dishes to certain times of the year is another wonderful way to simplify the
3. Are there any allergies or food sensitivities I need to consider?
How versatile are the dishes you’re coming up with? Is it easy to make substitutions when necessary?
Is someone gluten intolerant? Sensitive to dairy? A vegetarian? Are there any other allergies or sensitivities that need to be factored in? Take any current and long-term food issues into account as you’re planning your meals.
4. What is our current food budget?
Food costs can easily start adding up!
Are you currently in a season of life where your food budget is tight? If so, you’ll need to factor in the costs of the meals you’re looking at preparing. Meat, certain produce, spices, and specialty products can definitely eat into your finances if you don’t plan for them.
Again, remember to purchase items that are in season whenever possible to keep your costs down.
Be realistic and set a food budget. Then do your best to stick to it!
I HIGHLY suggest brainstorming all of the questions above and writing out your answers!
1. List 3 meals & ingredients
3 Meals? But there are 7 days in a week!
Yes, you are correct! But remember, our goal is to keep things SIMPLE. And here is how we’re going to do that:
You are going to choose 3 meals and make enough of each recipe to feed your family for two nights.
This way you knock 6 dinners out with 3 dishes.
On the 7th day, you are going to rely on a FROZEN OPTION IN YOUR FREEZER! Lasagna, orange chicken
Alternatively, this 7th day could be take-out, a potluck with friends, or perhaps another member of your family wants to cook.
These should be meals that all (or most!) family members enjoy, they should be as simple as possible, factor in any food limitations, and they should fit into your budget.
Here are some examples:
First Day: Soup or chili in colder months and big salads in warmer months, served with bread.
Second Day: Quiche, pizza, or a casserole with a side salad or veggies.
Third-Day: Fish and veggies, spaghetti or tacos and salad.
Again, these are just suggestions. So take your family’s needs and preferences into consideration and plan accordingly.
2. When and where will you shop for the ingredients?
This is all about being realistic!
What day of the week can you go shopping for all of these ingredients? And how many stores will you need to go to?
Decide ahead of time what day(s) you will do your shopping and where you will need to go.
3. When will you prep these meals?
It feels so incredible to me when I have a dinner meal plan for the entire week!
Look at me being so grown-up and making dinner for my family every single night. I am winning at life!
Decide how you will divide up the meal prep. Do you prefer batching three meals on one day and being done for the week?
Or do you prefer making dinner a few times a week, each time covering two days?
Do what feels the simplest, most enjoyable, and most sustainable FOR YOU.
4. Delegate a specific meal to a specific day of the week
You may find it easier if each day of the week has a designated dish.
Mondays-Soup and bread, Tuesdays-Leftovers, Wednesdays-Spaghetti and veggies, Thursdays-Leftovers, Friday-Tacos and salad, Sat-Leftovers, & Sunday-Your freezer option or takeout or whatever other option that works for your family.
5. Always have a Plan B in the freezer
Look, life happens. Kids get sick, appointments run late, the dinner hour creeps up on us… do yourself a favor and always have a frozen Plan B ready to go. A frozen pizza is always a good idea if you ask me!
6. Get your family on board!
“Many hands make light work!”
This saying is SO true!
I know it can be tough to involve your little ones. But once your kids are old enough, have them help. Someone can chop veggies while someone else cooks pasta.
Not only does this help you out, but it teaches important life skills like cooking prep, clean up, respect, and a family culture of togetherness and a strong work ethic.
You don’t have to do dinner alone. In fact, I strongly encourage you not to!
Remember the goals here! You want dinners that are:
- Simple to prepare
So take a little time to ask yourself these questions and then get started on your action plan.
The most important thing to remember is to customize based on your family’s unique needs. And of course, do what works best for YOU!
Do you have any meal prep tips that have worked well for you? I’d love to know your tips!