I get asked a lot how I manage to "do it all" - that is, how I find the time to teach my children many things (and all the preparation and planning that it requires) as well as managing all the endless household duties that steal so much time.
Meals are a big item on that list. The prepping and planning, the cooking, the shopping, the cleaning up.
And one huge time saver for me is to menu plan.
Not just dinner menus (although that probably the most important one to have). But I, preferably, write out a complete "weekly eating plan": everything we are going to eat for every meal (noting side dishes as well), plus snacks that I want to have available, and treats we want to have.
This saves me time (and money) because when I have all of this planned out:
- I spend less time brainstorming, searching, and worrying about what to make each day.
- I spend less time in the kitchen cooking (because I can do a little simple prep at the beginning of the week or day to make time in the kitchen easier).
- I spend less time running to the store to get last minute ingredients, since I have all the meal and snack plans made, I can note all the needed ingredients.
Besides the actual minutes it frees up, it frees up my mind as well, which in my case is even more important.
When I know that this particular aspect of life (meals) is covered and accounted for, I am free to set my mind towards other more important things: free to get lost in playing with the kids, free to work on projects, and not always having to think about what I am going to do when 5:00 rolls around.
There are tons of weekly menu planning forms available all over the internet: some simple, some complex, some fancy, some plain.
But because I my family's specific preferences, I created my own, which will hopefully be helpful to some of you:
Click here to download
What makes this menu plan unique is:
1. Has all meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
2. Has a place for writing down side dishes for dinner (I all too often forget about side dishes when I plan dinners, seeing an empty box reminds me)
3. Has a place to write down a treat for each day (I love having something sweet after dinner, this helps me plan healthy things like fruit salad or all fruit smoothies!)
4. Has the specific "fruit tray" and "veggie tray" that my family uses for snacking (I cut up a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies every week and keep them in covered trays in the fridge: this is pretty much all we snack on during the day and we also bring out the trays during lunch as side dishes)
5. Also has "extra snacks" tray because sometimes we do have something a little different. 6. For dinners, has little note taking places so I can note things I can prepare the night before (moon symbol), note if part of all of the meal is in the freezer (the thermometer symbol), and checkboxes to note it I am planning to double, triple, or quadruple the recipe to freeze for later.
So this is my long thought-out weekly menu that I have been using for the last year or so.
I hope this menu will be helpful to some of you so you can spend less time at the store, less time worrying about what to eat, less time preparing (since you will know what things you can make ahead), and more time learning and playing with your children.
"Thou preparest a table before me..." Psalm 23:5