You’re ready to learn how to start meal planning. You’ve decided that enough is enough, you HAVE to get your meal planning shizz together. You owe it to yourself not to spend all day wondering what’s for dinner. And, you owe it to your family to not show up to the dinner table as a stressed out, hot mess of a mom who just spent too long in the kitchen cooking a mediocre dinner.
But, now you’re wondering how to start meal planning? Well, I’m not giving you THAT info just yet. First, I need you to read and accept the one thing you absolutely should not do as a first step in your meal planning journey. Ready? Here goes.
Do not go searching for new recipes.
Take a day off from reading your favorite food blogger, take the Pinterest app off your phone and put that pile of cookbooks out of reach.
Seriously. If you’re not willing to stop the hunt for the ‘perfect’ recipe, we need to break up. Truth is, I can’t help you ‘simplify’ dinnertime if you are constantly adding more to your proverbial plate in the form of new recipes. Because, these are the types of recipes that you’ll run across:
- Ones that have far more ingredients than you’d ever buy for one meal.
- Recipes that don’t consider your family’s busy schedule and take far longer to prep that you have time to prep, cook, AND eat a weeknight meal.
- Meals that sound ah-mazing, with pictures of perfect families dining together that will prompt you to wonder why your kids can’t sit still at the table like THOSE kids.
- Recipes like quinoa and kale salad that are, for the most part, might require a little ‘selling’ on your end.
- Recipes that involve braising, or zoodling (is that a verb?), or even grilling. They’ll be filled with cooking techniques that you have never heard of, don’t have the ‘equipment’ for or just don’t feel comfortable doing.
- You’ll find another recipe that looks delish and you’ll read the ingredients and notice that some of the ingredients are ones that your 4-year-old happens to be severely allergic to.
Shhhh. Did you hear that? That’s the sound of doubt creeping in. And, that’s what starts happening when we find tons of recipes that we haphazardly search for. Doubt says, ‘GURLLLL, you’ll never be able to do this.’ Doubt makes you think, ‘Ugh. My family has too many allergies. There’s no way I can meal plan around all of this’. You might even think, ‘How am I supposed to make dinner when I can’t even COOK?’
So, here’s the truth, mama. What’s REALLY keeping us from enjoying dinners with our family is not our lack of the perfect recipe. It’s actually (eek!) our unwillingness to take a few minutes each week to plan out what we’re going to feed our family. I know. You’re busy. I get it. We all are. BUT, we still HAVE to feed our family. And, not spending a few minutes once a week is costing us SO MUCH MORE time on a daily basis.
So, what IS the first step?
Sit down at the table with a piece of paper and consider inviting your family to gather around, too. Let them know that you’re making a list of the meals you’ll be serving at dinner and get some input from them. Write it all down. No editing. Chicken nuggets? Yep…put it on the list. They say spaghetti and you don’t eat gluten? No worries. Write it down. Then, add some of the meals you enjoy. Got another adult living in the house? Get their input, too.
You’ll be left with a list of meals that actually work for your family. You can pop a spaghetti squash in the oven on spaghetti night and on ‘grilled chicken salad night’ the kiddos can eat a deconstructed version of the same meal. Maybe lasagna made the list, but you don’t have the energy to whip that up during the week. Does the prepared foods section of your grocery store have a lasagna? Probably. Get that during your next grocery run.
THIS is where you start. You start with THIS list of meals. Map out your week using meals that work for your family. You grocery shop for ingredients that you have shopped for before. You prep using the tools and skills that you already have.
Now, the dinners you start with will likely not contain foods from all four food groups, will not be loved by every member of the family, and might not sound super exciting. But, you are starting with meals you have served your family before with at least some success. See that bar? It’s pretty low right now. We’ll raise it up gradually. 🙂 Together.
Later, once you’ve mastered how to start meal planning and have the brain space to add info IN, you can intentionally search out recipes with specific criteria that have a chance of working for your family. But, for now, while you’re just looking to get dinner on the table TOMORROW, don’t do NEW. Systemize what you’ve done and then consider new.
Once you get the simple plan down and start to peek back into your cookbooks, your recipes and your Pinterest boards, do so with a plan. In fact, consider decluttering that mess of recipes so that you’re only left with ones that work for your family. When you’re ready, I can help with that, too.
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