Today is all about BACK TO SCHOOL MEAL PLANNING!
I am such a meal planner…
…hello, I even wrote a book about it…buuuuut even I can get lazy during the summer and just find something for dinner instead of actually planning. Oh, we have sausages? Let’s grill! Ground beef? Quick burgers again! You know, it’s hot, you have a relaxed schedule…meal planning, even for me, can be an afterthought when it’s summertime. Come school year though? I have very specific meal plan that ensures everything we need to make suppers for the week is in the pantry and/or fridge, ready to go so that I can whip up something yummy and quick when we’re in-between schoolwork, therapies, and extracurriculars. After all of these years of meal planning with you guys, I know many of you are the exact same way. Once that back to school season starts, your hardcore meal planning begins too!
Today, I’m sharing exactly what I do when I meal plan PLUS answer many of your questions!
HOW I MEAL PLAN:
I’ve mentioned this many times before, but I meal plan for the entire month on a legal pad. I write out all of the days of the month on a piece of paper (front and back). Next, I go back through and add any important dates/reminders to that month’s calendar and then, I start to meal plan for the month. I try and cook dinner five nights a week plus I make breakfast for my Bible Fellowship Group (BFG) at church every Sunday morning and then, I bake an extra sweet treat or two a week to feature on my blog. Now, that I have a solid list for the month, it takes me only minutes to make my weekly shopping list (because isn’t figuring out what to make the hardest part?!). Obviously, these last six months have been tricky/weird/totally odd but for the most part, I have really tried to stick to my routine. Even though we haven’t been to church since February (WHAT?!), I’ve still enjoyed making breakfast for my family on Sunday mornings while we watch church online.
Here are my exact steps to meal planning (and then, I want to hear yours!!)…
1: I make my monthly meal plan.
2: On Mondays, I build my grocery list for the week based on my already prepared monthly list and then order my groceries online for free grocery pick up at my store. I love doing this because you can “favorite” things and then quickly add them to your cart. Things like milk, paper towels, bananas, avocados and such are favorited items, so it’s easy to add those things in along with our dinner groceries. I also take a sticky note and write down things that I will need to pick up later in the week that are fresh. I shop on Tuesdays, so if I think that by the following Monday, I’ll need 2 pounds of ground beef or more bananas, then I add that to my list and sometime between Friday and Sunday, I will grab those items from inside the store.
3: On Tuesdays, I go and pick up my groceries from my local supermarket and bring them home.
4: About once every 10 days to 2 weeks, I’ll stop by Trader Joe’s and pick up any fresh items I need that I didn’t grocery pick up or just to grab some things only sold there.
5: Then sometime later that week, like on Friday, I will go inside the store and grab a handful of “fresh” items that I need or anything else that has come up (should I need some more fresh items over the weekend). Many times, Andrew will stop by and grab us the fresh items instead…but either way, we typically make one more trip to the store to replenish those items after our weekly “big shopping”.
And then…repeat the next week.
Now, I’ve tweaked this over time as our schedules and such have changed, but this is what we’ve been consistently doing for about a year or so. During the school year, I’ve been typically going to Costco about once a month to stock up on lunch items for the kids like yogurt, chips, applesauce, etc. as well. I also have found many great gluten-free items on Amazon Fresh that when we need, I order (I just ordered more g-free soy sauce this week!).
So, that’s what I’m doing these days.
Last week, I asked you if you had specific questions about our meal planning and you had MANY!! I picked the 10 most popular and have them along with my answers below…
For dinner, always! For lunch, it varies. Andrew always makes his own lunch to take to work each day (some sort of chicken with a veggie), typically the kids are “at school” and eat lunchbox food, but during this quarantine, I have been making lunches at home that the five of us have all enjoyed together (the most popular being grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup as it’s g-free, easy and all four kids plus me love it!). When the kids are at school, I eat lunch on my own…typically something from Trader Joe’s (salads, wraps, soups, etc).
I make dinner Sunday through Thursday nights. On Friday and Saturday night we typically eat out or if we do stay home, we grill (and if that’s the case, Andrew or I will pick up food for that). On Sunday mornings, I make breakfast for my Sunday school class and my kids eat whatever at home (frozen pancakes, cereal, etc). Weekends are simple. Now, sometimes, if we have time, I will make a Saturday morning breakfast for my fam, but that totally depends on the sports schedule that day. All of that is pre-planned when I do my weekly shopping.
If you hate it, you should really do it once a month. This way, you’re just hating it one day of the month instead of several days. I think if you sat down and did one big meal plan you would be thrilled each week when you knew exactly what to buy and make.
During the spring, we had our own schedule (nothing was “live”), so we all five ate lunch together, this fall, my kids are all going to be live with their teachers and classes and eat lunch during their normal lunch time…which means, all four of them will eat lunch at different times, so they’re going to make their lunches each day just like they were going into the building and then eat those lunches during their specific lunchtime. This will get us back into the habit of making daily lunchbox lunches, make lunchtime faster for them (it’s all ready to go!) so they can fully enjoy their 30 minute lunch break, save me from being in the kitchen for 2 hours every day and keep the noise down (so that the other three can continue learning).
Because I have a good plan!! When we get busy, we pull out the slow cooker!! If I have the ingredients and take the extra minutes in the morning, I can pop my dinner into the slow cooker and we’re ready to go at suppertime no matter how busy we are. Did you know…
…that my Back to School Slow Cooker Suppers post is always one of my MOST POPULAR posts every single year?!?! I have so many great recipes that you can use all school year long!
Yes!! We both worked outside the home, so when we got back in every night, I wanted to have everything handy for dinner. I didn’t want to have to think about it…I just wanted to know what to make and in a short amount of time.
Totally change it up! I will say, most of the time, this doesn’t happen to me, but if for some reason, I’m just not feeling it at all, I totally switch it with something else I’m supposed to make later that week or I tweak whatever it is to make it seem more like what I want. Not really interested in tacos? You can make chili! Most basic recipes have ingredients you can mix and match into other things 😉 .
I have so many quick cooking recipes (like those Sloppy Joe Bowls I shared last week!) or I have stuff ready to go in the slow cooker!
It depends. I’m not really a “leftover” girl because I don’t enjoy eating the same thing two nights in a row, BUT I frequently make double batches of some things that I can mix and match into different dinners the following night. For example, I will make extra brisket one night and then use the leftovers for my Brisket Chili the next night. Or make a double batch of Andrea’s Pulled Pork and then make Pulled Pork Tacos the next night!
Yes!! Now, when they were super little, I didn’t, but now that they’re older, I ask every week! They don’t all always get what they want, but many times, their input totally dictates several meals. Usually my kids throw out generic terms “I want chicken” or “I want shrimp with pasta”…so it gives me wiggle room to make it my own, but other times, they say “I want that Taco Pasta” and I try to oblige as often as I can!
…and includes my favorite recipes for Back to School Week!!
Okay, what are you guys doing for meal planning? Please comment and share!!!!