Home CEO: Meal Planning

Maintaining a home and meeting the needs of a family can cause an enormous amount of pressure. We know that as CEO of your home, you have a lot of plates to spin.  As soon as one thing is working well, it is time to spin the next!  But we can learn from one another! This blog series is going to tackle a few of the hardest areas of home life management. It is not an attempt at perfection. We hope this series encourages you in what you are already doing and sparks some ideas to make your job as Home CEO a little bit easier.  We asked some some of our very own NCC parents, “What rhythms and strategies do you have to make dinner happen in your home?”  Here is what they had to share!

Kellie Ortiz (NCC Ballston)Mom to Elianna (9), Keaton (8), and Brianna (5)

I have never been known for my culinary skills and abilities and I have realized that my lack of meal planning did nothing to aid me in this area. I have recently developed a system that works for our family, especially now that I am working 40 hours/week and have all three children in school, sports and music. Every Sunday I sit down at the kitchen table with our calendar of our activities and a calendar that I use for meal planning only. Based on the activities of the week I plan what we will be eating. I usually plan five different meals assuming that two days we will eat leftovers or something easy such as sandwiches. I also try and make one of the meals each week be a crock pot meal to make it extra easy. Every Monday evening after work (when grocery stores are less crazy than a weekend), I buy groceries for the whole week.  I have realized this helps cut down on costs and saves so much time as opposed to my previous system of not planning and going to the grocery store every night trying to think of last minute meals and groceries.

Amanda Lahr (NCC Potomac Yard)Mom to Joey (4) and Eliza (2)

On my good days, I plan ahead for the whole week. But let's be honest, I don't always have good days. Pinterest is my best friend for easy meal ideas and organizing recipes I want to try. I also have a series of staples that the kids love and keep ingredients for these recipes on hand (spaghetti, tacos, breakfast for dinner, chili or other hearty soups). That way, I only have to plan for a couple of new meals a week. And for the really lazy days, I keep a few Trader Joe's freezer meals on hand.

Sharon Simon (NCC Ballston):Mom to Colin (17), Connor (15), Sybella (8), and Cooper (6)

I have a google calendar that exists and is visible only to me (just to save confusion): our meal planning calendar. I put items on the calendar and then set them to repeat every eight or 12 weeks depending on how popular the dish. This takes the planning out of meal time. On the weekend, I look at the next week and determine which ingredients I will need and which nights it’s most practical to cook. I usually cook 4 nights a week and use both left-overs and convenience food (frozen, sandwiches, rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)  to supplement the other nights. No more 5:30pm panic episodes, “What are we gonna eat?” An additional thing that helps is a centralized shopping list. You can use paper, an electronic list, or our go-to, audio-recording (via the Amazon echo). When someone uses the last of the ketchup, they add it to the shopping list. If they don’t, I won’t be buying ketchup on my next trip to the grocery store. Audio options are pricey and we just started using one in May, before that, I kept post-it notes on the kitchen counter and got fun, phonetically or not phonetically-spelled lists, often with pictures included, and in bright marker from my littlest…even kids as young as four can write an item or draw a picture. If the item is being thrown away because it’s empty, the name is on the front. The kids are also trained that whoever opens the last milk jug needs to add milk to the list or cereal will be served dry.

Alexandra Carver, NCC KingstowneMom to Nick (9), Nate (6) and Sofia (2)

If I am on my A-game, I make a simple calendar on what meals I will make for the next two weeks or whole month (I've used a Google calendar or write on one that's magnetic to put on fridge). The biggest help has been sticking to cooking two big meals per week, which gives two days of leftovers (sometimes lunch too) and one day for Friday Family night pizza. This also helps tremendously with grocery shopping and cuts down on overspending. Sometimes, I cook big meals on Sunday so, I don't really have to cook all week but that's if I'm lucky!

Ericka Symonette (NCC Kingstowne)Mom to Jaylah (11), Joslyn (8), and Isaiah (1 month)

I've come to realize that my family is way too busy to plan meals weekly. So I create a monthly calendar/meal plan for us (example below). I start with all events, parties, trips, practices, meetings, etc. Then I plan the meals around those things.

  • This helps me get exactly what I need from the grocery store. Having all of my ingredients in advance makes life so much easier!
  • It helps save money by planning our eating out/restaurant days.
  • It gets the hubby and kids involved by giving them days they are responsible for dinner (and gives me a break!).

What are some meal planning tips that work in your home?

Look for our next posts with ideas for laundry and chores!