Simplify Meal Preparation with a Menu Plan

Simplify Your Menu Plan
source: Liz

This week we’re talking about simplifying family life. Tune in all week for strategies and tips for every area of life, and if you’re looking for more in-depth resources, be sure to check out the Huge Simplify Family Life eBook Sale!

We eat most of our meals at home, which means my husband and I will prepare close to 1,000 meals in the next year!

Our family is slowly working toward a healthier diet eliminating questionable ingredients, making more from scratch, using more “real” foods — and I’m learning to enjoy cooking. But the number one thing that squelches my enthusiasm is not knowing what to make or not having the ingredients for something I planned for dinner.

Meal planning takes time and effort, for sure, but it eliminates so many obstacles and frustrations that it’s well worth the effort. As the Plan to Eat spokesperson and a consultant for the service, I’m a loyal fan, and we really do use it for most of our meal planning (save for the weeks that I wait until the last minute and try to create a meal plan and shopping list in the Walmart parking lot…which never ends up working).

But deciding to plan your weekly menu isn’t the only way to simplify mealtime. What you plan also makes a difference.

Here’s a look at some more ways to simplify mealtime:

1. Prepare freezer meals for the whole month.

Once-a-month cooking is a popular method to eliminating mealtime stress because many people find it easier to focus on cooking for a few hours at a time rather than having to do it day in and day out. We’ve stocked our freezer with more than 6 weeks of meals before the births of our last two daughters, and it was well worth the effort!

Learn more about freezer cooking here:

  • Once a Month Mom

2. Cook double.

If cooking for the whole month isn’t for you, try preparing double batches whenever you make your favorite meals. The simplest way to start is just by making twice as much ground beef or cubed chicken whenever a recipe calls for those. Then you can freeze the rest and the hardest step is done for you the next time you need them.

You can also make two casseroles instead of one or twice as much of many of your favorite meals, sticking the second batch in the freezer for another day. If you do this a couple of times a week, you’ll be able to cut your cooking in half!

3. Serve breakfast for dinner.

At our house, we love breakfast for dinner. In fact, we love it so much that our 5 year old was quite surprised to discover that eggs are actually a breakfast food! Breakfast for dinner is easy, filling and fun, so it usually makes everybody happy.

Pancakes, waffles, eggs of any kind and french toast are all delicious and healthy when served with fresh fruit, so you can feel good about adding breakfast for dinner to your meal rotation.

4. Prepare one-pot wonders.

I’d never heard the term “one pot wonder” until Aimee at Simple Bites shared this idea for simplifying meal time, but I’ve always loved meals that can be made in one pot or with just a few ingredients! In our house, we prefer these easy 3-ingredient pasta dishes, which can be made quickly and still taste great!

5. Enjoy a smorgasbord of leftovers.

If your family eats leftovers (I know some people really dislike them!), plan one night a week for leftovers. Clean out your fridge and let everyone choose their favorites. It may not be the most balanced meal of the week, but that’s okay!

6. Serve more fresh produce.

Sometimes we over-complicate things. At the end of the day, fresh produce is usually much healthier than the prepared varieties. Rather than making an intricate side dish, serve a side of fruit, or declare salad night one night a week and lay out a buffet of toppings. Create muffin tin meals or fruit plates for an easy, healthy lunch. You really can’t go wrong with fresh produce!

How do you simplify your meal preparation? Do you menu plan?