Meal Planning with a Busy Family

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Meal Planning with a Busy Family

Benefits of Meal Planning

I know what you’re thinking, “meal planning seems daunting”. You’re not wrong! LOL. However, there are a lot of benefits of meal planning. One of the biggest things that I have loved about it is that it has saved us money. We avoid take-out by planning our meals every week. We also save money at the grocery store and we avoid food waste by incorporating leftovers into our meal plans.

By planning your meals based on your busy schedule, you’ll avoid those expensive takeout bills because you’ll be prepared to serve quick meals at home on busy evenings, and you’ll gather around the table with your family to enjoy your favorite meals because of great planning. Meal planning can also help you save money at the grocery store because you’ll only be buying what you need for your meals and snacks for the week, which can also save you money and guilt by avoiding food waste.
Lastly, if you’re anything like me, meal planning will help you avoid the stress and anxiety that you can feel throughout the day when you know you have a busy evening, but you haven’t planned anything for dinner.

Where to Begin

The first thing you’ll want to do when preparing a meal plan is to write down all of your family’s favorite meals. 10-15 dinners will be enough to start. Get yourself a dedicated book to plan your weeks and grocery lists. I like to coordinate our meals with our schedule; easier meals on busier nights, more complicated meals on calmer days.
My family loves breakfast for dinner, so that is usually one of our weekly meals. It’s a fast and easy meal for me to prepare as I usually do eggs, toast, and fruit. When I plan my weeks, I write the meals on the left side of my book and write my grocery list on the right side.

I love to cook, but not every night, so we have a freshly cooked meal one night, then leftovers the next night. The leftovers don’t always resemble the initial meal; if we have salmon with roast vegetables and rice one night, the next night we use the leftover salmon to make salmon burgers, fries, and salad. Alternating a meal with leftovers can help take the pressure off the cook in the family. Planning your meals should help you plan your grocery list and can save you money when you’re shopping.

Staying Organized

I bought a meal planner online. I love it! It has the meals on the left and the grocery list on the right. I also use the chalkboard in our dining room to write out our weekly meals, so that everyone knows what we’ll be having. This way if I’m at work, my hubby will know what to take out of the freezer for dinner.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to stick to the meal plan. There’s plenty of days when I’m exhausted and I don’t feel like cooking, so we decide to order in or go to my parents for dinner. When we do that, I just shift all of my meals to the next day.

Feeding the Kids

Most kids go through picky phases. How can you help? Keep offering, eat with your kids, and don’t always cater to their desires. Mommy can’t make them their favorite meals every night. That said, when you’re meal planning, choose meals that you know your kids will try and enjoy. I find that putting less food on my kid’s plates with something I know they’ll eat (like a strawberry), helps get them started. If they watch my husband and I eating the meal, they’ll usually at least try it. As a parent, it’s your job to prepare nutritious food and offer it, it’s their job to eat as much as they want.

My Favorite Recipes

Here are some of my favorite recipes in my meal plan. For some of them, I’ve shown you how to use the leftovers in a different way. Enjoy! I love being in the kitchen! I love feeding my family, and with meal planning, I find it easier and more enjoyable.

Chicken Tacos

Ingredients needed:

  • 4-6 chicken breasts
  • 1 jar of salsa (I usually look at the sodium content as I don’t like my chicken to be too salty)
  • 2 tbsp. of taco seasoning (homemade or store bought)

Instructions:

  1. Pour half of the salsa in the bottom of the crockpot
  2. Place the chicken breasts in the crockpot
  3. Sprinkle the chicken with the taco seasoning
  4. Pour the remainder of the salsa on the chicken
  5. Cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours
  6. When done, shred the chicken in the crockpot
  7. Serve with your favorite taco sides (guacamole, cheese, taco shells, tomatoes, lettuce)
  8. When my babies were smaller and couldn’t have tacos yet, I would put it on some small pasta with guacamole and cheese
  9. The leftover chicken is awesome to use in a casserole the next day. Super easy and delicious!

Chicken Taco Bake

Ingredients Needed:

  • Leftover chicken from Chicken Tacos (with the liquid that it was cooked in)
  • 1-2 cups of cooked Quinoa, rice, or pasta
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 cup of corn
  • ½ cup of bell peppers
  • 2 cups of mozzarella cheese

Instructions:

  1. Mix everything together except the cheese
  2. Pour into a 9×13 casserole dish
  3. Put cheese on top
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until warmed through and cheese is melted and golden
  5. Enjoy!!!

My Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce

Ingredients Needed:

  • 2 pounds of ground pork or beef (I use ground pork for most of my recipes as it’s cheaper and my preference)
  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 stocks of celery sliced
  • 12-14 mushrooms sliced *you can substitute any vegetables. I’ve used zucchini and peppers. I do love it most with the three vegetables my mom used onions, celery and mushrooms
  • Seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oregano and basil
  • Garlic- fresh or powder
  • 680mL of tomato sauce
  • 680 mL of tomato soup (I use the Imagine organic creamy tomato soup)

Instructions:

  1. Brown ground meat in a pan, drain fat if there’s a lot.
  2. Add vegetables, and seasonings to taste.
  3. Soften the vegetables.
  4. Add the tomato sauce and tomato soup.
  5. Simmer until thick and rich. Enjoy over any noodles.
  6. Freezes well! Use the leftovers to make a lasagna bake! 

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