It’s 4:30 in the afternoon on my way home from work. I slow down for a red light and Shaun pipes up from the back, “mom what’s for dinner tonight?”
Nothing is defrosted.
I haven’t been shopping in at least a week and a half.
And we are out of our allergy-friendly staples.
Can you relate?
Food allergies or not I feel like at some point we all struggle with staying ahead of the “what’s for dinner” question. Though having food allergies definitely complicates this problem. (I can’t just pick up a pizza on the way home and call it a day.)
And although I am aware of a helpful solution I don’t always choose to take advantage of it …
Here is how I look at it …
When I put the time and effort into making a weekly meal plan I save time & money, eliminate frustration and eat healthier!
I save time trying to scrape something together for dinner at the last second. And instead, I can spend that time with my family!
I save money when I use a meal plan. I know what and how much food to buy each week. Thus spending less and wasting less.
I eliminate the frustration of last-minute scrambling to make a meal that is Shaun safe and balanced in nutrition. Instead, I jump into the meal; often finding places for Shaun to help me cook! (When I don’t know what my plan is it is hard to let Shaun help with the cooking, which he loves and is a necessary skill for him to learn)
We eat healthier because I have more whole foods in my kitchen!
The upshot, meal planning for the win.
So here is my method:
- Block off time on your calendar to plan your meals before the start of each week.
- Keep all your favorite allergy-friendly recipes together. This makes it easy to reference them.
- Grab your blank weekly meal plan worksheet.
- Start with the first column of the worksheet: menu. Identify days you don’t need to cook or will eat leftovers (eating out, dinner at moms house, soccer practice)
- Then for the days that remain pick from your recipes to complete your meals for the week.
- Next, pull the recipes you have chosen for the week ahead and figure out what ingredients you need. Use the second column, shopping, to record what and how much you need.
- Cut the columns apart, the menu goes on the frigid with the recipe cards for the week. And the shopping list goes with you … well … shopping.
A few tips …
- I fill out my worksheet on Saturday for the Monday ahead. (That’s why my meal plan page starts with Monday.) You can adjust this by starting with any day that works for you.
- I tend to cook extra servings for a meal. I like to have leftovers! Both for the purpose of eating the meal again (John takes leftovers for lunch) or in some cases to use the ingredients in a new dish. (ie. roasted chicken on Monday can be used in a chicken wrap on Wednesday). This type of efficiency is really helpful now that we live with food allergies.
- I print my meal plan worksheet a week ahead of the planning. I leave it on the kitchen counter so as we run out of something I can just put it into the shopping list. Then when Saturday rolls around I plan my meals and complete my shopping list.
- I do a combination of shopping in the store and online (Yeah for Instacart!!) but in both cases, I fill out my paper shopping list. It helps me stay organized; I have found that if I try to input my list right to the computer I always miss a key ingredient leaving me running out to the store.
Right now, I only plan dinners and leave breakfast and lunch more open. I know what we like to have in the house and make sure it gets included on my shopping list if we are low on something. It works for my family.
Having said that you can easily plan breakfasts and lunches on your menu sheet if you decide that is what works for you!
As with anything in life, I cycle in and out of meal planning but when I stick to it my week is much more enjoyable!
So let’s start together, right now!
Let’s put in the extra time upfront, save money, ease the stress of dinnertime and eat healthier!!
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