If you have never done it before, meal planning can be a struggle for new parents trying to balance work and life and a new baby. But once you get the hang of it, meal planning can be a life saver during this chaotic time.
Today's blog gives you some helpful tips for getting into the meal planning groove. We've even included a sample menu for one week along with a printable grocery list to make your life even easier. Go ahead and give it a try.
This is the most important - and often most challenging - aspect of meal planning. You have to actually make a plan.
Before baby's arrival, winging it at dinner time was no big deal. If you wanted something elaborate and fancy, you had time to stop by the grocery store and spend hours prepping and cooking at home. If that's your thing, anyway. Or you and your partner could head out for a late dinner and unwind over some cocktails and a delicious meal at the neighborhood's hottest new foodie spot.
That was then. This is now.
Without planning ahead, you are faced with take-out for the seventh night in a row because you don't have time to go grocery shopping after daycare pickup and the thought of eating out during baby's witching hour makes you break out in hives. Or you could just eat granola bars and string cheese again.
So make a plan. Set aside some time each week, probably over the weekend, to think about what you would like to eat during the coming week and make a grocery list of everything you will need.
And then go to the store. It's not the exciting life you used to live, but some alone time at the grocery store, with a cup of coffee in hand, can be a luxury for new moms. Think of this as self-care: you have to eat, so why not carve out some time for yourself to get the shopping done and have a little time to yourself.
Pick a Strategy
This goes hand in hand with planning your meals. It can be daunting having to come up with new meal ideas all the time. But it becomes easier when you have a strategy for the week.
For example, since you probably have more time on a Sunday, why not pick a meal that can be easily doubled or makes a lot of leftovers. This way, Monday's dinner is already made. Tuesdays can be taco night or spaghetti night or something along that line. Wednesdays can be crockpot dinner nights, that way everything is ready when you walk in the door. Designate Thursdays as leftover night - this way you don't have to plan anything new and you get rid of extra food in the fridge. And then Fridays can be pizza or take-out night.
Here's a sample meal plan strategy:
- Sunday: Casserole or Soup night (double batch it or pick a recipe with lots of servings)
- Monday: Same as Sunday night
- Tuesday: Pasta night
- Wednesday: Crockpot Dinner
- Thursday: Leftovers
- Friday: Take-out night
Sundays can also be used to prep food for the coming week. If you are doing Taco Tuesdays, use Sunday to go ahead and chop the veggies or toppings and then throw them in the fridge. Do the same for any vegetables that need to go in your crockpot on Wednesday morning. This will make preparing dinner easier during the week.
Week 1 Menu
Because we love you so much, we are sharing a sample menu for one week of dinners. Click this printable to get our menu along with an already made grocery list. The links to all the recipes are here in the blog. Enjoy!
Sunday: Chicken and Potato Soup
This recipe can be done on the stove or in the slow cooker. It's a really long slow cooker recipe though - upwards of nine hours - whereas it only takes a couple hours on the stove. Because of the prep work and chopping involved in this one, it's a great Sunday night meal to make. And you'll have plenty leftover for Monday night, too.
When you make your grocery list, add some crusty french bread to it. It goes well with this soup.
Monday: Chicken and Potato Soup
Who wants to cook on Mondays? Blerg. This is why I always plan a Sunday night meal that makes plenty of servings or can be easily doubled.
Tuesday: Spinach and Tomato Creamy Tortellini
This recipe calls for Italian Sausage and if that's your jam, go for it. I like to eat vegetarian at least once a week though, so if you're like me you can just leave the sausage out. My kids go nuts for this one.
Wednesday: Crock Pot BBQ Chicken
This one is SO easy. You just dump everything in the crock pot, turn it on, and you're all set until it's time to eat. My family loves to make sliders out of this, so add some rolls to your grocery list.
Woo hoo! All of your meal planning has really paid off and you have plenty of yummy food in the fridge for dinner tonight. Let your family pick their favorite and then just re-heat and serve. Done.
Friday: Pizza Night
You're on your own for Fridays. A lot of times we will swing by our local grocery store where they have pretty good take and bake pizza options. They're quick and affordable. And if you're not into pizza, do any kind of takeout. It's Friday - you deserve it!
Meal planning definitely takes a little time to get the hang of, but once you've got your favorite recipes down, it starts to come together easily. And it makes balancing work and kids and life so much easier when you don't have to face that dreaded question as soon as you walk in the door: "What's for dinner?!"