The Meal Planning Method That Saved My Sanity

30 Sep

Ok, I probably don’t have to convince you guys that my life is busy. My older three kids are involved in lots of  after school activities that keep me on the road every evening, then there’s the four year old and the six month old…yeah. You get the picture. Probably the most stressful part of my life in the area of homemaking is meal planning and cooking, especially since a great portion of the day between 3:00 and 7:00, I am not even here. I pondered and pondered how to fix this dilemma (I love the word ponder, it sounds so southern) and then it hit me: Crockpot. Once I got this solution in place and found several recipes that did great in the crockpot and were a huge hit, I moved on to fix other dilemmas. Like the fact that I get so sick of thinking up what to cook each week, shopping for it, thawing, preparing and assembling the meals, etc., So…out of desperation I devised a new sytem of preparing meals to feed my brood.

When I was a girl, my grandmother, who we called Mamaw Tootie, would fix large amounts of food several times a week. The leftovers would be refrigerated and we would pull them out and make a plate to heat up at mealtimes. She raised seven children and had a gazillion grandkids, so obviously this method was a great one for her. It enabled her to feed her family good, home cooked from scratch food without slaving in the kitchen daily. So I decided to put her principles into practice in my home and ALWAYS cook more than is needed. I double all my meals, planning to serve the leftovers the next day. Obviously, this will only work if your family likes leftovers and will not complain and  make your life miserable about having to eat the same thing again. I am blessed that my family loves leftovers and eats them cheerfully.

I make a meal plan for two weeks, then shop at a Costco warehouse club for the main part of the groceries, filling in with Aldi and Food Lion as needed.  The meal plan will look something like this:  Monday: Crockpot Taco Soup with nachos, cheddar cheese and sour cream for topping. Tuesday: Leftover Taco Soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. I try to vary the sides slightly so there is some variation to the meal, but I don’t always do this and it turns out fine either way. Wednesday: Chicken Casserole with steamed broccoli, cornbread, and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Thursday: The casserole leftovers with same sides, or might replace with different veggie.

This method has several advantages for us: (1) It allows us to shop in bulk at warehouse clubs and save money, being confident we will use what we have bought. (2) We waste less because leftovers don’t just get shoved to the back of the fridge in anticipation of the newer, fresher meal-they are the only option. (3) It cuts down drastically on the time spent meal planning, shopping, and cooking. It requires little to no extra work to double a meal and fix extra servings of the exact same food. It also cuts down on dirty dishes and cleanup time since you are only in the kitchen truly cooking the first meal day. The second day’s leftover meal can be served on paper plates to speed up kitchen clean-up even more.

I have tried several different meal plans, and this has honestly been the one that has worked the best and that I’ve been most pleased with. I dislike preparing meals to freeze for later, because I still have the work of remembering to thaw, then the reheating process can be lengthy. If you are struggling to simplify the meal planning part of your life, giving this method a try would definitely be worth it!


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