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Welcome back! If you haven’t read Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy (Part 1), please start there first. To recap very quickly, we acknowledged that sometimes we moms are a LITTLE bit busy (enter sarcastic voice here), and that sometimes the term “meal planning” gets a bad rep.
But we also agreed that we don’t know what works until we try. Then, I explained why I tried (and how I failed at) meal planning. I did, however, find a way to successfully begin meal planning for my family- saving me money, time, and more than a little bit of sanity. I explained all this and all you had to do was commit to trying something new.
Well, yesterday I did all the work. Today, you get to do some work.
What is meal planning?
Simply speaking, meal planning is deciding what you are going to eat. See! Not scary at all! We do this every day for every meal. Only, with meal planning you are not waiting until you are hungry. You are thinking about it at a predetermined date (more about this later), and considering every meal- not just what you are craving for that moment.
It does NOT have to be super specific, though. This was where I made my first mistake. Obviously some details are necessary- “Dinner” written on a scrap piece of paper does not constitute meal planning. However, “chicken breast, mashed potatoes, veggie” on a piece of paper pinned to the fridge would suffice if you have various veggies available at home and a cupboard full of spices.
I am one of those people that may come home after work and not want Italian chicken. Or, perhaps I have heartburn (no, no more babies!) and the thought of Cajun chicken makes me want to die. As long as I have other spices and staples in my pantry, it will be okay! I feel like I need to say this because these exact situations helped me be discouraged with my meal planning at first. I don’t want this to happen to you.
However, if you need that type of structure- do what is right for you! Meal planning can be as rigid or flexible as your family needs it to be. I don’t care if you need to measure out how much of protein each person is getting to the ounce! Do what works for you!
What is my next step?
If you have a significant other, discuss with them how long you plan on meal planning for. This is actually really important, and if no one else tells you that there is NO correct answer, I will! This was seriously crucial to my family’s success.
While everyone told me that I need to plan for at least a week, we struggled. We do have a deep freezer in the garage, but we only have one fridge. Sometimes, one fridge cannot hold all of our necessary items (such as milk) for the week. It made me feel slightly discouraged. Then I talked to a friend. After listening to my vent, she asked me why I wasn’t satisfied that we were at least planning for a couple of days.
Were we still not saving time? Most importantly, were we not still saving money? The answer was yes to both questions. I kinda felt a little bit foolish.
The research that I was reading did not take in to account the size of my family. I think that this may be a trending situation for larger families. We may have a lot of mouths, but that does not mean that we have a lot of space. (Spoiler alert- we shop for staples once a week, and necessities as needed- usually twice a week.)
Have a family meeting. This decision is not going to just affect you. In order for meal planning to actually be effective for your family, your family needs to be involved. We started the initial conversation without the kiddos, and then brought them in. Our first question was, “What are your favorite dinners?” and the conversation went a little like this-
Kid 1, teenage boy- “Meat. And shrimp. And seafood.”
Kid 2, preteen girl- “Everything that he did not say.”
Kid 3, 5 yo girl- “Tacos and spaghetti. Can I have both for my birthday?”
Kid 4- 4 yo girl- “Glitter. No wait, red glitter!”
Kid 5- 2 yo boy- “No!”
Okay, it is not verbatim, but it is pretty damn close. The last three kids are actually verbatim, hence the reason why my daughter is not allowed anywhere near glitter without my supervision.
But you get my point. If you do not take into account what your family actually likes to eat, you are shooting down the possibility of successfully meal planning before you even get started.
Don’t stop at dinner, though. In order to effectively avoid the grocery store for any amount of time you need to consider alllll of your meals. This includes snacks for every member of your family.
What is my homework for now?
Okay, maybe that wasn’t your next question. But it does not excuse you from your homework. Make a running list of all your family’s favorite meals- breakfast, lunch dinner, AND snacks. Don’t worry about ingredients or planning. This is baby steps people! If you need some ideas check out my Pinterest board on meals for large families.
Don’t forget to ask any questions in the comment section and go to Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families Made Easy Part 3.