I am holding onto the hope that this year the kids will be in school consistently, but really, whether they are or are not, I still need to get to some meal planning done as things start back up again in September.
I always get a rush for September, especially since my kids started school. It’s like I get a chance to rediscover my own self and can work towards my own goals…without being interrupted approximately 8,934 times throughout the day!
One thing I actually get really excited about is meal planning and batch cooking. I feel like as the seasons change I want to make different types of meals. I spend a lot of the summer meal planning and cooking on the fly. I typically like to cook fresh on the BBQ rather than prepare from the freezer, so the change is refreshing.
I often spend the first day after the kids go back to school doing whatever I want to do! I mean…one day after 2 months (or more!) of having them at home being in my space is not too much to ask! Pause and enjoy it! Then I start gathering up the recipes that I want to prepare.
I really like to plan my meals all the way to Christmas if I can. Sometimes I will plan until Thanksgiving (October).
I think of my meals in terms of 4 month blocks.
The Fall (Sep – Dec)
I focus on easy lunch ideas for the kids like chicken nuggets, meat balls, or precooked sausages. I love having easy breakfast things in the freezer like premade breakfast sandwiches or burritos, pancakes, french toast, breakfast casseroles, even a few quiches! (breakfast makes a great dinner plan sometimes too!)
I also love to find new crock pot or instant pot meals (especially freezer friendly options – the more I can do when I have time, the more time it gives me later!!)
During the fall, I also hugely focus on baking. I love to make cookies for the freezer, scones, and muffins. As crazy as it may sound, I also start my Christmas baking. Christmas seems to come up fast after school starts!
The Winter (Jan – Apr)
Over the recent years I have been discovering soups. I didn’t mind soup in the past, but I always found I was never full after eating soup. But now, the idea of hot soup or stew on a cold night, with some fresh homemade bread just sounds delish! I have been using my instant pot to make some great, filling and satisfying soups – even the kids eat!
I also always make a few batches of chili, and some bases that can be used for various one pan/pot meals like shephard’s pie, lasagna, or sloppy joes.
I love adding simple finger/party foods to my freezer. Think homemade burgers, precooked taco meat, sausages, perogies, or wings. I make some pasta, quinoa, or couscous salads cold or hot – they don’t take long to cook so they don’t over heat the house! (OR cook it ahead and freeze it!) We make a lot of lettuce based salads. I also find we go through more fresh produce in the summer. I just find it harder to bulk buy.
The great thing about thinking of your food seasonally, is that it changes up the routine or monotony of making the same thing each week. It’s kind of exciting to pick out a few new meals, or to have your favourites for that season again. Some time between repeating your regular meals can make them seem exciting.
We also tend to eat out more over the summer; I hate cooking on a hot day! So, we try to pay attention to what restaurants have what deals on what nights or even if kids eat free. It can save a lot of money!
So wait……did she say planning for 4 months???
I know it may seem crazy, but it’s not really. And like I said before, it saves SOOOO much time!
Let’s break down your time…If you were planning your meals weekly, you might be in the grocery store 1-2 times each week (think of all the impulse buys you may rack up!). If you are frugal, you may be looking over the flyers 2 times per week (ours change over mostly on thursday, so I used to look on monday, and wednesday nights). Then I might try to cook ahead for the weekend, or on the weekend for the week. But now I am basically cooking every day (which I don’t like to do). Just ball park that amount of time on food! That’s way more time than I would like to spend thinking about meals. I already have to wing it sometimes as the kids need snacks about 362 times per day!
So maybe I have you sold on expanding your timeline….Maybe you could try one month. Just give it a try. Look at some recipes, or plan to make your tried and true ones. In a month there are roughly 30 days…I usually plan 20 meals (knowing that we will eat out sometimes, or have leftovers, or get together for dinners with friends or family). I also try to find some recipes where I can overlap some of the ingredients, it makes prep easier. So then I spend one week doing all the same things I would be doing if I was meal planning for just one week. I look over the flyers a couple times, then I go to the store (I may need to go to a couple different stores depending on the ingredients that I need). Then I get home, I still may do my cooking on the weekend or during the week – BUT then…..I am done for a month!!! I can relax, and know that I have delicious meals to eat and serve for the whole month!
I extended my planning to 4 months simply because after working monthly for a while, I was still spending too much of my time thinking and planning and prepping food.
Save yourself time! Plan ahead so that there is no scramble or stress about serving dinner!