Ahhh, the dreaded…. “What’s for supper?” How many times do you hear that a day? How many times does your heart sink because you have no idea what to make?
You know the feeling I’m talking about...you’ve got kids hanging at your legs because they’re hungry and supper should be on the table in an hour and everything is still frozen.
It’s the worst feeling. Ever.
It’s times like this that make it so easy to cave and just grab some takeout or open up some highly processed “supper in a box”.
But not you and I. As conscientious eaters, we go the extra mile to cook from scratch to ensure our families have foods that will nourish their bodies and create a lifelong appreciation for clean, humanely raised, sustainable food.
But, this food does not magically put itself on your table. It takes time, it takes thought and it takes preparing. However, I manage to do it every day.
My secret weapon? Meal planning.
I’m not here to sell you some fancy meal planning program that prints out a grocery list that designates certain meals for certain days of the week and gives you recipes your family won’t eat. I’m here to tell you what works for my family because I know it can work for your family, too. And it will cost you literally nothing.
I’m a working mom with small kids and I refuse to feed them processed and packaged food. I’ve done my homework. I know the health benefits that come with eating real food and the consequences that come from consuming the Standard American Diet.
I know your struggles of juggling work, cleaning, cooking, laundry (seriously does that job ever end?!), more cleaning, running the kids around... and the list goes on and on. Sometimes my floors don’t get scrubbed for a week...ok I’ll be honest, sometimes two. (but hey, I’m reading a book right now “The Microbiome Solution” (if you’re looking for a fantastic read) and it claims we are too clean...so that makes me feel a little bit better about my dirty floor.)
This life we live is busy. No sugar coatin’ that. But, by meal planning, I’m able to grocery shop about once every 3 weeks. We splurge about once a month and get pizza. The rest of the cooking is done by this mama.
Yes, I feel like “Old Mother Hubbard” with bare cupboards by the end of the 3 weeks, but with meal planning there is almost nothing that goes to waste because everything you buy has a purpose.
And I save so much money! I feed my family for less than $300/month and that’s buying all organic food.
So, here’s what you’ll need to do to get a “real meal” on the table every single night.
1. Gather your supplies. You will need….a daily planner, a pen, a piece of paper for your grocery list and a cup of coffee (or wine depending on the time of day!)
2. Get your kids down for a nap or doing an activity that will keep them entertained for about 30 minutes. If you can hunker down for 30 minutes it can evolve into 3 weeks between grocery trips!
3. Start planning. Open up your planner to the weekly section and each day write an “L” and an “S”. You guessed it...lunch and supper. Fill in the blanks with your families favorite real food recipes. Find the recipe for each meal and write down the ingredients you need on your grocery list. Be sure to include your side dishes. Do this for 2-3 weeks worth of meals. (There’s always going to be some deviation from the original plan because something will come up and that’s ok, it stretches a little farther!)
At one point I did use one of those fancy meal planning services, but I found the cost unnecessary and my family didn’t love all the recipes so now I just do it myself.
I am a huge fan of Shaye Elliot’s cookbooks. If you are new to cooking real food, I would highly recommend looking at her books. She and her husband raise all of their own food and she has the best recipes. They are so simple and take minimal ingredients and effort. Tom usually gets a slap on the wrist when I make one of her suppers because I always catch him “just tasting” it.
It took me awhile to get to the 3 week point, but I think 2 weeks is totally doable for anyone just starting to meal plan. Any less trips to the grocery store is a win in my book.
Would you agree that coming up with what to make is the hardest part about cooking? Having your meals in your planner allows you to look back at previous weeks and recycle the recipes you used a month ago.
A few more pointers...
I try to plan my meals so I’m using the fresh produce that doesn’t last as long (like lettuces, fresh green beans, etc.) early in the week and I save things that last longer (like a beef roast with mashed potatoes and carrots) for the end of the week. You’ll get really good at knowing which produce to use first and which one you have a bit longer to work with.
- Buy your meat in bulk. By having a freezer stocked with Nature’s Pantry humanely raised, antibiotic and GMO free meat, cooking will be even easier because it’ll be one less thing you have to think about. You’ll feel so good feeding it to your family because you know you can trust the way it was raised. Believe me, I’ve got pretty high standards for the food my kids eat.
Having a variety of pork, chicken, and beef reallys helps me put a variety of meals on the table. When I have to work late, I love the ease of taking out a pack of pastured brats and Tom has them grilled and ready by the time I get home. I’d also be lost without ground beef in the freezer. It’s so versatile, can be thawed in a few minutes and it has saved me on days that I’m not prepared.
- Take your meat out of the freezer to thaw at the beginning of the week. This way you don’t run the risk of forgetting to take it out and you get home from work and your meat is still frozen.
- Try doubling a few recipes so you have leftovers to eat throughout the week. Or you can put them in the freezer to pull out in a pinch.
Are you ready to simplify your life? Give meal planning a try! It’s totally worth the effort. You’ll love yourself for eliminating the unnecessary stress of not knowing what’s for supper.
I’d love to help give you pointers on how to get real food on the table. Sign up for our emails and I’ll help you get there!
It's your turn...What’s your biggest barrier to getting a meal on the table?
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