Managing the Meal Time Monster

by Glennda Green

 

When I first got married I didn’t know how to cook. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true; I did know how to follow a recipe. What I lacked were the skills for putting together a meal and making sure I had the necessary ingredients in the pantry. I used to dread 5 o'clock, it was time to start dinner and I had no clue what to make. I would spend forever in the kitchen trying desperately to come up with an idea, but just about everything I thought of needed something defrosted, needed to be started earlier or I was out of an ingredient or two. So, inevitably, we would end up having hamburger helper (hamburger was relatively easy to defrost in the pan or the microwave!). Worse, I would sometimes thrust dinner-making on my poor hubby when he walked in the door.

When we decided to start homeschooling, I realized something had to change. I noticed homeschoolers in online forums talk about meal planning, so in desperation, I decided to give it a try. Wow, what a huge difference it has made in my life! I no longer stand in the kitchen after a stressful day close to tears wondering what on earth I'm going to feed my hungry family. As a matter of fact, I now do most of my cooking from scratch and we rarely eat anything that comes from a box! With a meal plan I know what to pull out of the freezer in the morning and I no longer place the burden on my husband when he walks in the door.

Another bonus to menu planning that I have discovered is that I no longer spend as much on groceries. In the past I would wander down aisles and buy what looked good or what we were "low" on. Granted, I did pay attention to prices and I didn't buy stuff that was expensive. But what I did buy may not have gotten used for a few months! Now, I make out my menu, make a shopping list based on what I need to create that menu and ONLY buy what is on the list. Sometimes I will make an exception if I find meat at a price that is too good to pass up since I can put that in the freezer but otherwise I stick to the list. The result is I'm only buying what we "need" so I'm spending less at the grocery store.

Over the years my method has changed, but one thing has remained constant; my life is a lot less chaotic when I plan my meals! I’ve gone from fancy meal planning pages, to custom pages, to a simple yellow legal pad. I’ve done weekly planning, bi-weekly planning and monthly planning. I’ve even varied what I’ve planned, sometimes planning all meals, other times, just dinner. Currently, I plan just dinners on a weekly basis. I also plan right on my Google Calendar. It makes it easy to see what’s on the schedule for the day and plan dinner accordingly.

One last thing to keep in mind when planning meals; your meal plan is a tool to make life easier. Keep it simple and be flexible. Don’t be afraid to try something different. No matter what season you’re in, planning can be a huge blessing and can easily be customized to work for you.

Posted by Christine Bullock on Aug 1, 2013 at 4:32 PM | Categories: Family life -

59 Comments

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Joyce wrote on 08/04/13 11:50 AM

This was me thirty plus years ago. Planning ahead has allowed me to have a well stocked pantry and freezer. Over the years, I have been able to feed my family of men spending very little and eating very well. Leftovers are always built into the meal planning. We don't waste anything. This has forced me to be creative at times, but creativity in the kitchen is a good thing.
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