Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Planning of Meals

I've been wanting to write about something that is very near and dear to my heart....meal planning. As a working mom, meal planning is essential to my sanity. I didn't worry about it that much when Leo was still on the boob (we ate a lot of Stouffer's lasagna, delicious but oh so sodium laden). Now that Leo eats with us, I want to make sure that I'm putting somewhat healthy, home cooked food on the table.

My goals with meal planning are simple: to only grocery shop once a week and to eat at home 5-6 nights a week.

My routine starts Saturday morning. Leo and I eat breakfast (the husband is always still asleep)and I pull out my cook books and check my pinterest boards. I pick out 2-3 recipes. I look for ones that are somewhat easy, will make enough for leftovers, and contain ingredients that both my boys will eat.

Then I map out my meals using my handy momagenda planner (which OMG I love and no one gave me anything to say that).

After breakfast we head to the grocery store. I let Leo hold differnt items (he likes to shake the boxes of pasta) and listen to the old ladies coo over how cute he is. I primarily shop at Trader Joe's because it is so much cheaper than the regular grocery store.

This week I picked out three recipes:

The Pioneer Woman's cajun chicken pasta,

Skillet gnocchi with chard (I use spinach),

and Skinny Taste's crock pot taco chicken chili.

The only way I can pull off all this cooking is to do the majority of the prep work the night before. Leo and I get home around 5:45 or 6 pm. My goal is to have dinner ready by 6:30. My husband gets home around 7, so I need to be able to cook and entertain the toddler at the same time. Which ain't easy.

Here's my meal planning for this week:

Sunday: we ate dinner with friends for the Super Bowl so no cooking. I prepped my cajun chicken pasta that night by chopping all the veggies and marinating the chicken. I actually used taco seasoning instead of cajun seasoning because I thought that would be too spicy for Leo. Usually on Sundays I like to make a crock pot meal or a casserole (like a lasagna) for dinner and leftovers.

Monday: I cooked the cajun/taco chicken pasta which I was able to do in about 20 minutes. We ate that for dinner plus some leftover pulled pork from Super Bowl (I couldn't help it, the pork was delicious). I took pasta leftovers for lunch on Tuesday.

Tuesday: We ate leftover chicken pasta plus Chinese food. Husband drove past the new Chinese takeout place on his way home; it was so empty that he felt bad and stopped in to pick up a combo plate. I have since instructed him that we do not need to be eating pity food. We do not have calories to spare!

Wednesday: I will cook the gnocchi and that will be dinner. That recipe is seriously so easy. It is even easier if you just use jarred marinara instead of making the sauce. I'll take the gnocchi for lunch on Thursday. I'll also throw the crock pot taco chicken chili together and cook that. I'm going to half the recipe because it makes so much and we never eat all of it so it should cook in about 3-4 hours on high.

Thursday: We'll have taco chicken chili with whole wheat tortillas. I might try making my own Mexican rice but it was so awful last time I'm not sure.

Friday: Leftovers! Sometimes we go out to eat on Fridays. If we do, leftovers will become weekend lunches.

Saturday: Check the blog title. I really do not cook on Saturday nights. I'll start the whole meal planning process again.

So that's basically how I try to manage working full time and doing a fair amount of cooking. I've got my tricks for keeping Leo occupied while I cook. There are certain drawers and cabinets in the kitchen that have stuff that he can play with. I'll give him some bowls and spoons which will keep him pretty happy. Or I let him stack all my canned goods. Sometimes, and I mean sometimes, he even actually plays with all the toys he has. I'd love to hear any more meal planning tricks as this is definitely a work in progress!


  1. I LOVE my MomAgenda too - this is my second year using it! I'm also a huge fan of Cozi - an online planner - have you tried it? You can put in all the email addresses of your family members and they all have access to your calendar, grocery list, to-do list, etc. I find this super convenient because I can update this all from my iPhone, hubby can update it on his Droid and you always have your shopping list with you! So you can add items as you think of them and don't have to worry about not having the list with you. Their website (can't figure out how to access it on my app) also has a meal planning area where you can write out the meals for the week! Otherwise, I pretty much do everything the same way you do. I meal plan on Saturdays and send Hubby to grocery store either that afternoon or on Sundays. We try to do a crock pock or more lengthy meal on Sunday night so we can spend the day prepping it, then leftovers Monday night. Oh, and we always do Taco Tuesday either at Cafe Rio (you guys have one on Newport Blvd in Tustin) or at Rubio's. Both are in the same plaza as Fresh & Easy and Trader Joe's - the only two grocery stores we frequent - and so I send hubby to pick up groceries again on Tuesdays when he's getting the tacos. Our "Never Cook" night is Friday, because we both finished a long week and don't want to cook. Okay, sorry for the rant, I'm done!

  2. Courtney, Erika and I are in awe of you. You are so freaking together, organized and amazing. Literally. We might steal some of your ideas.