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!