As many of you know, I used to make weekly meal plans for families and friends. I provided a shopping list, a schedule, and wrote (and tested) every recipe! It was a blast of a side-hustle and I feel proud of the work to this day. So why did I stop? Because my system wasn’t all that sustainable or doable for everybody and because of my Enneagram 1 nature, I couldn’t really handle helping folks and knowing that my answer could be better or more “right” (i.e. that it wasn’t the perfect solution to dinnertime woes.) Hah! Maybe now you think I am a crazy girl, and you might be right, but I so badly wanted to my system to help EVERY family & friend get dinner on the table with more DELIGHT, that I didn’t feel right about continuing to provide my imperfect service.
So this post is all about attempting to help the MASSES. Whether you are in college, working long days at a job, learning how to feed your spouse, or learning how to make dinner happen with little ones around – I think there is something useful in this post for everyone! Which really satisfies this crazy enneagram 1 girl.
So here is how I make a full week of meals get to the table in our house. And before any of you think I am some pro or wonder women at dinnertime, that is simple untrue. I work full-time and am tired at the end of the day. I want simple, satisfying meals that use regular ingredients. I want time in the kitchen to be short so that I can spend more time with the people of love. Mealtime is a forever work in progress and something I really enjoy working at.
Step 1 : plan one freezer meal session a month
This is a new thing in our house, but I loved it so much the first time I did it that I wanted to make it a part of my monthly kitchen routine. For me, I prepare 4 meals in this one “session,” which takes me no longer than 1.5 hours. It is a MUST for me that these meals only require the oven, instant pot, or crockpot to bd ready to hit the table on a weeknight. I have found these exact kind of recipes in THIS blog post. Adam and I went through all of them and agreed on ones we both liked and I wrote down a list. I pick 4 from the list and add those ingredients to my week’s shopping list. Then, I carve out the time needed on Saturday or Sunday to get them all into the freezer. This way for each week of the next month I have one meal that requires ZERO planning and is prepped in the freezer. This has been such a game changer for making a week of meals happen!
Step 2: make a list of “brainless crowdpleasers”
Thanks to The Lazy Genius, “brainless crowdpleasers” have made meal planning RADICALLY easier for me. The Lazy Genius is my meal planning guru if you will and her way of doing things is just so good. For her explanation and execution of “brainless crowdpleasers” you can listen to her podcast episode. But for now the short and sweet explanation of “brainless crowdpleasers” are meals that satisfy the likes and dislikes of the people you feed at YOUR table, are “brainless” for YOU (as in they don’t cause stress or overwhelm – they feel easy and very doable on a busy weeknight), and are REALISTIC (in terms of time and ingredients) for the season of life you are in. Having a list of these meals (even if you only have 2 or 3) is so helpful because you have something to turn to that is much smaller than the internet or a whole cookbook when you are planning out a week of meals. PLUS, you know these meals will actually be WINNERS at the table! Gosh, it really is GENIUS. Here are a few from our list —
- Buffalo Chicken Wraps
- BBQ Chicken Pita Pizzas
- Verde Chicken Chili
- Caribbean Bowls
- Beef Tacos & Fajita Chicken Tacos
- Kitchen Sink Salad
- Lasagna Florentine
- Pesto Pasts & Turkey Meatballs
- Greek Bowls
- Pizza Friday
Step 3: write your meal plan & grocery list
With your list of brainless crowdpleasers and list of the freezer meals you made this month in hand, I want you to write down the days of the week you will be making dinner at home. Then think about your week – what days are hectic? what days might you have more time in the kitchen? what days allow for very minimal prep time? Now, pick one freezer meal for your busiest day/night of the week and mark it off the freezer meal list. Next, look to your brainless crowdpleasers and pick the nights that will work best for making them. Last step is to make a list of all the ingredients you will need for the meals you picked, plus whatever else you need for breakfasts/snacks.
Step 4: shop once & get everything in the right place when you get home
This step is somewhat self explanatory. But let me emphasize that shopping ONCE for the week really pays off in terms of maintaining sanity come Wednesday. What I mean by get everything into the right place is — wash lettuce/herbs if it needs it, put things it the pantry so that you know where to find them when its time to cook, leave veggies/fruits on counter if they need time to ripen, etc.
step 5 (BONUS) : make a batch of something extra
Something that you can have on hand for breakfasts on snacks throughout the week! Examples – muffins, loaves, breakfast cookies, peanut butter balls, egg cups, overnight oats, quiche. This does not happen every week in our house, but gosh I love it when it does because it is one less thing I have to think about during the week and we usually end up eating at home more!
I hope this was helpful and that you got at least one idea of something you could to make your life in the kitchen more enjoyable! Food is a gift, y’all and I want it to feel like that! Let me know if you have any questions – more than happy to help you.