Well here we are, already sitting pretty in the middle of January. I hope that your resolutions/goals/intentions/whatever you have chosen to improve or maintain in your life are well underway and you are feeling some sort of positive energy in your life with this new year.
We celebrated hard over the holidays and enjoyed indulging in pretty much every single one of our food and beverage vices. We were down in New Orleans for the majority of the holiday break and I’m pretty sure that we left that city being on a first name basis with the local Cafe du Monde. We also ventured out for my birthday over the holidays and ate our fill at The Palace Cafe and sipped on sazeracs at the Carousel Bar. Needless to say, we needed a bit of a fresh, clean start upon our arrival back in Dallas post-holiday gluttony.
We typically eat pretty healthy in our house and are all about integrating healthy foods into every meal but also being mindful of occasional treats in our diet. We definitely love our sweets and cocktails and think that finding ways to moderate these goodies makes for a more balanced food-life.
One way that I have been able to find that happy medium in our family is by sitting down weekly and thinking through our meal plan and grocery list. I realize this isn’t a novel idea, but it took me a few years into our marriage to figure out how to meal plan for our family unit. I love reading blog posts about habits and how other people find their groove in various daily routines and seemingly mundane tasks. So I thought I would share one of ours with y’all in the hopes that it might inspire you to take control of how you and your family look at food in this new year!
- Make a date with your meal plan: this has been the biggest influence in getting a weekly meal plan together for our family. I remember when my husband and I first got married and I would go to the grocery store and essentially pick up whatever looked good at the time with no real game plan in mind. We were both busy starting our careers and weren’t really dedicating any time to meal planning in our life. What ended up happening was a lot of frustrating dinners, confusion on who was cooking on what night, overspending on groceries and food waste. It wasn’t until I had my first daughter and decided to primarily stay home that I began to schedule grocery trips and make meal plans. I would typically sit down with my weekly calendar during her morning nap on Monday and then do a big grocery haul early in the week. I was still working through overspending and food waste but having a game plan for what meals were shopped for helped TREMENDOUSLY. Now I typically make a date on Sunday mornings with my planner, a few cookbooks, and some of the weekly grocery store adds to formulate my plan. If I’m really on top of things I will run to the store (sans children!) during the girls nap time in the afternoon and that way we can start the week off on the right foot. Designating that chunk of time on Sunday mornings JUST for food planning and recipe searching has become a such a happy little ritual in my week that I so look forward to and I really challenge you to find a time in your week to sit down and do the same.
- Slow Cooker Sundays: This was something that I started last year in effort to make our Sunday evenings a little less crazy. My husband and I are both part of the worship band for the youth Mass at our church and that means that our family goes to mass rather late in the day and we are gone for the majority of the afternoon post nap time. I found that throwing something in the slow cooker and making a simple side earlier in the day on Sundays helped the crazy transition that was packing up instruments/loading everyone in the car/coming home/making dinner/feeding grumpy hangry people/bedtime/etc. Now we come home, dish out everyone’s dinner, sit, enjoy, put kids in bed. Simpler and way less hectic. Also, planning to use my slow cooker on Sundays helps in my meal planning dates that happen on Sundays because I know there will be minimal effort involved when it comes to dinner that day/evening.
- One new recipe a week: I would gladly try out and test a new recipe every. single. day. But unfortunately that makes for a whole lot of leftovers and not a whole lot of consistency in our meal plan (also again with the overspending and eventual food waste). I’ve limited myself to only trying out one new recipe a week. Now I realize that for some trying a new recipe every week may seem daunting if cooking is not your thing but it is a really great practice to add more variety to your family’s meals. If once a week sounds like too much try once a month! It is so worth it for your sanity and not getting into a food rut in the kitchen.
- Share it! Send it! Post it! Write it down!: Over the past year I’ve been sharing my meal plans on Instagram. I’ve found that sharing publicly our menu for the week has been a great motivator to eat healthy and try new things. I’ve also had a meal plan on our fridge or big chalkboard in the kitchen. Even if you aren’t sharing out through social media – sharing within your home, with your family can be a great accountability tool to get a meal plan done.
- Find your food bibles: I have 3-4 cookbooks and a handful of food blogs that I go back to for regularly rotated recipes. When I sit down for my weekly meal plan date I grab these books and flip through the pages, especially the beloved dog eared ones and if I am feeling uninspired odds are by looking through these books I will find something to spark my taste buds interest. I have also made a Pinterest board for recipes I’ve actually tried and LIKED. I have a gigantic board of random food recipes that I get inspiration from (called foodie) but when I try one of those recipes and like it, it gets moved to the “tried and liked” board to ensure that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
I will also flip through the grocery circulars every week to see what is in season/on sale and if I have a coupon for a great deal I might meal plan around that – my two year old daughter also likes flipping through these ads with me and if there is something that she sees that is within reason to buy that week I’ll add it to the list. I would definitely like to streamline our process a bit more and really enjoyed reading Kelsey’s post on her grocery shopping spreadsheet that she has created to make meal planning and food prep a bit easier on her sanity. Maybe one day I can I hope that these few tips and tricks that I have picked up thus far in my home cooking journey can be helpful to you. Especially if meal planning and food prep are some of your new years goals!