Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Meal Prep - a little motivation and a brand new system

Meals are one of my anxiety triggers.  I know, that sounds so silly, but I'm just being completely honest.  Trying to keep our pantry stocked and my family fed is a never ending process.  And then there is the trying-to-figure-out-what-to-eat-for-dinner question that always makes me feel panicky if I'm not prepared.

I grew up with a full-time working mama who made it a priority to feed us well.  We spend many nights eating crock-pot dinners in the teacher's lounge after a long day of school and activities.  She taught me to grocery shop in bulk and plan ahead.

And I was pretty good at it for a while.  I remember sitting on the front porch with my notebook and recipe box planning out our meals every month.  But then we kept adding kids and life just got in the way.  Feeding my family healthy home cooked meals is still a priority for me but I neglected to be proactive about it so it became a constant struggle and stressor.

So when my friend, Magan, posted a photo of her meal-prep day last month it triggered some pretty good motivation.  She is a full-time teacher, wife and mommy to two.  She HAS to be on top of her game in order to get her family fed and her budget in check.  Her post was just the motivation I needed to get my butt back into gear and figure out a new system for this large family that never seems to get full.

So with her fresh motivation and my mama's example I think I figured out something that will work for my family in this season.

1 - I grab my calendar, my computer (because Pinterest) and my menu board.

2 - I list out the next two weeks (that is all I can wrap my head around, plus our budget will only allow for 2-weeks worth of groceries at a time).  I write if it needs to be a quick fix or crock-pot night and then place the weekly traditional meals on my list so I know that those are already covered (i.e. homemade Pizza/Movie night)

3 - I only have a  handful of recipe cards that we use now because the internet has completely taken over.  But sometimes I find it's hard to find my favorite recipes.  This is where Pinterest comes in handy.  I create a board for the month's meals.  That way I know exactly where to go for my recipe each night and I only have to sift through a few to find it.  After I use it I move the recipe to my other folder for "Cooking Repeats" or nix it if we ended up feeding it to the chickens because it was a recipe #fail.  (but of course that NEVER happens, ahem).

4 - I write the meals in the appropriate slots on my calendar (with a note as to where the recipe is...cook book, card or Pinterest) and add the next weeks meals to my menu board for easy access.

5 - Next I get two grocery lists going.  One for the big trip to get the ingredients to put the meals together as much as possible beforehand, and then a list for the next week to get the final ingredients or produce we might need for sides that might not keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.

6 - Go shopping.

7 - Come home and do as much prep for each meal as I can.  That means prepping the meat, ziploc bagging up the ingredients to throw in a crockpot, mixing spices with the meat for swedish meatballs or prepping a side such as cole slaw.

So far this system has been a HUGE stress relief when it comes to dinner.  I KNOW what I'm making each night, I have the biggest prep work done and with minimal prep time during homework/piano lessons in the evening we have much happier hearts all around.
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