Back in September, I posted about some tweaks I had been hoping to make to our meal planning rotation. In general, things were going okay and having a rotation means much less stress on my part when meal times roll around. But I still felt like there were a few areas that needed help: I felt like doing some kind of weekly meal prep would be useful in getting ahead; breakfast, lunches and snacks were still a question mark at times; I wanted meals to go further in terms of leftovers; and I felt like I often didn’t know what was in our pantry and freezer. Several months later, I think there has been some progress. Here’s how it’s been going:
Planning for simple meals and leftovers: Overall, this is going well. I have been trying to build in more meals like pulled pork, our beloved meatballs and rice, and brown rice and lentil casserole (tastier than it sounds) that I know will stretch over a few days. The great thing about these recipes is that they will usually cover a second night, plus a day or two of lunches for my husband and me. The key to this has been to make sure to think specifically about this factor when I am thinking about the menu each week. It doesn’t happen every single week, but most weeks.
Planning for breakfast, lunch, and snacks: Better, but still needs improvement. Planning more for leftovers helps in terms of lunch, and since we usually have easy-to-grab items such as fruit and nuts around, snacks are decent. I would like to get a little better at thinking about this quickly at the start of the week, so that I know to have some things on hand (thinking about what I actually want to eat helps). I have been mixing up R’s breakfasts a little bit, which she’s enjoying, and would like to work more on my own (we don’t always eat at the same time). For myself, I need to work on establishing some protein-rich options I enjoy to feel more full as the morning goes on – my biggest challenge at the moment.
Neglecting pantry and freezer ingredients: This is taking care of itself right now, as we are moving to a new house! There has been a lot of gutting, sorting, and dumping happening. Although we had an awesome pantry in our last house, there is also room in the laundry area in the new house just off the kitchen for a set of pantry shelves, which has worked out fantastic. This area is brighter than the last one, and keeping everything confined to the shelves makes it easier to see what we have, and also much harder to cram things in haphazardly…which admittedly happened a lot before. Our freezers are newly cleaned and organized, and I am trying to use up staple ingredients I know we have before buying new ones (wheat berries, I’m looking at you). We’ll see how it goes! Win on this one.
Establishing a meal/ingredient prepping session each week: Simply not happening, and I’m not sure if it’s going to or is even necessary. Trying to simplify meals has helped in terms of dinner being easier to prepare in the evening. (Scrambled eggs! Toast! Smoothies!) But the truth is, unless it’s taking a few moments on a Sunday to chop a bunch of veggies to be able to snack on throughout the week, it just feels like making unnecessary work. Because I work at home, I am able to take a few minutes during a break to mix a sauce or pull some ingredients out that I might need later in the day, so that things move along pretty quickly at dinnertime. Prepping ahead saved some hair-pulling when I was home with a baby and then toddler for a few years, but is not really necessary at this stage of life. Basically what I need is not a huge meal prep, but enough done at dinnertime that I am not tempted to change my mind about what we’re having.
Do you make meal and snack decisions last minute, or does planning ahead work better for you? If you’re a planner like me, what strategies work for you? I love any and all tips regarding food and organization.