Day 20: Menu Planning Reduces the Stress of Healthy Meals

Today is Day 20 of the 30 Days to Less Stuff and More Life Challenge. If you want to jump in, go get the book at Amazon, Simple Living – 30 days to less stuff and more life.

A grilled tuna sandwich on sourdough bread is a favorite at our house. My girls love carrots and chips, too. Yum!

A grilled tuna sandwich on sourdough bread is a favorite at our house. My girls love carrots and chips, too. Yum!

Today we talk about one of my favorite ways to simplify my very busy life…meal planning.  Simplifying food doesn’t mean you succomb to bad eating habits, and cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated or hard.  No, I don’t use a box for much of anything, and I’ve even greatly reduced my canned additions to a few cans of beans and tomatoes and an occasional special ingredient, such as tomatillo sauce for enchiladas or condensed milk for key lime pie (which I’m making tonight for my Valentine).  To keep this simple (get it?), I’m just going to bullet point my favorite ways to keep my overall time in the kitchen short and sweet.

  1. I make a weekly meal plan using an app on my iPhone.  Mealboard has a menu planner which transfers the ingredients of each meal to a shopping list.  It takes time and effort to setup, but it really is an awesome tool.
  2. I group ingredients to use more than once to (try) to avoid waste.  If we have roast chicken one day, there is usually just enough leftover meat to make another meal, such as a soup or chicken salad sandwiches.
  3. I cook extra for leftover lunches or to freeze for a meal later.  It doesn’t take any extra time, just a little forethought, which I admit isn’t always an abundant asset at my house.
  4. I throw extra veggies in meals where they might not be noticed, such as finely chopped carrots in the sloppy joe mixture last night.
  5. For breakfast, we have a couple of staple meals during the week.  I make homemade granola every few months, and it lasts for a few weeks (it’s a big batch).  I have one cereal girl who likes oatmeal or rice krispies, which are okay (but not great) because they don’t have added sugar and are gluten free.  We might also make eggs and toast.  It’s mostly every child for herself, but on the weekends, I plan a nice breakfast, such as pumpkin pancakes or hashbrown casserole.
  6. Lunches are often my nemesis.  Pickings get a little, okay a lot, slim right before grocery day.  I know I”m not the only one with lunchtime blues. If I”m going to fall to convenience and bad food, it’s going to be at lunch.We’ve already done sandwiches, leftovers, soups, etc, and everyone is clamoring for fast food drive through.  But I (usually) hold out and find something that will tide us over until we can have a semi-early dinner.  I’m working on creating a lunch menu that we can rotate through each week.  Lunch really doesn’t have to be that creative, after all.
  7. I like the idea of, and have practiced, bulk buying food staples and once-a-month cooking, but at this season in our lives I don’t have room for extra food supplies or the kitchen to accommodate a long day of cooking.  So, I mostly do #3 and cook a few extras on the weekends, like muffins or granola or protein bars.

Gourmet, six-course meals are not on my agenda.  Ever.  Okay, maybe for an anniversary, but really who has that kind of time on a daily basis?  The crockpot and pressure cooker are my friends.  Sweet potato fries count as a vegetable.  Breakfast for dinner and sandwich night do not qualify me for bad parent of the year.  The important step is to cook healthy.  Plan ahead and shop accordingly.  One bad meal won’t kill anybody, unless you get salmonella poisoning…that would definitely be bad.

How do you simplify your meals without compromising good health?


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