2015 Goals: Simplify | Meal Planning

Not only is this not a fashion blog, it is not a food blog either! I am just another working lady with a baby trying to cook enough food to make everybody in my house happy. Another part of my goals for this year is to simplify food. Food has been hard for me. How do I plan what to eat? How do I shop for groceries? What the heck is in my pantry? Why do I have all these dishes I don’t use? How can I eat healthier without breaking the bank? This entry just tackles meal planning… we have the rest of the year for the rest. 
While on maternity leave we had wonderful people provide meals for us for nearly a month. I remember telling Marshall, “This whole parent thing isn’t so bad!” and then the meals stopped. And I was hungry. Also, obviously on leave I was not getting a paycheck so unlike my pregnancy hunger that was quickly satiated by the Chick-Fil-A drive thru, I finally put on my big girl pants and did some meal planning focused grocery shopping. 
I also was on a mission to see everything that we had in the pantry be put to use, so those first couple of meals were planned around what we already had (a lot of rice and beans) and once some of that stuff was gone we started fresh for the week. 
On the weekends we plan the meals for the next week. We’ve narrowed down some theme days which are fun! Crockpot Monday, Freezer Meal Tuesday, Whatever Wednesday, Leftovers Thursday, Family Date Night Friday, Pizza Saturday and Snacky Sunday. Having a plan for each day that narrows the choices makes it so much easier for me! I can plan for each day based on the theme and then list the ingredients I need, match the list with what we have and then head over to Aldi and get the rest. Already I can tell a big difference in the amount of money we are spending on food, we aren’t throwing nearly as much food away and our pantry is close to empty at the end of the month. Also, like budgeting in blow money, we budget and plan for fun meals on the weekend. I find it to be a win win. 
Here’s some specifics on our logistics and plans for the week:
Crock Pot Monday: Sunday night while I have some time and am packing my things, I put dinner in the crock pot for the next day. I put it in the fridge so all I have to do is stick it in the pot and turn it on the next morning. I have been doubling whatever this recipe is which leaves us enough for the two of us for dinner, some leftovers in the fridge for lunches/leftover day and then I double bag some in the freezer for another day. This feels like such a work smarter not harder thing for me, because in cooking once I am literally cooking for at minimum two meals. And really, not cooking at all, just putting stuff in a pot and telling it to go. We’ve done chili, soups, and meat (eaten with rice and steam vegetables) for easy Monday dinners. A fan. We also have an outlet timer so if we are going to be gone for most of the day we can set the crock pot to only be on for a certain number of hours. This was my brilliant husband’s idea after I burned a pork loin in the crockpot by letting it cook on low for 10 hours. Oops. 
Freezer Meal Tuesday: When I was pregnant I made about 10 freezer meals. These were awesome for some of those third trimester days when my cankles were barking and in good conscience could not eat Chick Fil A again. Once the baby came and the meal train ended, I had a few of these left and we worked them in once a week, and then once I had the double-the-crock-pot Monday epiphany we were eating one a week and replenishing them! I also am going to a freezer meal party with some girls that I work with online this month to make 10 meals, but word on the street is for smaller families (like two big people and a milk baby) it makes 20 meals. I am elated. All I do is the night before take out the bag of freezer whatever and stick it in the fridge, then come dinner making time it is just a matter of heating it to whatever temperature and preparing any sides (again, steam veggies and instant rice. Bam. Done.). These also come in handy if you’ve been particularly hungry earlier in the week and don’t have any leftovers come Thursday. 
Whatever Wednesday: I couldn’t think of a witty name for this day, but this is a day where I actually cook dinner (although the name suggests we eat “whatever”). Most of our meals are easy and simple, and most of these meals have been Tex-Mex in nature. My current favorite creation is burrito bowls: ground turkey, black beans, rice, cheese, salsa, guacamole. Takes about 10 minutes to brown the turkey and soften the beans and everyone can make their bowl to their liking. 
Leftovers Thursday: We are a family of 2 and I like to cook for four people so that we have some leftovers and stuff to eat for lunches during the week. We may not have the same leftovers, but its a fast, satisfying dinner. We also have small group on Thursdays and that used to be our eating out night, but since I haven’t been going and staying home with the baby it makes it easy for us to eat together and literally all we have to do is heat it up. 
Family Date Night Friday: Marshall wants to call this fast food Friday, but eventually I want to stop eating fast food so I don’t want to acknowledge our current bad eating habit by naming it that so… Family Date Night it is! This is not as much fun as it sounds with a new baby with a new bedtime routine, so after taking him to Chick Fil A once, Marshall now gets drive-thru and we eat on the couch and watch Netflix while Lincoln plays happily in his bouncy seat… on a good day. On other days Marshall eats his in the car on the way back, takes the screaming baby while I eat, and then we give him a bath. 
Pizza Saturday: Freezer pizzas, FTW! Although they are not the healthiest option, they are mad cheap at Aldi and are delicious, feed us both usually with a little leftover. Also this leaves room for healthifying down the road with homemade crust and adding our own toppings, but one step at a time. Also bagged salad from Aldi makes this healthier and me feel better about eating some veggies. If you ask me, weekends are most definitely for eating pizza. 
Snacky Dinner Sunday: This is our most favorite day. We eat cheese, meats, fruits, usually some freezer snack from Target or Trader Joe’s, pesto, bread, maybe fondue if we are feeling fancy…. and eat from the comfort of our couch while, you guessed it, watching Netflix. I love this day because I can even feed the baby while I eat one-handed. Easy prep (read: cutting cheese, washing fruit, opening crackers) which is made fun by using our fancy serving platters that we never use and easy clean up makes making the next day’s crock pot meal a dream. 
And there you have it, a new working mom, twentysomething, terrible meal planner, not a health nut’s meal planning guide. It is really working for us after 3 years of trial and error and I like that has the baby grows we can still keep these days and he can partake! Super excited for snacky dinner with a solids eater 🙂

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