Isn’t it always the way. You barely get your morning coffee or tea, and someone asks “What’s for dinner tonight?” Huh? Dinner? I haven’t even poured my milk into my cup of strength and you want to know what’s for dinner? Ugh!
It’s like this all day. You need to plan for dinner at 7am so you can take something out of the freezer for that night. But you also have to plan what lunch the kids are taking to school and you’re taking to work. Oh, and let’s not forget, you still need to eat breakfast. And you’ve got 45 minutes to get it together and out the door! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend this much time thinking about eating. And I also want tasty satisfying food ready when I’m hungry.
One of the ways that I avoid this daily brain strain is to pre-plan some of my week. I sit down for a half hour or so and plan the entire week’s meals (or just a day or two if my capacity can’t think that far)- dinner for sure, sometimes lunch. Then I plan what I need to do in advance to make those meals and make a grocery list. I always make my plan based on the week’s events. Does the kid have practice at 6pm on Tuesday? Friday Night Family Night? Planning around my week, in advance, makes the morning more relaxed and less hair-pulling and I’m not trying out some new recipe when I have to run out the door.
If you’re planning on doing prepared meals – as in YOU prepare them – then leave that for the days that have more time. Preseason the chicken and freeze it. Put the ingredients to marinade the steak into a sealed bag with the steak and freeze it. You get the idea. Make the protein or casseroles in advance so all you need to do is veggies and starch (I also tend to have starches cooked in the fridge ready for a reheat). I realize that this assumes you have freezer space – if you don’t leave it in the fridge and cook it within a few days.
Want to try something new? Great. Just make sure that you have the time, money and capacity to do that. I generally try to limit that to once a week max.
For snacks and breakfasts I rely on my Master Food List. It’s my list of foods that I like to eat. I can then scan it and go “yes, that’s what I’d like right now” when my mental capacity isn’t there. For instance, I happen to love celery and peanut butter, but for some reason, I forgot about it. Or tuna melts for breakfasts – super satisfying but rarely something that I think about.
If you’re the type that enjoys dessert or eating out, plan for it. Meal planning in my house isn’t about restriction – it’s about mental peace.
My meal planning strategies are a little unconventional, but they’ve worked in my house for years.
Join my Mindful Meal Planning program so you can avoid the overwhelm of the Dinner Decision.