I started meal planning years ago. It was very overwhelming in the beginning. When I moved in with David I instantly had a household . . . One child, four dogs, a home and a fiance. I was working so I needed to plan. I started very simple. One because I didn't really know how to cook and two because I wasn't sure when I was going to have have the time to actually cook the meal. Here's how I did it way back when . . .
- I looked at our schedule. Would Ian be with us? If Ian wasn't with us then we were probably heading out to dinner.
- Would David be home for dinner? If not, I was probably skipping dinner and going to bed.
- Would I actually have time to cook dinner? If no, then I was preparing a slow cooker of food in the morning. Normally I would just have to get up 30 minutes early to do this, or zip home on my lunch to do it. Or I would make a cold pasta salad the day before, that could sit in the fridge for 24 hours and still taste fresh.
- The weather. I always try and check the weather when I meal plan our dinners. If the weather is terrible then a hot soup might taste good. Or I will cook something in the oven to warm the house up.
- With all this information I grab one cookbook or one blog and cook from that all week. Chef's tend to use a lot of the same ingredients. For example I need Kale three times in a recipes I'm cooking this week. So I bought a whole pound. In addition to that you can really learn some great tips and tricks when you are reading the same cooking language all week.
- One last great tip is to meal plan right out of your pantry and freezer. Take out all the food you want to use up. If you have a box of stuffing left over from Thanksgiving, cook it with chicken breast and serve with a salad. If there are cans and cans of beans, toss them all together, add some Italian dressing and fresh herbs if you have them. If you have tons of cereal, then have cereal for dinner (YOUR CHILDREN WILL FREAK OUT!) Yes, this 'use up everything' meal plan, throws the #5 out the window, but it's a great way to clean out your kitchen.
Give meal planning a try. You may not like it in the beginning. But, trust me in a few weeks you will love it. Knowing what's going to be on your dinner table every night is one less thing you need to think about during the day.
BONUS: As you know I studied nutrition in college. And yes, breakfast is important. But sitting down for dinner as a family will blow the socks off your children's future more than ANY breakfast.