The Great Meal Planning Debate

To plan or not to plan is the question that rummages through my head every Sunday afternoon.  As much as I love to be organized and have a plan, sometimes... I just want to be lazy on Sunday afternoon!  But almost every time I've given in to the temptation to not bother figuring out the family dinners for the week, I regret it.  Some weeks it's a big regret when I'm flustering around the kitchen with zero inspiration or I'm missing several ingredients to the dish in my head and then we end up at McDonalds and then my body hates me later. And then something strange happens.  As much as I feel a little gross after eating fast-food, I inevitably start doing it more and more.  Before you know it, we're eating out several times a week as the habit!  Which is not only bad for my waistline, but for the wallet as well. 

So!  Let's talk about the necessary Sunday prep.  It's a little time and effort that really pays off big in my house.  

First, I aim to find one or two recipes staring beef, pork, chicken, fish and lately I've been attempting one meatless meal a week.  I then pay attention to the second ingredient in command, rice, pasta, potatoes, beans, etc. Then I scroll through my recipe folders in the Notes section on my phone.  Side note: Love keeping recipes in the Notes on my phone!  Super easy to save when coming across recipes online, I can use the search bar to find specific recipes in a flash, and I can quickly scroll through lots of recipes when I need inspiration. I also use my Erin Condren planner to jot down meal ideas I either want to try or I've made before and I want a reminder to add it to the monthly rotation.  

Now if I'm feeling REALLY inspired to get creative that week, and have some spare weekend time, I'll crack open the beautiful recipe books that fill my bookcase and will definitely find some inspiration there. 

I also use the grocery sales ad for inspiration! If mushrooms and bacon are on sale I'll plan on Beef Stroganoff, air fried stuffed mushrooms made with cream cheese, cheddar, garlic and bacon with grilled Pork Steaks. Then with the extra bacon and cream cheese we can do bacon wrapped stuffed chicken breasts!  

Next stop: raiding the fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Taking quick stock of what I have around lets me know which recipes I should start the week with. 

Example: I have 2 green peppers, a red and yellow pepper in the fridge from chicken fajitas we ate late last week and since Aldis sells peppers three per bag, I have overstock.  So this week I'm going to add Pepper Skillet which contains ground beef and rice and then later in the week I'll make Veggie Lo Mein with is meatless with ramen noodles and air fryer frozen egg rolls (if you haven't tried egg rolls in the air fryer yet, you're missing out!). I round out the rest of mid-week meals with Pork Tenderloin in the Instant Pot and make a gravy from the juices to go over our mashed potatoes with simple steamed or roasted broccoli, or glazed baby carrots. Now we need a chicken or fish... let's go with Chicken Tortilla soup, oh, or maybe some chicken and refried bean Quesadillas to use up the leftover flour tortillas from fajita night. All simple recipes that are quick and easy for the busy weeknights. 

For the weekend I'll jot down some ideas and then weather or outside plans will predict what we end up making.  If the weather's looking good and we have no plans (as of yet) I'll jot down some smoker ideas, ribs, chicken wings, salmon, chicken breasts, pork butt, etc.  And then at some point during the week when I'm dreaming of the weekend I'll plan for sides dishes, veggies and deserts.  Again, depending on what's already in the house or what's on sale at the store that week!  

And the kicker to make all this work... write it down and stick with the plan! I use the Erin Condren weekly whiteboard to write down dinner plans for each day.  This takes the guess work out of my week.  I come home, look at the board on my way in and know exactly what I'm making and when I need to start getting that ready.  

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