Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meal Planning and Cooking with Young Children

I wasn't always an organized person. Soon after the birth of our daughter, Lily, I realized I needed to either accept the chaos, or develop methods of fighting it. I knew I couldn't provide the kind of upbringing I wanted for her unless I started to refine my methods of organization and time management.

One of the first things I worked on was meal planning. I really wanted to provide quality food for my family, and for Lily's first year we had the goal of providing her 100% organic foods (other than breastmilk). I am happy to say that we did meet that goal!

Meal planning successfully was something that took me a long time to perfect (and I still find ways to refine the system even more every week), and I made a lot of errors along the way.

Here is my current system, with some tips for what works for me:

1. On Saturday, go through the fridge and pantry, and see what needs to be used up ASAP. Make a list of these items.
2. Go through my cookbooks and my meal planning list (more on that in another post) to pick meals for the next two weeks. Incorporate ingredients in the fridge and pantry that need to be used soon.
3. Ask my husband what he needs for snacks at work for the next two weeks, and pick snacks for myself and my daughter.
4. Make my grocery list for the meals and snacks for that week. Although I plan two weeks ahead, I buy groceries once a week for freshness reasons. I tend to separate the sections of my grocery list into the following: Grocery items, produce, meat/dairy, frozen, and other. This makes shopping easier for me.
5. Go through my coupon stash to see if I have any that I can use that week.
6. On Sunday afternoon, or early morning before church, go grocery shopping.
7. Write out the meal plan and put it in a special frame in our kitchen, so I know what I've cooked and what I still have ingredients for.
8. On Wednesdays, we will sometimes go to our local farmer's market in the afternoon if we still have produce or other locally-made items to pick up.
9. Cook meals! I generally do the bulk of my prep work, or even just cook the entire dinner, during my daughter's naptime. This makes cooking way less stressful for me.

I was inspired to display our meal plan this way after reading this lovely post from Frontier Dreams!

That's about it! I have to do a little more planning for special occasions. For instance, this weekend is my husband's birthday, so I will be baking his favorite peach cobbler! I also do extra baking and cooking on most holidays, so my methods change slightly then to accommodate extra meal prep time.

I hope you enjoyed this post! What time-saving tips do you have regarding meal planning, shopping, or cooking? I'd love to hear from you.

1 comment:

  1. great post...I esp love the frame for the weekly menu! I'm a vegetarian, and the only one in my house, so I cook a lot of meals separately. Sometimes, making lists tires me and I go to the store without one; just seeing what inspires me. Not every week, though! I have a hard time finding a good source for organic or "natural" geared about you? xoxo