I’ll admit, I haven’t always been the best organiser. I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl and having a super helpful husband, has helped me get away with it!
In days gone past, we would scratch out a grocery list and one of us would go, we’d top up for at least $150 at the market, pop out for bits we forgot during the week and plan the evening meal at lunch. If that’s how you do it, and it’s working then great! We both worked in & out of the house, allowing us to take food out of the freezer during the day, grab a few things at the store and make it work. BUT I know everybody doesn’t have that flexibility, and races home in the car at 530 or 6pm, organising your meal in your mind, on the way. Maybe you took something out before you left, but not always. It’s usually rushed, chaotic and your tired after a big day at work.
The other scenario is you work at home or are at home with the kids, and all you feel like you’re doing is thinking about the next meal. The kids want to eat all the time and you dread thinking about cooking again and shopping again. Because of your flexibility, you grab things at the store quite frequently, likely amounting to hours spent walking to, shopping and going home. Imagine if there was another way and you could free up some of that time to do other, more joyful things with your kids or on your own? Well there is and it’s not difficult. Read on.
Since we’ve been living in France, the stimulus for us to get organised has largely been a financial one. We left our much bigger incomes behind, and now intentionally live off a tighter budget. It took some getting use to and we still have months when we overspend, but we are getting better! When you have a set amount of money to spend each week, you have no choice, other than to be organised.
So our system involves making a list of the meals we want that week (done solo or together) and having a master list of meals everyone likes, helps you pick & choose. Don’t worry about changing it up too much – kids like what they like so stick to it. Maybe try to introduce some variety once in a while, but don’t stress about it. Our meals usually involve something for Rob & I, and pared-down versions for the kids (ie. no sauce, not spicy, plain) which we put on repeat most weeks. Because I love cooking and make time to do it, I vary things up by making bread or pizza dough from scratch or making my own sauces and marinades. Those are the joyful activities that I get to do because I make time for them and they truly make me happy.
After we’ve decided what meals we’re going to eat, I have a look at what we already have in the pantry & freezer and then make a list for the grocery store. When I plan the daily meals, I also put the activities we have on the days they happen. That way I make something easy or pre-prepared on days when the kids have sports, or we are out. There is no point in me making fresh bread rolls when there is 30 minutes between coming in from school and going off for soccer. That’s usually a pasta that’s ready made and can be eaten on the run.
As I can usually make what we need each day, I don’t need to meal prep too much, but if you are getting in late and racing to make food each night, I would definitely think about it. At times, I do double up on a recipe and keep a pan of lasagne in the freezer for a busy night or a Friday when I don’t feel like cooking. It’s also helpful to pre-cut all of your veggies when you buy them, make double-batches of cookie dough or muffin mix and freeze them. These are alll time-saving activities that will ease the stress of meal, lunch and snack planning.
To get you started on your planning and organising better, I have a handy free Meal Planning download for you to use and pin up somewhere as a reference each week. You can right click on the image below and save as on your computer or click on the link above. Then print and use this to make a master list of your families favourite meals and also make your list of things you’ll need for these meals. I usually stick this to the inside of a cupboard so it’s easy to find and your husband can also find & see it. Given that I usually put my actual grocery list on my phone I make this initial list based on the key ingredients for our meals and then add other household items we need to the bigger grocery list. Find a system that works for you and stick to it. It’s the repetition and working out what works & doesn’t that will help you feel more organised and less stressed.
All the printables shared in this post are A4 sized pdf files, if you are printing on US ‘letter sized’ paper be sure to select ‘fit’ or ‘shrink to fit’ from your printer options.
These free printables are for personal use only, you may not sell, share, or link directly to these files.
Hope you find the download and information in this blog useful, happy meal planning!
If you want to find out more me or Habitots, you can do so here. You can also download a free tip sheet with the Top 5 ways to save time & money, which will give you more ideas to put into action.