About 18 months ago Kellie and I found ourselves burned out by the amount of work that planning and preparing meals was requiring each week. We both knew we wanted to feel more organized, efficient and inspired when it came to feeding our families. We experimented with some simple changes in our homes and today we would like to share three things that have helped us to plan and prepare meals that are both effective and enjoyable. These three items are; having a posted weekly meal plan, getting kids into the kitchen and finding fun ways to challenge ourselves when cooking.
Posted Weekly Meal Plan
I love having a meal plan that our family discusses and posts weekly because it allows us to save time and money and it helps reduce stress. We try to plan our meals during our weekly family meetings. By doing this we are able to choose dinners that make sense with our family’s upcoming schedule. For example, if I am out late for an appointment, we choose a barbeque meal that my husband can start grilling before I am home. Or, if our whole family will be busy at someone’s sporting event, we select a dish that is cooked in the crock-pot and can be ready right when we walk in the door. Having a plan also helps us save money. With our meal schedule prepared in advance we can write and use a shopping list of the exact items needed for the week so our food waste is minimal. By using the prepared list we also cut back the number of trips our family makes to the store. This helps save money on gas and reduces opportunities for impulse buys while shopping. Finally, posting our weekly dinner schedule has played a role in reducing some of the evening insanity. Having a prepared plan eliminates the stress of trying to make a last minute decision about a meal. When evening rolls around and everyone is starting to feel worn out and hungry, it is calming to know we have a plan in place.
Kids in the Kitchen
In the last two years I have made it a priority to start inviting my daughters to come and join me in the kitchen. Though cooking with my girls often requires more time and creates more messes to cleanup, there is so much we gain from the time we spend preparing food together. I enjoy all the learning opportunities my children have during their time in the kitchen. Cooking teaches math as they measure ingredients, reading as they follow along with step by step directions and chemistry as they watch things like water boil and butter melt. Another great benefit to having them cook with me is they have an increased openness to trying new foods. When they have helped me make it they are always interested in giving it a try. I love seeing them gain a genuine appreciation for the person who has prepared the food they are enjoying. It warms my heart to see my 5 year-old give unprompted thanks to the cook. Finally, my favorite thing about the time we spend in the kitchen is that it is a part of our day where we can enjoy conversation, have some fun, strengthen our bond and simply soak in some quality family time.
Challenging Yourself in the Kitchen
I have made a conscious effort to see cooking and meal planning as experiences to be enjoyed instead of chores I cram into my schedule. I did this by challenging myself to find ways to feel inspired, creative and empowered in my kitchen. To feel inspired I like to try to find one new recipe to make each week. Browsing food blogs or cookbooks at the local library or bookstore is something I have become so fond of that it is now a hobby to me. When expressing my creativity I enjoy putting together themed meals and treats during holidays and birthdays. I also appreciate using my imagination to think of ways to add personal touches to recipes. Cooking up new and creative dishes helps me to feel empowered in the kitchen. I experience a huge sense of accomplishment when I conquer a new recipe and I take great pride in presenting my family meals that they all enjoy.
Now that we have shared what has helped us to feel organized, efficient and inspired when planning and preparing meals in our homes, we would love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment below with what has worked well for your family either in the kitchen or at mealtimes!