Planning Meals – make it and forget it!

Whether or not you LIKE cooking (and I’m NOT a huge fan), it can take up a lot of valuable time for a busy person. I like to help clients manage their time better, and this is an area that most people don’t even think about.  With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can have a week’s worth of meals without having to struggle during the week. Time to Make it and Forget it!

Take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and sit down with your favorite recipes. Including family members in the planning is optional, but if they like to feel like they’ve got a voice in what’s being served, go ahead and let them contribute ideas.  Begin by listing all of the days that you will be eating at home. Sometimes, you know ahead of time that you will be eating out – a family outing, a special occasion, etc. – so be sure to include that in your plan.  Let’s assume you will be eating at home Sunday – Friday, with dinner out on Saturday for the whole family. You know that you will need 6 nights of meals.

You also need to look honestly at the issue of leftovers – do you save leftovers, only to have them forgotten and growing mold in the fridge? Or maybe your family just doesn’t like leftovers? If so, then you will need to plan for 6 different meals. If you DO utilize leftovers, you can either have them another night during the week, or use them for lunches that you can reheat at the office.  Make sure you plan accordingly.

Now select 6 of your favorite recipes.  Let’s say you have 3 chicken dishes and 3 beef dishes. Try to pick dishes that use the meat prepared the same way, i.e. ground beef or grilled chicken.  Begin by listing the total quantities of what you need. For example:

–          Baked chicken and potatoes

–          Tacos

–          Stir fried chicken and rice

–          Spaghetti

–          Grilled chicken fajitas

–          Meatloaf

For a family of 3, you might need a total of 9 chicken breasts and 2-1/2 lbs. of ground beef.  List the other ingredients you might need, such as vegetables (onions, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, etc.) and side dishes (rice, potatoes, shells). Go ahead and prep all the veggies, then put them in plastic zipper bags.  Now it’s time to prepare the meat. If you have an outdoor grill and the weather is nice, cook the chicken breasts outside. All of them. Now. Then cook all of the ground beef (use common seasonings you might need, such as salt, pepper or garlic.) Once all the meat is prepared, keep out only what you need for that night’s recipe, and refrigerate the rest.  You’ll find that this step takes less than ½ hour, and you already have the major ingredients for 6 meals. Rather than spending this ½ hour every night during the week, you’ve done it all at once.

Your meals are basically done except for the sides! The more you try this planning ahead practice, the easier it will get. Enjoy the extra time you have to spend with your family!


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