I have kind of a funny history with meal planning and cooking. The thing is, I always hated it. When Brian worked his dawn-to-midnight job, I was super overwhelmed. I would get to dinner time and be...done, to say the very least. Dinner often meant cereal or protein plates or snacking around because Brian was the only one who really cared, and he was very rarely home for dinner.
Fast forward to last year when we lived in Arkansas and I started my business. Brian’s job was less hours and he was usually home for dinner, which meant more cooking for me. However, I really needed time to work as I grew my business. Things very quickly moved forward and it became a full-time thing.
In order for me to focus on what was most important in that season of our family’s life, we decided that Brian would take over dinner time and all things grocery. He’s basically a chef and enjoys cooking, so it made the most sense for us.
We lived that way for about a year, and now here we are, back in our home state of California with a thriving business that I am no longer running myself (I have five amazing team members I delegate tasks to) and I have taken back the part of my role that entails meal planning and preparing.
I actually started to miss it! Preparing food for my family is important to me and something that makes me feel good, even if it wasn’t elaborate. Plus, I never want to stay stagnant in any area of my life. If I suck at cooking then I want to get better, so I am.
Now that we have the business to run together (Brian does all media work, so he’s actually busier than I am most days), plus four kids, a house, and extracurricular activities to juggle, it’s more important than ever that I keep this area of my life streamlined.
Brian has taken up Crossfit recently and is even training for a competition, so he needs A LOT of food prepped and ready to grab and go. He also needs big meals to provide the protein, energy, and stamina his body needs to perform during his workouts.
I can’t have gluten, have to be careful with dairy, and generally have to eat extremely clean because of my gut and skin issues.
All of this is enough to be super intimidating for someone who took a year off and is already not a natural at this area of homemaking, but I’ve figured out a pretty solid routine (thank the good Lord), and since I get asked about this a lot, I’m sharing my tips with you today!
10 Ways to Simplify Your Groceries + Meal Planning
1. Choose a few pre-planned meals, just get staple ingredients for the others.
I think a lot of us feel the need to know exactly what we’ll be serving for dinner every day of the week. If that works for you, stick with it! But for me, I’m a little too sporadic for that, and whenever I plan my week that way we end up not cooking one or two of the planned dinners and groceries get wasted.
So now, I only choose about three exact dinners, and then get basic ingredients like chicken breast, bacon, sweet potato and other veggies to make a spur-of-the-moment, simple meal the other nights.
I might also make those other nights a repeat meal that we have all the time, like tacos.
2. Get all your planning done in one day each week.
Every Sunday night, I pour myself a glass of wine and sit down with a notebook, my cookbooks, and a pen. I choose my meals, make a shopping list, and map out exactly what I’ll be buying for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.
I make sure I’m planning all the way through the following Monday (the day I shop) which leads me to….
3. Choose another day for all shopping.
On Mondays, I do my grocery shopping. What isn’t being delivered by Amazon Fresh (more on that below) is purchased and ready for the week.
4. Prep immediately after shopping whenever possible.
Instead of bringing in groceries and putting them straight in the fridge, I’ve started washing and slicing and prepping everything as soon as I’m home from my errands.
I got this handy trick from my new favorite book by Brooke Sailer, (I’m Failing At) This Thing Called Home.
5. Food prep, don’t meal prep.
Meal prepping may totally work for you, but it doesn’t for us! We’ve found that food prepping is much more doable. Food prepping looks like sauteed potatoes, sliced fruit, cooked and shredded chicken, baked sweet potato fries, all stored in the fridge, ready to use. It’s pieces of meals that you can grab, reheat, and eat based on what sounds good and how much time you have.
6. Base it on your schedule.
If you know Wednesday nights are super crazy for your family, have that be a Crockpot or take-out night every week.
7. Keep a running list of everything you’re out of.
This one is obvious and overstated, but worth saying one more time! My list is on my fridge and in my phone. I check both on Sunday nights when making my shopping lists.
8. Amazon Subscribe + Save and Amazon Fresh.
Amazon is KILLING IT. They just bought Whole Foods, so more organic goodness is surely coming our way, and they now offer subscriptions for your most-used food and household items. Some things on my Subscribe + Save account include; toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes, snack bars, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, and cleaning sprays.
With Amazon Fresh, you can do your grocery shopping from your couch (if it’s offered in your city) and get organic fruits, veggies, and pretty much anything. Amazing!
9. Don’t overthink it. Know what works!
Don’t over complicate meal planning because it’s daunting or you dislike it. Streamline, simplify, cut out the things that aren’t working and stick to what is.
10. Stop being afraid of repeating meals.
No shame in repeats, yo. I know a friend who rotates ten meals, exactly that way, all the time. It’s been that way for years and her family has no complaints. It’s easier for her, too! Win win. If that works for you, embrace it and count yourself as one of the lucky ones!
Other Things That Work For Our Family
- Prepped food becomes lunch plates we can fix up in less than ten minutes.
- Breakfasts are the same meals rotated.
Coffee and a bar (cereal for kids)
“Big healthy plates” (this is what we call eggs topped with avocado, uncured bacon, grilled tomatoes with salt and pepper, and sweet potato hash).
Pancakes + bacon (GF, of course!)
- Bars instead of lunch for the really busy, on-the-go kind of days (our favorites are Lara and RX).
- Prepped foods that work on-the-go.
- Fresh sliced fruits
- Grilled chicken (cold in a Ziplock)
- Snackable veggies
- We always have a couple easy/frozen meals on hand for “emergencies”. Like when the babysitter shows up on time and you were so excited for date night that you forgot you have kids….
- Mac + Cheese
- Chicken nuggets
- Frozen pizzas
- I (try to) always have kid & adult snacks as well as water bottles in my bag or in the car.
Phew! That pretty much sums up what I’ve been doing to keep meal preparation as simple as possible with four kids and a Crossfit hubby. I hope it inspires and helps you!
What do you do to simplify meals in your house? Let me know in the comments!