Before I had kids, I didn’t cook. At all. Looking back, I have no idea what my husband and I even ate for dinner before we had kids. So by the time my boys were ready for solid food and seemed to happily devour anything that was put in front of them, I knew I had to step up my game. But, by 5:00pm on most days, I was a wreck. No plan for dinner, I hadn’t gone to the store, kids needed a bath, and bedtime was 6:30pm. My husband could barely get home in time to see the boys before bed, so unfortunately he couldn’t help. Then one afternoon, it all turned around.
I was visiting a friend who had three young kids (with one more on the way) and expressed awe at how she was able to put a well-balanced, home cooked meal on the table every night. She told me that she planned her weekly meals in advance, which meant she only had to go to the store once a week. Every dinner was pre-planned, and she just had to reach into her fridge to get the ball rolling.
This concept seriously changed my life. From then on, every Sunday morning I planned out the week of meals and did the shopping. Just having to face the grocery store once a week was enough to rock my world. Not to mention that all of a sudden we were eating real meals! And, because I had a stocked fridge, I could do small things to prep the meal in advance, like marinate meat and chop vegetables, while the boys napped. It was so easy.
Another great benefit was that we no longer wasted food. By the end of every week, my fridge was empty because every bit of food had a purpose and had been eaten. I no longer had to deal with the guilt of throwing away rotting vegetables and expired meat. Also, based on my friend’s example, I started keeping a small notebook of the popular meals I made so when I was in a rut, I could go back and remind myself of the winners. It also recharged me to see that my kids were eating well and what I was now capable of.
Maybe you’re a great cook and making dinner is something you look forward to each day. But if you get hives just thinking about the responsibility of feeding your family, I definitely recommend meal planning. And if you’re just starting out, I also suggest choosing recipes with fewer ingredients. It makes the shopping easier and allows you to get the meal on the table faster before everyone melts down.