Some of you may be wondering why I’m writing about back to “school” meal planning. Doesn’t she homeschool you say? Why yes, yes I do. But our kids go to a co-op homeschool academy twice a week, so does that count? It does! But even if they didn’t, I’m the type of person who needs organization in order to survive the week. And by survive I mean, not turn into a stark raving, yelling lunatic because I’ve got a million things to do during the course of each day and the last thing I want to think about after a long day is what’s for dinner.
This post is meal PLANNING not recipes, those will come later. It’s meant to serve as a blueprint to give you the general idea of how to plan meals for the week, while still maintaining variety.
I thoroughly enjoy cooking, and I always will, but during the week when I’m busy, I need to create a plan for meals that takes the least amount of time.
There are some days that I am not busy (usually Fridays or Saturdays) and I will take my time to enjoy cooking a wonderful meal for my family. But for those days when I do not have the time, this is how I plan ahead. (* indicates what I do every week, you can obviously prepare meals that YOUR kids enjoy, but this is an example of my one of my go to menus for a week)
WHEN PLANNING, THINK OF WHAT WORKS FOR ALL MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY AS FAR AS ALLERGIES AND LIKES/DISLIKES. YOU DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO DO A LOT OF EXTRA WORK
THE BEST TIP THAT I CAN GIVE YOU IS TO PLAN MEALS THAT ARE THE MOST BASIC, NO FLUFF OR FANCY SAUCES. THE GOAL IS TO BE AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE.
DESIGNATE ONE DAY WHERE YOU CAN DEDICATE A FEW HOURS TO MEAL PREPPING.
Chop all of your veggies! For the vegetables that I use often, I will chop and freeze them in ziplocs.
They last longer, and that’s 5 minutes that I don’t have to mess with them during the week. My regular offenders are: green onions, yellow onions, bell peppers, celery, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower ( rice this and freeze) kale, carrots (shred & chop) and spinach. I will alternate according to what’s in season and available at the grocery.
*Buy frozen veggies when they are available. Riced cauliflower, peas, corn, broccoli, spinach, carrots are some that are readily available and can be found in the organic variety. I like to buy hash as well. It’s just shredded potatoes. Cascadian Farms is my favorite.
*Cook rice, keep in the fridge. I like this brand of rice. It can also be frozen, but will need to be steamed to be reheated.
*Cook pasta, this is the brand that I prefer for Gluten free. I cook, spaghetti noodles, bow tie, elbow etc. A lot of people have told me they don’t like gluten free pasta reheated because it gets hard. Here’s a tip. Store in portioned off ziploc bags in the fridge. When time to reheat, remove from the ziploc, place in a heat resistant bowl, pour hot water (boiled) over the top and stir. It will be as good as the first day.
Cube and roast sweet potatoes and/or potatoes (drizzle with oil, add salt and pepper, roast)
*Bake several pans of chicken. (Baking, as you will see, provides great versatility with meal ideas) Portion off into ziploc bags and freeze
Brown ground beef. I will either season with very basic seasonings, salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder or I will separate into 2 pounds per skillet, season either for italian, or for shepherd’s pie or for breakfast hash.
Make spaghetti. Easiest thing in the world and most kids enjoy it. No time to make sauce from scratch(who does really)? This is one of my favorite brands. The best way that I have found to store spaghetti sauce is to protion off into gallon ziploc freezer bags, lay flat on a cookie sheet and freeze. This will allow you to break it into smaller chunks and reheat small amounts if necessary.
*Make meatballs. My kids like to eat these for breakfast with an apple or for lunch with potato wedges and carrots sticks or for dinner with veggies. Easy peasy! I keep some in the fridge and store some in the freezer.
I could literally go on and on, but for the sake of time, (if you’ve made it down this far, you’re a trooper!) I’m giving you a few meal options using what I’ve suggested above.
-Baked Chicken, steamed veggie, roasted potatoes
-Baked Chicken/Gravy over rice, veggie (make gravy with the drippings from the baked chicken pan)
-Chicken salad. Chop baked chicken, serve over your favorite salad mix
-Chicken noodle soup (use baked chicken, pasta, carrots, add chicken broth)
-Pasta primavera (use prepared pasta, add baked chicken and veggies or keep it all veggie)
-Spaghetti, and a veggie, or you can use spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles
-Meatballs, roasted sweet potatoes, veggie
-Meatballs, apples, broccoli or any veggie (breakfast, lunch or dinner)
-Meatballs, cauliflower fried rice (saute with this oil and veggies)
-Hash, (saute hash, prepared ground beef and frozen vegetables)
That’s twelve meals! There are so many more combinations, but this gives you a good idea of their versatility. If you notice, each meal listed is basically just reheating or the quickest methods of preparing.
I will provide simple recipes to each in future posts. But I’m often asked how I’m able to have “homemade” meals so easily, so I wanted to provide a basic “blueprint” to help you busy mamas navigate meals without having to eat out as often. For those of us with food intolerances, it can sometimes be a real challenge.
This method of meal planning doesn’t only have to be used by moms, it’s a great way to plan meals in general . Just freeze and you’ll have meals to last for a while.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions. Don’t forget to sign up to get notifications when I post a new blog as I’ll be providing more in depth recipes for easy school time meals.