Jen Charron: Control Freak


Stressed About Cooking? It's Time to Embrace Meal Planning

And yes, here's a printable sheet to help.

Getting dinner on the table is a daily challenge. A little meal planning can save you time AND your sanity during busy weeks. Maybe you’ll even enjoy cooking for your family a little bit more!

A couple weeks before Christmas one year, I was knee-deep in holiday preparations and getting caught up at work in order to be able to enjoy some well-deserved time off. One day, leading up to the dinner hour with no plan of attack, I was Skyping with a friend and the words “I hate cooking” appeared on the screen.

I couldn’t believe that I actually typed that without even thinking!

I love cooking when it's leisurely - making a meal on a Sunday afternoon with a glass of wine and some great music playing.

I don’t love cooking on a random Tuesday evening when I have a zillion things to do, no idea what to make, limited ingredients on hand, and a short amount of time to get a meal on the table.

We’re all back to regular routines. Time has added a few more extra curricular activities to our family schedule. This means that 4 out of 5 weekdays every week, dinner needs to be prepared, served and eaten before we head out to take the Kid to a sports class or swimming lesson. Plus I have the kid home with me for lunch every day. Finding time to make both lunch and dinner in my busy workday as a work-from-home mom is a challenge for me.

So in an effort to avoid being totally stressed, I got back on the meal planning bandwagon over the weekend. I highly recommend it! Here’s why I love doing it and how it can help you too:

Takes Out the Guesswork

I can’t stand working a long day and then standing in front of the fridge at 6 PM thinking: “What the heck are we going to eat??” I much prefer to be drinking a coffee in the afternoon and thinking, “I’m really excited because tonight is… Nacho night!”

Simplifies Grocery Shopping

When I hit the supermarket, I have a game plan since I know everything I’m going to be making in the coming week. When I combine my meal plan with an organized grocery store list, it is like the one two food prep punch! I can get through the store as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Gives You an Overview

I like seeing the range of foods we’re eating over a period of time to make sure we are eating as well balanced as we can. With a meal plan, you can track that you’re covering all of your food groups and make sure that the kids aren’t eating Mac and Cheese or Pizza too often. (For every meal, if my 6-year-old had his way!)

Helps You With Advance Prep

When you map out a plan for your meals on the weekend, it is also super helpful to take some time on a Sunday to prepare some items in advance for the week. Chop up the veggies for the stir-fry you have slotted in for Wednesday or completely prepare a meal and freeze it for later in the week. I made a batch of Maija’s Chicken Taquitos and am looking forward to pulling them out tonight, tossing them in the oven and having dinner ready in 20 minutes.

Here’s my downloadable Meal Planning spreadsheet. It has tabs for:

  • The weekly meal plan
  • A running list of meal ideas
  • A tally of the food in our freezer

Feel free to download it, make changes to it and make it your own. Hope it helps!




RELATED: Three Tips to Make Meal Prep Stress-Free