How I Avoid Meal-Planning Burnout

posted by Andrea | 02/18/2014

how I avoid meal planning burnout

I get lots and lots of meal-planning questions — especially this time of year when the weather is cold and people are more willing to stay in the kitchen and cook. More recently, I’ve gotten a handful of questions asking how I avoid meal-planning burnout — or what I do when I start feeling meal-planning burnout coming on.

At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to answer this question, but after thinking about it for a few weeks, I came up with 6 main factors that have really helped me to simplify my meal planning and (for the most part) avoid meal-planning burnout.

1. I use daily themes to plan our menu each week.

Instead of planning a specific meal for each night of the week (which can sometimes feel overwhelming), I’ve created “themes” for each weeknight. 

MONDAYS: Mexican or Italian

TUESDAYS: Casseroles or stews

WEDNESDAYS: Breakfast

THURSDAYS:  Meat (pork chops, chicken, ribs, burgers, brats, steak, meatloaf) or leftovers

FRIDAYS: Mexican or Italian (whatever we didn’t have on Monday)

SATURDAY: Soup, salad, sandwiches, leftovers, or out to eat

SUNDAY: Lunch with family, a big meal at home, or leftovers (depending on what we did Saturday and the rest of the week). We also have frozen pizza almost every Sunday night.

So even though I still have TONS of different recipes to choose from each night, I now have a “guide” to go by.

Also, I should mention that we don’t follow this plan 100% of the time. This is our GUIDE, but depending on our weekly schedule or the types of meals I make, we might have leftovers more often or we might skip eating at home for various reasons (basketball team dinner, plans with friends or family, etc.)

I’ve been planning our meals this way for almost three years now, and in general, it has made meal-planning a lot less overwhelming and it helps me make sure we’re eating a decent variety of meals (not just pasta every night).

Read more about this system here.

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2. I usually only cook 2-3 meals a week.

So this might sound like I’m directly contradicting everything I just said above — but it’s true, I usually only end up cooking a full meal 2-3 times a week.

Here’s how I make this work on a weekly basis…

0-1 night = eat at family’s house, friend’s house, or go out to eat.

1-2 nights = salad, sandwiches, or leftovers.

1 night = breakfast (which doesn’t usually require much “cooking”)

1-2 nights = meals from the freezer.

Since I often make double or triple batches when I do cook, we have several pasta dishes, casseroles, soups, stews, etc. in the freezer for busy weeknights. This means that at least 1 or 2 times a week, I can simply pull our meal from the freezer. Depending on what the meal is, I might also make veggies, a salad, potatoes, fruit salad, or bread to go along with it.

2-3 nights = cook a full meal.

And when I do cook a full meal, I often try to make a double or triple batch of whatever I’m making so our freezer stays stocked. Since our family is small, this doesn’t take much extra work and saves me SOOOOO much time in future weeks and months.

For me, having a couple meals in the freezer all the time (and planning for leftovers or going out to eat) makes meal-planning feel much less overwhelming because I know I won’t have to cook every night of the week.

Read more about this concept here.

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3. I keep lots of partially cooked foods and ingredients in the freezer.

Along with keeping a few full meals in the freezer for those busy nights when I don’t have time to cook, I also TRY to keep lots of partially prepared foods and ingredients in the freezer to make cooking on other nights more manageable.

For example, I almost always have 2-cup containers filled with cooked and shredded chicken and turkey, and 2-cup containers filled with cooked ground beef, ground turkey, ground sausage, and even prepared taco meat. This makes whipping up a quick casserole, quiche, lasagna, or Mexican meal a snap because the meat is already cooked and ready to go. I can simply add noodles, rice, veggies, etc. and shove it in the oven!

Another time and money-saving thing I’ve been doing for the past few years is buying discount produce (specifically peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots, etc.) Since they sometimes aren’t great to eat raw, I wash them and chop them up into bite-size pieces when I get home, and then put them in gallon zip-top bags in the freezer for quick stir-fries, casseroles, soups, etc.

I can’t tell you how much time and energy this has saved me when 5:00 PM rolls around. I can just dump the already cooked, washed, and chopped ingredients into a simmering pot of soup or into a hot pan and most of the work is done for me!

Read more details about how I make this work here.

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4. I take our weekly schedules into consideration before making my meal plan.

Since Dave and I often have VERY different schedules week-to-week, we almost always need to take that into consideration before I can even begin to plan our meals.

Here is a rough outline of the process I go through when planning our meals — and keep in mind, although it seems long and drawn out when it’s typed, it only takes a few minutes to actually walk through the following 3 steps.

STEP 1: Go over our weekly schedules.

Dave and I sit down on Sunday afternoons and quickly go over each other’s schedule — when he has practices and games, when I have meetings and phone conversations, which one of us will be putting Nora to bed, etc. etc.

STEP 2: Figure out what time we will eat each night.

This is not exact, but because we both have very different schedules, it’s helpful to know when each person will be coming home and/or leaving again so I can decide when we’ll need dinner to be ready.

STEP 3: Plan meals to fit around our weekly schedule.

If I know Dave won’t be home from practice until 6:30, then I know I’ll have extra time to make a meal that night. Or if Dave is coming home at 5:00, but then I need to leave at 5:30, I know that might be a good night for leftovers (so I’ll plan a bigger meal the night before to assure that we’ll have leftovers).

Obviously every week doesn’t go according to our plans! Sometimes we have an unexpected event that changes our schedule, someone gets sick, we don’t have the right ingredients in the house, or a dinner invitation gets canceled at the last minute.

In these situations, I like to have some type of back-up plan. I always have ingredients to make pasta, quesadillas, or breakfast in the house… and if worse comes to worse, we’ll have grilled cheese, frozen pizza, or Culver’s :)

So even if we’re not eating at home every night of the week, the fact that we take a few minutes to consider our schedules BEFORE I make my meal plan helps to avoid meal-planning burnout because I rarely ever waste my time making a meal that doesn’t get eaten or planning something for a night we won’t have time to eat at home anyway.

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5. We eat REALLY simply.

I think the biggest issue when it comes to meal-planning is that people try to go over-board or think that just because they are actively planning a weeks worth of meals, it has to be elaborate, fancy, or gourmet.

Nope — that’s now how the Dekker’s do it! 

Yes, there are days when I go all-out and make a huge ham dinner, a roast with all the side dishes, or even “Thanksgiving dinner” in the middle of the week — but that’s definitely not normal for a weeknight. As you can see by the content above, we eat very simple meals of pasta, casseroles, soups, salads, sandwiches, etc.

However, I don’t think “simple” needs to mean “boring” — and I think both Dave and I will agree that “simple” can be VERY DELICIOUS! Plus, I can guarantee that making a simple meal at home is a lot faster, cheaper, and healthier than not having a meal plan and going out to eat every night.

And in case you’re wondering, I get most of my meal-planning inspiration from my own blog — not that I have such awesome recipe posts in my online recipe box, but just because those are honestly our favorite recipes, the ones I always have ingredients for, and the ones I can practically whip up without even looking at the recipe!

Read lots more about what specific foods we eat for breakfast, lunches, dinners, snacks, etc. in this post.

 

6. We’re not “foodies”, we’re not picky, and we have no food allergies or sensitivities.

The fact that neither Dave nor I are “foodies” (or picky eaters) definitely helps when it comes to meal-planning too. We do not feel the need to have gourmet foods, we don’t feel it’s essential to eat natural and organic all the time, and we don’t have an issue with eating semi-homemade meals or some processed food.

And although I don’t have any experience meal-planning for someone with food allergies or sensitivities, I can pretty much guarantee meal-planning is more difficult in these situations. We fortunately don’t have to work around any of this — which makes it SO much easier and offers a wider variety of simple meal options.

As I think about my meal-planning experiences, these are the 6 factors I believe have helped me avoid meal-planning burnout. Yes, there are days and weeks when I’m not super excited about planning our meals, but then I just remind myself that it will only take a few minutes and that it saves me SO much time and stress later in the the week.

A few more meal-planning resources:

Here are all my meal-planning posts

Here are all my freezer-cooking posts

Here is my entire online recipe box

Here are a few sample meal plans from previous years

Here’s a link to my free printable meal-planning resources

If you’re experiencing meal-planning burnout, I hope that some of these tips and resources will help!

Meal-planning really is a fabulous way to save time and money — you just need to find the system that works well for you and your family.

What are your tips to avoid meal-planning burnout?

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37 comments

  1. Jennifer

    02/18/2014

    Just a note from someone who pretty much avoids most processed food – i.e. I don’t used canned soups, bottled salad dressings, sauce mixes, etc. most of the time. (Some of the time I do!) I’ve found that meal planning and cooking burnout builds up pretty fast the stricter I am about preparing everything from scratch.

    One thing I’ve found helpful in avoiding meal planning burnout is to realise that ‘something has to give’ on about a weekly basis for me not to go insane. I need a couple of days per week on which I don’t have to do much cooking. If something doesn’t give one week, the next week I’m face down on the sofa and ordering takeout! Rather than letting that happen, it’s been better to schedule in some easy meals using semi-processed food if necessary. By scheduling it I can make an intelligent choice about what that food is and read the labels. E.g. our supermarket has some ‘own brand’ refrigerated prepared soups that are reasonably priced and not too full of preservatives, and similarly their curry sauces and the like. Just covering the weekend with some easy meals of that type means that I don’t surrender and order expensive takeout (which I’m sure is worse nutritionally, certainly worse for the budget!). And the rest of the week, because I’ve had a little break from intense cooking, I’m not burned out, and so I have the energy to cook from scratch.

    That’s my advice for those who try to avoid processed or prepackaged foods for whatever reason. If something needs to give, then just plan in some ‘give’ at the start. It might feel like compromising on whatever your standards are, but actually, in my experience it’s a lot better in the long run than letting yourself get burned out and giving up.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Jennifer,
    I think you pretty much just summed up everything I said in points #5 and #6!

    I know SOOOOOO many people who refuse to use some processed foods and end up ordering takeout or going out to eat multiple times a weeks because it’s just so overwhelming for them to make everything 100% from scratch. Obviously, they are spending WAY more money and eating WAY more unhealthily than if they would have just made a semi-homemade meal (or even just made grilled cheese).

    We eat VERY simple food (#5 in my post) and we honestly don’t get too caught up in making everything from scratch (#6 in my post). We eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies as simple side dishes and I’m fairly positive we actually end up eating healthier than many of my friends who are so anti “processed foods” but then end up going out to eat all the time!

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  2. jessica

    02/18/2014

    YAY! I remember asking this question on a FB post so I’m glad enough of your readers came through asking the same thing because this post is so helpful. I used to do “themes” about 3 or 4 years ago and I stopped for some reason (?) but this tip has motivated me to start again! There is some really helpful stuff in this post, so thanks for taking the time to write it. Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective on a topic to pull me out of my burnt-out state. (in this case “meal planning).

    :)

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    jessica Reply:

    also….doubling up on ingredients and putting the extra in the freezer…so simple yet so GENIUS.

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  3. Demaroge

    02/18/2014

    I think cooking for people with allergies or gluten sensitivity makes pre-planning even more important!

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  4. Shantel

    02/18/2014

    This is great! I went through a period where I did not do much in the way of meal planning and it is so stressful. I have been trying to be more diligent about it these last couple months and it is so nice. Especially on busy days when I can pull out a freezer meal and pop it in the oven.

    Andrea or anyone else – does anyone know if I could prepare a lasagna using no-boil noodles and then freeze and bake later? Does this work? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    I’ve done this before – I layer the lasagna up as normal and then freeze it rather than baking immediately. The uncooked noodles do cook as they normally would, but it does take a while. After it’s thawed, I find it still needs a good 45 minutes at least baking, maybe more, for the noodles to cook. Obviously it would be more if it were frozen when you put it in the oven.

    [Reply]

    Beth Reply:

    America’s Test Kitchen prepares Lasagna by using no bake noodles that soak in hot water for 5 minutes and then dried before assembling in lasagna. You may want to give that a try before freezing. I know it’s a little more work but in case the other suggestions aren’t to your liking, you could give that a try. :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Shantel, I’ve used the no boil noodles and then frozen. You’ll just want to make sure you have a lot of sauce in there and you’ll need to bake it for a LONG time!

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    Joy Reply:

    Shantel,
    I have never pre-cooked lasagna noodles my recipe is no-boil) and have never had trouble with it as a freezer meal though I do allow 24 hours for it to thaw. It takes 1 hr 15-30 min to bake. I use 1 jar of sauce, 1 – 8 oz can of tomato sauce and about a1/4 cup of water around the edges of the pan to make sure there is enough liquid to cook the noodles. I have also used a no-boil recipe in the slow cooker for days I’m working with a similar sauce:noodle ratio.

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    Shantel Reply:

    Thanks everyone!

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  5. Debbie

    02/18/2014

    This was one of my questions a few months back when I first read your blog on meal planning. I tried it but it didn’t work too well for us since I am stuck on making the same food for a theme (ie taco, spaghetti, chicken). My other question is how do you plan for the entire day? This is mainly for dinner but what about lunch and breakfast? Do you just have the leftover for the day after? My husband is somewhat picky too and can’t eat leftover 3rd day in a row while I can eat the same thing for a week. When I make a dish it’s enough for 5 more meals and I don’t want to make something else the next day. I still need to find another plan but I don’t know what.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Debbie, I actually DON’T plan for the entire day — because I don’t have people to feed during the day. We all do our own thing for breakfast (cereal, yogurt, fruit, etc.) and Dave packs his own lunch (usually leftovers from the night before).

    Nora only recently started eating solid foods (long story) so we usually just eat a sandwich or pasta or leftovers. We are not picky eaters at all and love leftovers — so at this point in my life, I don’t have an awesome answer for you :)

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    Aa. Reply:

    I don’t know if this helps you, but you could do “snowball” recipes. Eg: you grill some chicken and eat it with broccoli tonight, then tomorrow night use the same chicken to make pasta salad (you just boil the pasta and add vegetables), and the third day you make a soup from the same chicken (you add frozen veggies and in the end some noodles and you are good to go). It is not as easy as cooking one meal for the entire week, but it is easiest than doing seven different and not linked recipes. Or other idea: I boil chicken thais(? is that correct, the spelling I mean?) / breast with veggies wich become soup for today, and the extra meat i use it for some salad or I mix it with cream and parsley and use it on baked potatoes (it takes 3 minute of work to baked unpeeled potatoes in the oven). You can discover a lot of combinations!

    Or cook one freez one when you cook, this is what you can research on Andrea;s blog!

    [Reply]

  6. shelly

    02/18/2014

    Thank you for this blog post. You have really helped me with this issue and I am using your menu planning for the week with “themes” and it really has helped.

    [Reply]

  7. Joy

    02/18/2014

    I have always meal-planned dinner since being on my own have recently also began to plan breakfast. I use a form I made up and laminated. Each week I use a dry-erase marker to plan out meals and on the back, I write a grocery list. That way I have a constant reference point while I’m shopping. I am rather forgetful when it comes to making grocery lists.

    For me, meal planning is just something that has to be done regularly and be routine – just like loading the dishwasher, doing laundry and making school lunches. We don’t eat out due to time and financial reasons so it’s up to me to figure out what we do eat. I do use emeals, which helps some of the hum-drum. My son loves to read the menu plans and pick several for me to plan for the week. In reality, meal planning for me is more about having a less stressful afternoon/evening. I’d rather put 30-60 minutes per week into planning than to stress 7 days a week about what we are going to eat and not having what I need in the house.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    amen Joy — I couldn’t have said it any better!

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  8. Verity

    02/18/2014

    I loved this post! It gave me some ideas too!

    I have 3 additional thoughts.

    1. Make a large roast or amount of meat in the crockpot for Monday night and use the meat a few other nights that week. It’s especially nice if you don’t have freezer space.

    Example:

    Mon: Roast with potatoes and vegetable
    Wed: Roast beef shredded in fajitas with peppers and onions
    Thur: Roast beef in Soup
    Sat: Roast beef in a stir fry

    2. My family likes a couple meals so well that we have them on set nights. (Tuesdays are always tacos and Friday nights are always pizza). On weeks I don’t feel like meal planning, it gives me a little push of encouragement to sit down and already have 2 meals filled in!!

    3. I do a freezer meal swap with 5 friends. It is FUN. We meet once a month and bring one meal (X6) in portion. Then we each take one portion of each meal. It takes a lot of the brain work out of cooking because there are 5 meals that I didn’t have to plan. (My family is the largest family in the swap, but I just throw in a loaf of bread or salad when I serve smaller meals.)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for the great tips Verity — I do the roast thing every once in a while too. I’ve also always wanted to start a freezer cooking thing with friends but we’re all so busy with little babies right now that no one has really ben that interested. Maybe in 5 or 10 years :)

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  9. PW

    02/18/2014

    We use organic and no pre-packaged or food pick-up,rarely go out. Our schedules are crazy with long work hours and long commute. I usually cook my meals on weekend, having 1. something in crock pot 2. something in pressure cooker 3. something in sous vide machine. If I can do all 3 cooking utensils at 1 time that gets me 3 weeks worth of meals. Just 2 of us. Then I freeze the meats/soups/stews in vacuum bags so they lay flat. When I get home I have a steamer with 3 compartments, I put in the cooked meat I thawed in fridge, a fresh veggie and make a salad every night. The steamer turns off automatically and keeps foor warm so if I pick husband up at train nothing overcooks. I also put white meat boneless chicken breasts in steamer they don’t dry out. Husband puts BBQ sauce on his, I like mine plain. I am celiac and neither of us care much about food mixed up in casseroles. We have a lot of soups in winter. When I get home this winter has been a lot of time snow blowing and shoveling so to put food in steamer and set each tier at diff. time allows me to do that and still have excellent food. For Sous Vide I put in beef stew meat and sink vacuumed package in snow to ice down, tonight will make sous vide beef stroganoff over rice I made last weekend in rice machine and packaged it. And veggie and salad. Rarely do I stand in front of stove to cook, no time in my schedule. My appliances do the cooking for me. Lean beef, chicken breasts, sous vide fish/salman. chilean sea bass in unbeatable, low fat. If we have leftovers, we take them to lunch or have them a wnd night and I do plan leftovers. I almost never use my oven. We like Culvers also but by the time we eat 8:30pm it is just too late to have such a heavy meal, and I bring my own Gluten Free bread. We have excellent low fat food. The low fat beef from the sous vide machine is better than many expensive steaks from expensive chicago restaurants. We do on occassion have spaghetti and home made pizza. In the summer I will throw somethingon the grill. Too much cold, snow this winter. I love my steamer.

    [Reply]

  10. Julie H

    02/18/2014

    Thank you for this post! I have been working on “theme” nights at our house. It really does take some pressure off because even if I don’t actually plan a meal, I know which direction to go with our dinner. And Sundays are usually pizza nights at our house too:)

    [Reply]

  11. Missy

    02/18/2014

    Ok, since nobody else is saying it, I will…the picture of the potato with the chili on top is making my mouth water. And I already ate lunch.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — thanks Missy! It’s a SUPER simple meal :)

    [Reply]

  12. robin briggs

    02/18/2014

    Thanks Andrea! In love the post and appreciate the time and effort you put into your posts. I SAVE YOU FOR LAST EVERYDAY! My list of blogs is in alpha order, but like dessert, I save the best for last! Robin

    [Reply]

  13. Amanda

    02/18/2014

    I found that I got really frustrated when I planned things for specific days and plans changed, or I wouldn’t feel like making whatever it was that night, and after awhile, I quit (for a few months).

    Once recharged, what I realized was that the old system just didn’t really work for us. So, I changed it. We always have pizza on Friday nights (95% of the time it is homemade, but if we have a crazy week, or we have some other obstacle, the local pizza joint is perfect!). Beyond that, I do a list of meals for ~2 weeks (really only dinners). That usually includes 2 meals from the freezer, several more complicated meals (generally reserved for weekends, or if I know my husband will be around early that day), and a few meals that are super quick (grilled cheese and tomato soup for example) for the nights when we have commitments, and I need to have dinner on the table quick. I’d say most of the meals can be prepared in under 45min. For the more complicated stuff, I tend to double it and freeze if it lends itself to that, because then we can just heat it and eat it again in a few weeks.

    We primarily stay away from super processed foods and eat a lot of organic. Having the flexibility of doing it in list form just seems to take the pressure off of me. Plus, I always have frozen homemade spaghetti sauce, stuff for tacos, and other freezer meals, so in a pinch I know I can fall back on that stuff.

    Someone asked about breakfasts/lunches. Much like Andrea, I don’t plan too much. I keep fruit, yogurt, egg whites, etc. in the house for DS and I. I frequently make things like blueberry muffins or banana/zuchinni bread (from scratch) for us to eat as well. My husband usually just drinks coffee and grabs a granola bar (or muffins if I’ve made some) on his way to work. Lunches are SUPER simple – either leftovers, sandwiches or some pasta/sauce or whatever, and my husband takes leftovers (as long as I remind him it is in the fridge).

    [Reply]

  14. Tiffani Hudson

    02/18/2014

    Every week I meal plan and for me it’s easy because I am a definite foodie and love to cook. I actually might use your idea of assigning each day a theme, that would make things even easier. I avoid burnout because my family really appreciates it and while I cook I usually sip a glass of wine and my husband and I brief each other on our day and our daughter helps cook when she has time, even our two year old son gets in on the action by mixing things and pouring in ingredients, it’s family time for us. The actual meal planning process is easy because I have so many resources for recipes, Pinterest, the internet, cookbooks, magazines, family recipes and new ideas that come to me. I meal plan every Monday like clockwork.

    [Reply]

  15. Ruth Dekker

    02/19/2014

    I loved this post today Andrea! I’ll definitely be doing some more freezer cooking now, especially after coincidentally also reading a blogpost today on thesimpledollar.com about making meals in advance (http://www.thesimpledollar.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-making-meals-in-advance-with-five-recipes/). It has some nice vegetarian recipes, which are of course cheaper, healthier and good for the environment too!

    [Reply]

  16. Aa.

    02/19/2014

    I don’t know why, but themes don’t help me much, but what I do is plan for 5 days of a week, and let Saturday and Sunday to the inspiration of the moment. Plus, we don’t plan for breakfast (we always have eggs, yoghurt, avocado, cheese, cereals and vegetables in our home,, so it is not hard to make breakfast) nor for lunch (we always have soup in our house, and soup is our lunch meal; the best thing is that we do 2 soups and we are covered for the entire week for lunch).

    In the autumn i can vegetables for soup that last me till december (it is finished by december and we don’t have enough space to store more, but it would last 2 years), and then I buy frozen vegetable mix. I also freez corn and mexican mix in the summer, when everything is fresh. It might take a little time, but then I don’t worry about healthy choices, etc. My family has a big yard an grows a lot of stuff, s for me is convenient.

    When I buy chicken/turkey breast I buy more and slice it and put it in the freezer,. I write its destination (soup, stew, etc) and this is why when I have to cook something it doesn’t take long. So for me, prepping in advance and not being too strict is the key!

    I have a biiiig document with pictures of menu ideas easy to make and that we love and this alsi helps me being inspired and rememebering what recipes we love, beucase I am a verry visual person.

    And, of course, I have some emergency ideas recipe for which I always have ingredients and that take 5 minutes of work max and 30 minutes to be ready on the table, so it is a calming thought that if I am not in the mood to respect the menu plan, I just go for those recipes.

    [Reply]

  17. Jamie

    02/19/2014

    I plan out our meals every 2 weeks. I’ve always kept my “menus” but this year I’ve been using a notebook dedicated only for meal planning and grocery lists. When I’m in a rut, I can easily flip back a few pages and get ideas that I maybe haven’t used in a while. I also make note of where I can find the recipe so I’m not wasting time searching.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Love this idea Jamie! The notebook is a great idea — especially for someone like me who loves writing things down :)

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  18. Michelle

    02/21/2014

    I plan out meals for a week or two at a time … and I include breakfast and lunch (with 4 school aged children spread over two schools with different days for their lunch programs it keeps me sane!) Is there a LOT of repetition in the breakfast and lunches? yes BUT it’s so nice to have my husband and older children in on the plan so they can help with meal prep!

    I, too, have started keeping everything in a notebook so I can “look back” for inspiration.

    Andrea, we do many of the same steps as you … check schedules, see who needs to be where and when, etc.

    With respect to the allergy issue, we have two anaphylactic allergies here at home (nuts and dairy) and I find meal planning really HELPS with those. If I know what I’m making and when (and how I’m adapting it for my two allergy kids) it makes my life so much more zen … :)

    And I couldn’t agree more about “semi” home cooked meals. We are somewhat limited by our allergies (cream soups are hard) but I’d still rather use a seasoning packet to make a home cooked shepperd’s pie than head to a fast food joint!!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    [Reply]

  19. Jane

    02/21/2014

    We do our grocery shopping on Saturday morning. When we get home I clean and cut all the fruits and veggies and pre cook any meat. Like others, I buy stuff on sale, prep it and freeze it for later use. We eat the “fresh” foods in the beginning of the week and later in the week use freezer meals (like Andrea’s delish burritos) or cupboard meals (pastas, soup & sandwhich). On Saturday I make a big dinner and make 3 extra for the freezer (lasagna, burrios, chicken pot pie). Most ideas were found on this blog. THANK YOU ANDREA!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — sounds like you have a really great system down… although you couldn’t pay me to venture out to a grocery store on a Sunday (or saturday for that matter!) LOL
    I’m a Tuesday morning, when no one else is around, grocery shopper :)

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  20. Carle

    02/22/2014

    My husband and I finally sat down and set up a simple meal plan about a month ago – it was something we had been wanting to do for years but never took the time for. It has changed my life! I’m way less stressed after work thinking about what I have to cook, I grocery shop less (and spend less) and my husband cooks more because he knows it’s HIS night and he knows what to make.

    We love your breakfast for dinner idea too and use it often. My two year old son thinks it’s hilarious to have pancakes for dinner! My only wish is for a BIG freezer! Maybe for Christmas next year… :)

    Thanks for the great ideas, as always! :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay — such a great accomplishment and yes, it does save so much time, energy, money, and stress. It’s a little bit of time upfront, but SO worth it in the end :)

    [Reply]

  21. My Thoughts on “Real Food” | littlemissdebbie28

    03/17/2014

    […] I also like Andrea Dekker’s simplified approach to meal preparation and her “semi-homemade” philosophy, which she talks about throughout her blog.  Here is one good article she wrote about  avoiding meal planning burnout. […]

  22. How we’re getting our eating habits back on track

    09/11/2014

    […] pretty much repeat the same breakfasts and lunches each week, and I think we need something like theme days (Italian on Mondays, soup on Tuesdays, etc.) to provide some extra inspiration for […]

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