How I Manage to Only Cook 2-3 Meals a Weekposted by Andrea | 02/4/2013
As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, my goal for 2013 is one of “Ultra Simplicity”.
Due to Dave and my overly ambitious work schedules, our growing list of home projects, and Nora’s unwillingness to take naps, I’ve decided that there are a bunch of things I absolutely must simplify in order to stay sane!
One of those things is our meal planning.
Over a year ago, I shared our ultra simple meal planning method of choosing food themes for each day of the week, as opposed to specific meals each day. We are still using this method and it continues to work fabulously.
This method not only gives me quite a bit of flexibility, it also helps to simplify the process of making double and triple batches for the freezer.
Because of this, I honestly only cook about 2 – 3 times each week!
Let me explain…
On a “normal” week, here is what our meals might look like — this is NOT in order by day.
0-1 night = eat at family’s house, friend’s house, or go out to eat. This doesn’t happen every single week, but quite often. There are also times — like around the holidays — when we are with family and friends more than once a week.
1-2 nights = salad, sandwiches, or leftovers. We often will make panini-style sandwiches or put leftover meat on a salad. We usually have leftovers at least once during the week, but we also love leftovers for lunch.
1 night = breakfast, which we LOVE… and which is also extremely simple. We always have lots of eggs, homemade waffle mix, and bacon or sausage in the house, so it literally takes me 15 minutes to whip up a delicious meal (here are some of my favorite breakfast recipes)
1-2 nights = meals from the freezer. Since I almost always make double or triple batches every time I cook, we have several pasta dishes, casseroles, soups, stews, etc. in the freezer for busy week nights. I simply pull one meal out of the freezer the night before and let it defrost in the refrigerator the following day. Then I bake it right before dinner (or warm it up on the stove if it’s soup). 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 meal (I almost always make a double or triple batch) Sometimes, this means simply making a big batch of soup. Sometimes this means making 25 chicken enchiladas (see picture below), 2 lasagnas, and a slow-cooker meal all on one day. Other times, it might mean roasting a turkey or baking a ham and then using the leftovers to make several different meals.
Obviously, I’m still in the kitchen for some amount of time every night (except if we go out), but it’s usually only for a few minutes to shove a dish in the oven and throw some veggies in the steamer. I can handle that even on bad days when everything seems to be going wrong, Nora is screaming and grabbing my legs, Dave is running late from a basketball game, and an unexpected visitor drops by!
On the 2-3 nights when I DO cook, I always make sure to plan that into my day (and my grocery shopping), and I try to schedule it so either Dave is available to watch Nora or I have a babysitter.
Also, even though it might seem that this weekly meal plan is somewhat haphazard, I still always have a plan for every night — even if that “plan” is to go out to eat or pull a meal from the freezer.
How we make our weekly meal plans.
Step 1: Go over our weekly schedules. Dave and I always sit down on Sunday afternoons and go over each other’s schedules — when he has practices and games, when I have meetings and phone conversations, which one of us will be watching Nora, what days we’ll need a babysitter, 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.
Step 3: Plan meals to fit around our weekly schedule. For example, if I know Dave won’t be home from practice until 6:30, then I know that 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).
Step 4: Have a back-up plan. Obviously every week doesn’t always go smoothly 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 so we don’t have to resort to frozen pizza or McDonald’s! I always have ingredients to make pasta, quesadillas, or breakfast… and if worse comes to worse, we’ll have grilled cheese. Since all of these meals are extremely simple, Dave and I can pretty much manage any of them if need be
So if you’re wondering how all of this might play out in our weekly meal plan, here’s a sample.
A sample weekly meal plan.
MONDAY = Mexican or Italian
Make 2 lasagnas (see photo above). Put one in the oven for dinner (and leftovers later in the week) put the other one in the freezer. I would also make salad, vegetables, and garlic bread for dinner.
TUESDAY = Casserole
Pull this yummy chicken and veggie casserole out of the freezer Monday night — especially since Tuesdays are one of our busier days.
WEDNESDAY = Breakfast
Blueberry pancakes, eggs, and bacon — with plenty of pancakes and bacon left over for breakfast tomorrow
THURSDAY = Meat or Leftovers
Sweet N’ Sour pork in the slow cooker, leftover lasagna from Monday, or leftover casserole from Tuesday. This would also depend on if we’ve been eating the leftovers for lunch or not.
FRIDAY = Meat or Out to Eat
If we had a big meat meal last night, then we might go out for dinner tonight (using coupons and gift cards!) If we ate leftovers last night, then I would probably make a big meal tonight.
SATURDAY = Sandwiches, Salad, or Leftovers
Saturday is way more relaxed because Dave is home all day and we usually try to get any house projects/cleaning done as well as school work and blog work. So we usually have pretty relaxed meals planned for these days.
SUNDAY = with friends, family, or at church
We are often with friends, family, or at a church function on Sunday afternoons — and then we almost always have a frozen pizza on Sunday nights.
So if we followed this meal plan, I would end up cooking on Monday and either Thursday or Friday — that’s it. The other nights it would be simple meals, pulling from the freezer, or out with family and friends.
We still end up eating mainly homemade food and I save SOOOOOO much time in the kitchen — both cooking and cleaning up (especially since Dave often does the dishes!)
Oh, and if you’re wondering, I do the same thing with snacks and desserts — I make a whole bunch in one afternoon and then don’t bake again for a couple weeks. I guarantee that I save several hours each week by cooking and baking this way — plus our freezer and pantry are always fully stocked!
How do you save time in the kitchen and simplify meal planning?
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