How Cinnamon Rolls and Frozen Pizza Prevent Meal Planning Burnout

posted by Andrea | 10/16/2015
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frozen pizza

Right before the school year starts up, my email Inbox begins to fill up with meal planning questions. Everyone wants to hop back on the meal planning bandwagon in order to simplify dinnertime during the busy school year.

However, by the middle of October, I start getting emails from readers who are already burnt out and tired of putting time and energy into meticulously planning every meal every week… and you know what, I don’t blame them!

Although I’m a huge advocate for weekly meal plans, I am also the first to say that you really do need to take some time off from the kitchen every week so you don’t burn out.

As I’m sure many of you have experienced, planning for, preparing, and cleaning up meals day after day, week after week can feel totally exhausting and overwhelming if you never get a break — especially if you have a larger family to cook for. And if you constantly feel exhausted and overwhelmed, you probably won’t stick with meal planning for very long.

Last year, I shared 6 ways I avoid meal planning burnout; however, after thinking about it a little bit more these past few weeks, I realize that one of the best things I do to avoid meal planning burnout is simply taking one day off from the kitchen.

My “day off” is usually Sunday.

Ever since Dave and I were first married, we have had a super simple Sunday meal plan that requires little to no time in the kitchen for me

Breakfast = refrigerated cinnamon rolls + fruit and yogurt

Lunch = a casserole I made the day before, or a meal with family

Dinner = frozen pizza + salad and raw veggies

The best part of all of this — Dave is the “chef” for the day!

He is in charge of making the cinnamon rolls while I’m getting the kids ready for church. He’s also in charge of throwing the pizza in the oven and making the salads for dinner.

Sometimes we’re invited over to one of our parent’s homes for Sunday dinner, but usually I’ll make lasagna, chicken pot pie, or some other casserole on Saturday afternoon so I can simply stick it in the oven on Sunday. We have very few side dishes with this meal, and I set the oven to turn on while we’re at church so the food is almost ready when we get home.

Taking one day off from the kitchen each week is usually just what I need to eliminate meal planning burnout. Not only does my day away allow me to enjoy a little extra free time (and a cleaner kitchen), it also means that I only need to plan 6 days of meals each week instead of 7.

Plus, our kids LOVE the cinnamon rolls + pizza routine on Sundays. Nora will actually start to cry if we change things up 🙂

NOTE: Sometimes I’ll make homemade cinnamon rolls the day before, or we’ll make our own personal pan pizzas on Sunday, but usually they are store-bought.

Of course, you certainly don’t need to do exactly what we do — maybe you always have donuts for breakfast on Saturdays, fast food for dinner on Fridays, order takeout during the week, or simply have one day where everyone fends for themselves. I think the important thing is that you purposely schedule a little “breathing room” into your meal planning routine so you don’t totally burn out.

If you’ve never tried this route before, you might be surprised how much less overwhelming meal planning can be!

What do you do to get a break from meal planning?

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30 comments

  1. Liz

    10/21/2015

    Your cinnamon roll recipe is so delicious. We now eat them every Sunday morning, and sometimes for Sunday after church. If we eat them after church, I will pair it with fruit and yogurt and some eggs. Yum! I like to avoid eating frozen pizzas because I found an amazing pizza dough recipe that I make in advance (it takes 5 minutes) and put the husband and kiddos in charge of topping to pizza. So much healthier and much more tasty! With this meal plan on Sundays, along with one easy dinner during the week, I can avoid “burn out” in the kitchen. It also allows some extra time for baking, which I really enjoy (your chocolate chip cookie recipe is amazing too)!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Glad you love the cinnamon rolls and the cookies (those are 2 of our favorites too!)

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  2. Lynn

    10/17/2015

    Sunday nights have become pancake night for us and my husband makes them to give me a break! A lot of times we do frozen pizza or I make Stromboli on Friday nights. I am all in favor of having easy meals planned ahead to make life simpler!

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    Andrea Reply:

    stromboli is one of our favorites too!!

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  3. Julie

    10/17/2015

    We usually go out for lunch on Saturday (we take my Mum, it is a nice treat for her), for dinner we usually have leftovers or soup or sandwiches (store bought). Sundays are usually a frozen meal eg Pie, pizza etc. I like to keep my weekends easy!

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  4. Julie

    10/17/2015

    We usually go out for lunch on Saturday (we take my Mum, it is a nice treat for), so for dinner we usually leftovers or soup or sandwiches (store bought). Sundays are usually a frozen meal, Kievs, pizza etc. I like to keep my weekends easy!

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  5. Laura

    10/16/2015

    My system is cooking a meal Mon and Tues, both with enough for leftovers Wed and Thurs. Kids get quickie meals like quesadillas or make-your-own pizzas W and Th because they don’t like leftovers. Fri is freezer night, or cheese and crackers, or cereal. Sat we usually have take-out or eat out and Sunday my mom cooks (she eats with us on Tues so we trade nights off). This way I only really plan 2 meals a week.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — this is amazing! I know some people wouldn’t like eating the same meal twice in one week, but if you’re OK with it, this is an awesome system!

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  6. Melissa

    10/16/2015

    I haven’t gotten into meal planning yet (::sigh::) but I avoid cooking-burnout by having frozen pizza in the freezer (if we make it past Wednesday without eating pizza yet, it’s a good week! haha) and having canned food. Like pasta sauce and chilli. Just open the jar, heat and eat.

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    Andrea Reply:

    hahah!!!

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  7. Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving

    10/16/2015

    Great post, Andrea! Love it! And I agree completely! I watch for deals on frozen meats, chicken strips or other quick freezer meals so I can have a “free” night from cooking. Not only does this save me time and give me a break from cooking, but buying an occasional freezer meal is WAY cheaper than eating out because you don’t have anything planned.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes and yes! I’m sure you’ll enjoy your freezer food stash once you have 2 littles running around 🙂

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    Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving Reply:

    Oh, yes indeed! I have plans to make sure the freezer is stocked before the new baby comes in March. I think we’re probably of similar mindset in that freezer cooking is one of the best pre-baby prep things you can do to make life easier after the baby is born. I’m sure you are making good use of your freezer stash too!

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  8. Kellie

    10/16/2015

    We eat out! I realize this is not the most frugal, healthiest option but it pays dividends when I think about the time I save in preparing (even from frozen), cleaning up, corralling kids, etc. plus we enjoy it! We consider it our time to try new restaurants and (for our kids) to test our manners in public

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    exactly. Eating out is not bad — as long as it’s in your budget and something you enjoy, I’d say go for it!!

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  9. Avia

    10/16/2015

    I have some fall backs like this during the work week but I haven’t thought to do it on a weekend day. Usually, since I’m home on the weekends, I feel like I need to cook but I can see where taking a Saturday or Sunday off would really be rejuvenating.

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    Andrea Reply:

    ah yes, the weekends are fabulous!! Try it some time 🙂

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  10. Erin

    10/16/2015

    This is what I needed to read today. I was the crazy one that thought that I could plan a monthy meal plan (crazy I was) and then 8 would feel like I ‘failed’ when I came home from work and I didn’t want to make what I had planned (being pregnant also contributed to that). But I never worked in a easy meal, it was always my “back-up-if-i-fail” option. So I never enjoyed it. this 39 week preggers thanks you for a little piece of mind!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well, I don’t think you’re crazy for planning a month of meals at a time. However, I do think it’s important to give yourself a break every week (especially since you’re pregnant!!) I would say that MOST of our meals are “easy meals” that I can pull from the freezer, make in the morning, or whip together in just a few minutes before dinner. I never feel bad because it’s still better than going out to eat and we’re still sitting down together as a family.

    I’m all about having “back-up” options but please don’t let yourself feel bad for using them!!
    Also, congrats on the soon-to-be new baby!!!!!

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  11. Eileen

    10/16/2015

    We semi-recently started doing frozen pizza on Sunday nights. Perhaps I got that from you in a prior blog mention!

    I love it. We get a fancier frozen pizza but it’s still cheap and simple prep and cleanup. It’s fantastic!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, exactly! Even the fancier frozen pizzas are still less expensive than from a pizza place!

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  12. Emily

    10/16/2015

    Love this! Saturdays and Sundays are my “break” from the kitchen. We always eat out Saturday evening. Sunday lunch is from the crockpot. My kiddos ages 9, 7 and 3 can get their own breakfast (woohoo!) so that makes it easier for me. 🙂 For Sunday evenings we typically have “YOYO” meals (You’re On Your Own) where everyone finds something simple they like. Cereal, bagels, leftovers Etc. I love the frozen pizza for Sunday evenings. Definitely going to implement that one!

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow that’s great — almost 2 days off for you! And yes, frozen pizzas on Sunday night is one of our family’s favorite “traditions”. We often did it in my house growing up, so it’s fun to continue it 🙂

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  13. Liz

    10/16/2015

    So true….so true.

    I always try to make sure that I have at least 1 or 2 super easy and super quick meals in the pantry or freezer. It’s especially helpful when the day takes a turn sideways and that casserole you were planning isn’t going to happen before midnight.

    some of our favorites….quesadillas, black bean soup (from the can!!!) and grilled cheese, frozen pot pies, stuffed chicken breasts or pizzas.

    healthy? healthy enough. Especially if you toss down a bag of mini carrots and some ranch dressing.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, freezer meals are a life-saver for me too! Even still, knowing that I basically get a full day off from the kitchen every week is just fabulous for me!
    Also, I 100% agree with your “health enough” comment. I know WAY too many people who claim to “only eat non processed organic foods” but then get so burnt out that they end up going out to eat for a week straight. Talk about unhealthy (and expensive!)

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  14. Stel

    10/16/2015

    Monday evenings we eat out. Luckily the kids are slowly outgrowing Spur (steakhouse with games) and the quality of our Monday evenings are improving 🙂 One day a week, usually with a late, busy afternoon, we’ll have take-away or something from the freezer, weekends I’m off. We braai (bbq) the evenings, have brunch somewhere after church, sometimes eat with the inlaws.

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  15. lydia @ frugaldebtfree

    10/16/2015

    You’re so cute! I love how you keep it real. I cook as little as possible on the weekends. My husband does breakfast and then we usually have sandwiches and then burgers on Saturday night. Then Sunday I throw something in my slow cooker.

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  16. Jennifer

    10/16/2015

    I avoid meal burnout by good planning. When I plan my menu for the week, I look at the things we have coming up and plan accordingly, with simple meals, simpler meals, and one or more nights of leftovers. It is very important for me to eat a local, seasonal, and whole foods diet. Personally, putting together a baked oatmeal or soup that we eat for 2 mornings or dinners in a row is almost just as easy to put together than a somewhat processed option. Also, having fermented vegetables on hand, like kimchi, sauerkraut, or ginger-carrots, means that there are always easy, ready vegetable side dishes to eat.

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  17. Organize 365

    10/16/2015

    I am going right now to see if I can program my oven to turn on while I am away. NOT being home is the biggest hurdle I have to getting a hot meal on the table!

    :)Lisa

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I use the “time bake” feature on my oven ALLLLLL the time. It’s a great way to get food on the table the moment we walk in the door!

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