A week of food posts: pre-planning meals

workundertime

Yesterday I signed a new letter of offer for my current position. They are extending me for another month so my last day here will be June 13th. Incidentally, it’s also the last day I have daycare for my youngest, so it works out perfectly.

This week may be food week! I have a few things I wanted to post regarding getting organized food-wise between work-kids-activities-obligations. It seems to be the place I can make the most difference in our time considering how long it takes to buy food, prep food and cook food. With three people taking lunches to school or work every day, it can be a huge time suck so I am always looking for creative ways to reduce the time it takes to deal with food – especially on weekdays.

I do a major grocery run twice a month for the majority of our edibles. In between I may take a trip to a close produce store or to the drug store but almost all our shopping in those twice-a-month trips. Because of this, I tend to organize our weekly meal plan from what we have in the fridge. I try and gauge what is going bad and what could last a bit longer. Sunday night I get out my pad of paper and a pen and then figure out a meal plan based on what needs to be eaten earlier in the week and what can be left to the end of the week. The overall goal is to reduce waste while still providing interesting, healthy meals for the family.

On nights where I know it will be busy, I plan something simple such as a quick pasta dish or something I just need to defrost, such as pre-made stews, soups or chilli. On the nights I know we have more time, I work on something more elaborate or fun, like bbq or fondue. If the weather has been cold and rainy I am more likely to make a stew or serve a soup on the days where it is warm we focus more on salads and lighter fare. Like most people, it has become almost automatic for me to take all these variables into consideration for dinner.

On Sunday afternoon I take stock of the fridge and then look at our freezer inventory and then decide what we will eat for lunches and dinner. Then I will write down what I think will work given what activities we have that night, what the weather is like or what we haven’t had in awhile.

The result is a list I post next to our calendar. The list isn’t written in stone but it’s handy because it allows me to know that I packed soup and a sandwich in the kid’s lunch on Monday so Tuesday I may want to switch it up and do veggie sticks and chicken nuggets. It gives us the ability to use up what we have but wisely so we don’t have, say, beef three days in a row.

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The great thing about the list is that I can take a quick glance the night before and pre-pack a lot of the things for the kid’s lunches (I generally get leftovers). While Mr. Tucker does dishes, I can assemble as much of their lunches as possible and take out anything that needs to defrost for the next day. That way when I get up the next morning (groggy, sans-coffee) I can just glance at the list, add whatever needs to be prepped that morning and then put it in their backpacks. It’s automatic and I don’t have to think about it. It definitely beats my old method of getting up in a haze at 5:45am and then trying to figure out what to do for lunches!

When I am working, this method works like a charm. It minimizes the amount we eat out because I‘ve noticed that we ate out more when we couldn’t really think of what to do for dinner. Organizing our meals based around what we already have has minimized waste, saved money and made our lives a lot easier.