While I’m away this week on a home exchange to Victoria, British Columbia, you’ll find guest posts from friends. This is a guest post from Rita, who writes the blog, This Sorta Old House, with her living/blogging partner, Cane. They believe that how we do home is how we do life.
For the first year of our life as a blended family, meals were a challenge.
OK, that’s the nice way to put it.
With three picky-eater kids, one gluten-free eater (me), and the schedule challenges that come with busy teens juggling three different households, figuring out food was a hair-pulling frustration that did a serious number on our health (financial and physical) and happiness.
After reading Sara’s posts about the benefits of weekly meal planning, I decided to give it a try. (After all, we had little to lose and lots of hair that I want to keep!)
How to Make Meal Planning Work for a Blended Family
Three months later, I’m here to tell you: It works!
It hasn’t been a silver bullet to cure all of our food challenges–and we’re certainly still experimenting–but making an intentional plan for eating has greatly improved our dinners, our budget, and our daily routines. And all of that has improved our happiness as a family.
If you’re ready to give it a try, we’ve got a few tips based on what we’ve learned so far.
Tip #1: Create a master list of meals
This is an idea I picked up from Robin and Ed at Frugal Family Times. They have one master list for their whole family, but we decided to break it down further for our crew of particular eaters. We asked all three kids to create a list of dinner foods they will eat without complaint. From that we created a document that now lives on our fridge.
Because we have different kids with us on different nights, the list broken down by child makes planning easier. I also keep a Pinterest board for Family Friendly recipes. It’s a great resource when we sit down to plan the coming week’s meals.
Tip #2: Keep a running grocery list
I love Sara’s list and will soon be creating our own (once I have a better idea of what needs to be on it). In the meantime, we keep a running grocery list on our refrigerator. After we make our meal plan for the week, we just add any other ingredients we need to the running list, and we’re off to the grocery store.
Sara’s Costco shopping list in a PDF format: Costco Shopping List
Tip #3: Plan for leftovers
We only meal-plan for dinners–but part of our plan is to have left-overs that we use for lunch. On Sundays we try to cook something that we can make a double portion of to use in lunches throughout the week. (Soups, pasta sauces, and meats for tacos/quesedillas/etc. are our usual choices.)
Tip #4: Make everything visible and accessible
At first, we simply wrote our plans and grocery lists on paper and tacked them to the refrigerator. This helped me know each night what to cook, and it also helped me plan ahead:
Oh yeah, I need to get the chicken out of the freezer to thaw for tomorrow night’s dinner.
Now that I know we’re committed to meal planning, I recently invested in a small chalkboard that I hang from magnetic clips on the side of our refrigerator. (At $3, it was a low-risk investment.)
Not only is the chalkboard nicer-looking, but it also eliminates the need to use paper each week. Fancy, frugal, and environmentally friendly–it doesn’t get much better than that. (You can read more about our little kitchen command center here.)
Tip #5: Be realistic about yourself and your life
I’d love it if we had a nutritious, tasty, home-cooked meal every night. That’s not gonna happen (yet). Now, we look at our calendar and plan for those times we’re going to eat out. (You can see in the photo above that we planned to eat out on two nights in one recent week.) Reduces guilt, waste, and impulse eating-out. Win-win-win.
Tip #6: Plan and shop together
I’ve saved the best and most important tip for last. Feeding our families is a big deal. It impacts our health, our finances, and the rhythm of our days. For us, it’s been important to make the commitment to meal planning together. When we’ve both put time into planning and shopping, we’re both more committed to sticking with our plan.
As I said, we’ve only been at this for a short time and are still learning. But we think we’ve made a great start.
This is a guest post from Rita, who writes the blog, This (Sorta) Old Life, with her living/blogging partner, Cane. They are UnDesigners and DIYers who like to repurpose, renew, revise and re-do all kinds of things. While they write a lot of posts about fixing up their house, the real thing they’re making together is a life, the biggest DIY project there is.
Do you have any tips for making meal planning work better? What works for you?
Go Gingham related links:
Pantry basics for the home cook – what’s in my pantry
Refrigerator basics for the home cook – what’s in my refrigerator
New to cooking at home? Fear not!
How we keep food waste to a minimum
Take the night off and let your kids cook dinner every week
How our freezer gets used – ways to organize and optimize