Last week in Finding a New Normal I talked about how we tackle Keeping House around here. Well, with the nicer weather we’ve been having, we’ve kind of slacked off a bit on our chores ;0) But the good thing is there’s grace for that – and the toilets will always be there, waiting to be cleaned :D For today we have the question of how to find time for baking, cooking and meal planning. This one is a biggie. I mean, you have to eat! So you kind of have to make this one a top priority. Yet it’s still so hard to find the time to do it with a baby bouncing in your arms. What to do?!
1. Freezer Meals and Batch Baking
Before Miss E was born I planned out some freezer meals to prepare. I have a whole pinterest board dedicated to Freezer Meals, so I picked about 4 or 5 from there and started preparing. 3 months later, we’re still eating those meals! Though it took me a good part of the day to put them together, I’d say that was worth it. Plan out a day where your husband can take the kids out for a few hours and you can tackle the meals all at once. Pick your meals, either online or from a cookbook (I would recommend From Your Freezer To Your Family from Mama and Baby Love and Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze cookbook). Make a shopping list and have at it! Get a few friends involved so you’re not in on your own – each of you pick a couple recipes and shop for those items for all of you to make, then come together in one location and assemble. It’s actually a lot of fun, and the results are well worth the time and effort you put into it! We haven’t been eating the freezer meals regularly (we were so blessed to receive a couple weeks of meals from our friends and church family after Miss E was born!) but they are so helpful to have on hand for when I’m really stuck on time. I also batch bake. In other words, when I’m baking something, I plan on doubling (sometimes tripling!) the recipe and freeze it. That way I’ll have extra cookies, granola bars, muffins or loaves on hand for the weeks I’ve just not had time to do anything. Saturdays and Sundays are my “baking days” right now – and since I have 3 kids who are eager helpers, it isn’t a whole lot of work! I’ll tackle the breads for the week and one or two items I can put into the freezer to have on hand. Just plan ahead what you’re making and make sure you add the ingredients you need to your grocery shopping list! There’s nothing like finding out you’ve run out of oil when you’ve already mixed most of the ingredients together :D
2. Meal Planning
This is a very touchy subject with me. I’ve been on the meal planning soapbox for YEARS! I even did a series on Homemakers Challenge last year about it:
- Preparing Your Rotation System
- Preparing Your Pantry, Fridge and Freezer For Meal Planning
- Putting It All Together – Menu Planning Rotation System
I made a really cool menu planning board.
Yet it’s SUCH a hard thing for me to meal plan! Carving out the time to plan the meals is what kills me. Mostly because I have such a pinterest addiction to recipes that it takes me FOREVER to pick what I want to make! Oh, and I usually get around to it AFTER I’ve grocery shopped already – so that’s just a tad bit limiting. But the time and money wasted from NOT meal planning is not worth it. So a few weeks ago I sat down and decided to try Plan to Eat and see if it would be a helpful tool for me. I’m using the free 30-day trial right now, and after I got over the initial over-whelmed feeling, things have been going well! Of course, since I have so many recipes to add from pinterest, it’s taking some time to set up – I can import the recipes into the program and it will pick up the ingredients for me so I can add them to a grocery shopping list after I’ve added them to a meal plan. BUT you can also search for recipes already in there from Plan to Eat and other people, add your friends and share recipes. It does cost after the first month ($39 a year), but I know that I will save at LEAST that by not having excess on my grocery shopping list or wasting money on things we didn’t need. If you want a free option you can try Say Mmm. It’s only free up to 100 recipes though. But it does let you meal plan and add recipes from online with ingredients to your grocery list. I have also heard good things about Menu Planning Central and Cook’n (this one is a paid menu planning software program). However you decide to do it, work out a plan that works best for you. Plan a week, or two, or four in advance. Make the time – it IS worth it so you’re not scrambling at 5:00 trying to figure out what to make!
3. SOMETIMES You’ve Just Got to Let it go
We eat cereal for dinner. We eat breakfast and popcorn for dinner. We eat a lot of pizza. We order in food. We have the same thing twice in a row. In the big picture and grand scheme of things, you will survive! Just do the best you can with the day you have and keep on moving on. It WILL get better!