So, we’re going to go in a different direction today and focus on taking some semblance of control in the house. When it comes to leadership in the house, I always think of ways to make things easier and give myself some peace. During this year with COVID, jobs adjustments, children doing school from home, and limited options for going places, easy is important. First, my husband and I love both love to cook. We enjoy searching for new recipes and trying them out with our family. However, since being home, cooking everyday for all of the meals has become taxing. We got tired of thinking of things to cook and found it hard to adjust to making breakfast, lunch, and dinner EVERY DAY. I mean, when we were leaving the house to go to work and the kids were going to school, I managed breakfast (which consisted of breakfast bars and the occasional waffle here and there). Lunch was taken care of because we either ate out with our work families (kids ate at school), or we brought leftover dinners for lunch. Therefore, except for the weekends, dinner was the only meal to plan.
Then came COVID-19.
Over time, we fell into the trap of not doing the things we once did (like planning meals) and we began ordering out. If you’re like me and working towards financial freedom, this was bad. Grubhub and Doordash became our best friends and our grocery budget faded fast. I’ve always been raised with the mantra of “If your house isn’t in order, nothing else will be either,” so this caused me stress, until I went back to a lesson taught to me by a former student of mine: Meal plan! It may sound strange that I learned this lesson from a former student, but she was a full-time employee and single parent of three, who also cared for her elderly aunt a few times per week. Oh, and she was working to get her Bachelor’s. Life wasn’t easy for her, but I noticed that she managed her days well (or so it seemed). When asking her what her days were like, she immediately talked about meal planning. Long story short, I learned to do this as my life picked up speed. BUT, with the fast changes due to a pandemic, I stopped doing it and chaos ensued. Have you ever tried being productive with people walking around the house asking, “What can we eat?” So there it was. That was my way of making home life easier. Put the meals on autopilot. If you’ve never tried it and you have a chaotic life (being at home or not), meal planning is key.
How to do it
If you’re not too picky, the logistics of carrying out the plan is more difficult than actually planning. Let’s take a 30-day month. I’ll plan 15 meals and make them twice. BOOM- there’s dinner. My family is pretty consistent with their taste buds, so for breakfast and lunch, I don’t have to think of 15 meals; usually, it’s 4-5 for each meal and we repeat it (ex. Cereal; waffles; eggs and grits; fruit and yogurt; breakfast burritos). After planning the dinners and shopping for them, I then do something not fun at all, but necessary (sounds a lot like work life): I get up early one morning and mass cook [also known as bulk cooking or batch cooking]. With mass cooking, you make a bunch of meals at once (or part of a meal) and freeze it such as lasagna, spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, chicken, etc. It all gets made and safely packaged for the freezer. You can also place all ingredients for a meal in a large plastic bag and freeze it (ex. Veggies and uncooked meats for casseroles or baked dishes). So yes, at 5 am twice a month (to cover two weeks of meals), mass cooking happens with me, my ipad and a favorite show, and a wonderful cup of coffee! STRONG COFFEE.
Okay, so for logistics. The only way meal planning will save you is if you remember to take the frozen meals out the night before! I made the mistake of going all day, forgetting to take a meal out so that it can thaw-AHHH! So now I, or someone else in the house, will pull out a frozen meal so that it can thaw and be ready for me to throw into the crockpot the next morning, or the oven 30 minutes to 1 hour before we eat dinner. WINNING!
Skills for children?
Meal planning has also been great for our kids. They sit down with me, help me decide on meals, make a grocery list, and help me measure ingredients and freeze meals. It’s gotten to the point where they actually enjoy this because they’re allowed to be in charge of some things. They’ve also figured out that if they help me decide on meals, then they have a better chance of eating things they really like.
For our household, meal planning has been the only way we can do our work, run side businesses, and take care of other needs that randomly pop up at any hour of the day, while working towards financial freedom. If you’ve never tried it, try it. If you have tried it and have helpful tips on making it easier, please offer them.
Keep leading and stay safe,