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These 2 tips for meal plan success are so implement, but will make a huge difference in your stress levels in the kitchen and your ability to put dinner on the table.
Have you spent loads of time planning menus that never get put on the table? Maybe you think you don’t have time to meal plan so you use a meal planning app or download a free meal plan from your favorite blogger to save time.
You want to succeed at menu planning and make homemade meals a bigger part of your life, but every time you try you end up with a garbage can full of takeout wrappers and a fridge full of rotting produce.
You guys. I have totally been there.
Today I want to share just one tiny mistake that most people make when they get started with meal planning.
2 Tips for meal plan success
You plan your menu before you plan your life.
Why a weekly planning session is key to your meal plan success
I get it, taking the time to plan your weeks in detail takes time, and after all, you are already taking the time to plan your menu so you don’t feel like you have time to plan your week in detail too.
I promise though, this little nugget of information will skyrocket the likelihood of the meals you plan actually making it to the table.
Your menu should be planned about your life, instead of your life planned around your menu.
The way I make this happen is by scheduling a weekly planning session.
Yes you read that right. I plan to plan. Every Sunday I take anywhere from 1-2 hours planning my life and then planning my menu after I KNOW that Wednesday I’m only going to be home for 45 seconds.
When I can see on paper that I have 8 million things to do on Wednesday, I’m not going to be dumb enough to plan that 12-layer lasagna that takes 2 hours in the oven. Nope. Nevagonnahappen. Instead, that’ll be my grilled cheese night. Or crockpot night. Or night I pop something homemade in the oven from my freezer from another time that I planned well and was super prepared.
What exactly should I plan in my weekly planning session?
Your weekly planning session should include everything predictable in your life. This means taking note of every doctor’s appointment, play date, work meeting, you name it.
Your planning session should also include all of the unscheduled things that absolutely must get done (laundry, grocery shopping, lawn mowing etc…)
After you have all of these things out on paper, you’ll have a much more realistic idea of how much time you have to dedicate to cooking and meal prep.
I’ve created a meal plan planner template that outlines everything you should be thinking about during your weekly planning session.
How an emergency fund can boost your meal plan success
What about the days that “life happens”
Guys. I’m a mom of 3 littles. I know that days get unexpectedly crazy. In fact, today (my only dedicated workday this week) I have an unexpected 4-hour commitment to head to in 20 minutes.
We have also had the 7 plagues run through our house in the past month.
Oh, and my daughter’s going through a potty-training regression (I have dealt with more bodily fluids in the last 4 months from sickness, diapers, and potty training than any human wants to deal with for a lifetime.
Also, there’s usually at least one of my 3 children in my bed by 5 am ever morning. By 6:30 everyone’s awake and ready to start the day.
The point is. I get that “life happens.” There will be completely unexpected, out of control days.
This is where an “emergency fund” comes into play.
What is a cooking emergency fund?
An emergency fund is my secret weapon to insure that even on days when crap hits the fan, we can still have a homemade dinner.
My cooking emergency fund consists of items that I always have on hand that can help me get dinner on the table in no time flat. Meals that are already cooked and frozen are part of my emergency fund. Staples like eggs, tortillas, tomato sauce, cheese are also part of my emergency fund.
How do I create a cooking emergency fund?
The easiest way for me to create a cooking emergency fund is to plan one extra meal per week that is shelf-stable or can be frozen. I think the easiest thing to do is to plan one of these types of meals on a night you’ll be cooking and buy double.
If it’s a pantry staple that night (breakfast burritos or spaghetti for example) all that’s left to do is to write the meal down in a place you’ll be able to see it when you’re starting to get stressed about what’s for dinner (on the fridge is ideal!)
If you’re interested I have made you this little cheat sheet for keeping track of the meals you make!
If it’s a freezer meal than just cook double on the night you plan it and save it for later. Then write it down on your list
The idea is that over time you will start to have a stash of emergency meals for all different kinds of crazy days. You’ll have a plan for days that you have no time, days that you have no energy, and days when you think you have no ingredients.
How your weekly schedule and emergency fund work together.
By scheduling a planning session, the number of days that you are completely unprepared for dinner should decrease drastically.
Your emergency fund is there to pick up the slack for the unexpected crazy so that you will be able to put a homemade meal on the table any night you want and plan to.
Takeout, convenience food, and going out to dinner can be fun and I’m certainly not advocating removing any of these things from your life entirely, but by planning your life you can use these things for fun instead of a crutch that you constantly rely on to put dinner on the table.
If you want to learn more about meal planning, be sure to check out my mini-course why your meal plan is failing and what you can do about it.
What productivity tools do you use to make your life run smoother