Let’s be real for a minute. Being a parent is HARD. It’s hard if you stay home. It’s hard if you work outside the home. It’s hard if you have 1. It’s hard if you have 4 (or more!). It’s just hard. And incredibly rewarding and amazing…and frustrating and maddening. Sometimes all at the same time!
One thing that I struggle with is feeding everyone. Seriously, just the basics can be really, really hard. About once per week I would go to the store and load the cart with good intentions. From there, I look at it and make plans in my head. Then I get home too late, or the kids are cranky, or I’m just tired. Then I watch all the good, healthy food go bad until I eventually feed it to the chickens or throw it away. Meanwhile, we pop in a frozen pizza or make PB&J and call it good.
The thing that has saved us is some super basic meal planning and weekly prep. Here are the steps I go through:
- OPTION 1: Choose your meats, plus 1-2 veggies (+ rice, barley, quinoa, pasta, etc. if you do carbs).
- OPTION 2: If you’re feeling fancy! I start by browsing recipe books, my old Blue Apron recipe cards, or online for ideas based on my current food mood. Then I make a list of all dinners I want to make and make a list of ingredients I need to buy
- It’s KEY to have a least a few super quick dinners to fix – like breakfast for dinner or spaghetti. Because…life happens
- I keep breakfast simple – cereal, pancakes (frozen), or eggs for the kids. (I just have a protein shake so that’s super easy!).
- I assume 3-4 lunches will be leftovers and I make really simple lunches to fill in the blanks. Sandwiches, quesadillas, etc.
- My lunches are always mason jar salads – quick, easy, versatile, and they keep all week!
- To my list I add snack options. I eat what we have in the house so I try to pick things that would still be healthy for me. String cheese, apples, berries (blueberries are in season – go pick some for way cheaper than a store!), pretzels, etc.
The biggest thing I’ve found to be super helpful is to, when I get home from the store, start prepping things. Or do it at nap time or after bedtime! You can use Tupperware or just Ziplock baggies. I will wash and chop all my veggies so they’re easy to add to salads or throw in a pan for dinner. I do the same with fruit so it’s cut and ready to snack on. The kids love strawberries, but you need to wash them and cut the tops off. Possibly cut them up too. It’s easier to reach for junk in the name of time when you’ve got a hangry little one. This solves that one little thing…and sometimes the little things make all the difference.
I’ll portion out big packs of chicken (or other meat) into the amount I’ll cook for a meal (bonus points if you toss in a marinade!). If there is a sale I’ll stock up and freeze meal size portions for later. While it takes me about an hour to do this for a family of 6, it saves loads of time by not needing to prep when making meals or getting kids quick snacks. I make my weekly mason jar salads at this time too.
I feel like this relatively small amount of prep both saves up time and money (food is being eaten and not going bad!). Speaking on money, if you haven’t discovered Aldi yet, get thee to a store! I can easily feed our family of 6 all 3 meals plus snacks for a whole week for $90-150 (depending if I’m also buying things like toilet paper). so let’s do the math there. 2 people eat 2 meals per day (28 meals per week) and 4 eat 3 meals per day (84 meals per week). Todd and I do shakes for breakfast. That’s 112 meals per week – YOWZA! At the top end, that’s $1.34/meal – hooray for Aldi! Add our shakes and it bumps to $1.78/meal. Still awesome!