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With being a single mom of a recently-turned 5-year-old and a 6-month-old, life tends to get a bit crazy sometimes. Before the youngest addition, meal planning seemed a whole lot easier and I felt reasonably competent. I spent time making extravagant meals, like a beautiful leg of lamb garnished with green onion and roasted root vegetables, healthy gluten free lasagna with homemade meat sauce, and keto chicken enchiladas with a homemade sauce.
Now that I am working through some significant life changes, planning out what my family eats has become increasingly difficult. Add in that my oldest has suddenly decided he’s picky (only wants macaroni and cheese, pizza and chicken nuggets – and I am celiac), and recently introducing some solids to the infant, I’m now focused on three different menus.
I realized in my attempt to keep up with it all that I’ve spent an obscene amount of time in the kitchen instead of spending time doing things that matter more. Something had to give! I had to simplify.
7 Ways to Simplify Meal Planning
- I had to view food differently. Yes, food should taste good. However, when it’s just myself and my two kids, food is energy and nourishment, not an art project. Once I put aside the expectation that every meal be Pinterest-worthy, I was able to focus on finding simple, healthy ways to nourish my family.
- I had to become more flexible. I’d love to say that my days are routine, but in all honesty, every day can look a little different. I learned that if I keep multiple options on hand in the fridge, I can base my meal choice on how much time I have.
- I made large batches of simple sauces and froze them. Teriyaki sauce, enchilada sauce, barbecue sauces, any sauces that could be used for multiple meals. The trick to making great sauces is using high quality oils and a variety of flavorful herbs and spices.
- I started buying more snack items. My oldest has been a challenge to feed because one day he likes something, and the next moment he doesn’t. I’m finding that having a variety of grab-and-go healthy snacks on hand, like Wildly Organic nuts, popcorn, fruits, cheeses, and frozen berries, make for healthier nourishment when he just refuses to eat anything else.
- I try not to cook often. Especially during warmer weather. I can batch cook lightly seasoned meat on the grill, in the oven, or in an instant pot and use a variety of seasonings for whatever I’m pairing it with during the week. Adding pre-cooked meat to your dishes is a huge time-saver.
- Homemade salad dressings. The moment I realized just how EASY it was to make my own salad dressings using quality oils and seasonings, I was hooked! Olive oil and apple cider vinegar with a pinch of sea salt is one of my favorite go-to recipes. I use about a 50/50 ratio of oil to vinegar. Dressings often make great marinades too, not just for salad dressing.
- I limit extravagant meals to once a week. To satisfy my inner domestic goddess ego, I allow myself to plan one less-than-simple meal each week, usually to entertain guests.
Simplified meal planning allows me to spend less time stressing in the kitchen and spending more time with my family. Taking my children to do things outside instead of spending hours in front of media is so important to me. Meal planning also allows me to focus on planning for a bright future for my little family because as we all know, they grow up so fast!