In this episode we are talking all about simple steps to make your spring meal planning faster and less stressful!

5 Simple Meal Planning Tips for Busy Teachers Transcript

Welcome to our extra credit episode this week. Earlier on Sunday, we discussed the “E” in CLEAN, which was evaluate. 

One thing that I think a lot of us are also reevaluating this time of year is our meal planning. 

We are getting so busy with our kids’ extracurricular activities, and we’re also busy ourselves just wanting to spend time outside. Usually we’re rethinking how we like to meal plan or meal prep, especially going into summer. 

While I actually have a very thorough meal planning system where I meal plan once, and try to shop once, for the entire month (outside of like perishable goods), I don’t have the time for that right now. I don’t think many of us do. 

So I want to give you a few quick tips for meal planning to help simplify that area of your life. 

This is actually one of the most requested topics that I keep getting over and over again. And like I said, we’ll dive into the full meal planning closer to summer when we have the bandwidth to do it. But for right now we’re gonna go through a couple of quick steps. 

Master Recipe List

The first one, and this is a big one. It seems so simple, but it’s so often overlooked. You need a master recipe list. 

You need a go-to list when your brain cannot think any more of the foods that you not only like to cook and can cook pretty easily, but also your family likes to eat. 

So I want you to keep a list pretty visible somewhere in your kitchen. 

Whether that is inside your pantry door, maybe on the fridge, maybe in the drawer with the oven mitts, wherever it is somewhere that you can see it and you can add to it. 

Because the first couple of times you sit down and try to think of all the recipes, you know, you’re gonna forget some. 

I’ve been doing this for years. It probably took me a solid two years before I had most of the things on that list. Because you go in and out of phases, and you forget the types of food that you liked for a season and then kind of overdid it on. But someday you might want to go back. 

There’s also some seasonal foods in there that maybe you don’t think about..for example, chili now that it’s spring. But chili is one of my go twos in the winter. 

So you’re going to continuously add to this list to reduce that decision fatigue that you’re going to have at the end of the day when you’d forgotten to plan ahead. But step two should help you out a lot. 

Theme Days

When I get overwhelmed with meal planning, I default to theme days. I love a solid theme. I will dress up for them at school, and I will plan for them in my meals.

I want you to consider five to six categories of foods that you know how to cook and you like to eat. 

So I, for example, do Mexican Mondays. I don’t do Taco Tuesdays anymore, because Mexican Mondays are so much easier for me on a Monday. 

We used to do crock pots, a casserole meal, soup days, pizza days and eating out. 

Leftovers is not going to be a category because that’s going to be kind of your filler day for the categories that we have. 

You can have Italian night, Asian night, grill out, homemade classics, whatever themes come to your mind. 

You want to pick five or six of them. Why five or six? Because you should really only be making five or six meals in a week and then living off of leftovers or quick to go food after that.  

You don’t need to cook seven times a week. I’m just gonna throw that out there. 

And maybe Monday is leftover day. That doesn’t feel natural, but also who really comes home from a Monday and wants to cook. It’s not a bad idea. I’ve never tried it. But I might have to do that now. 

Break Down Master List

After you have those categories, start with your master recipe list and break down anything that you have into those categories. 

You might need to add some in or look some up, but you want like four to five in each of the categories. 

What’s great is you really don’t need any more than that. Because if you have, let’s say six categories, and you come up with five meals and each of those categories, that’s 30 meals. You know how many days are in a month? 30 ish, depending on the month. 

So I want you to consider that your meal plan. 

You can always eliminate something, move things around as schedules allow or pop up. But that gives you a really great meal plan and guide for the week. 

If you realize that maybe six meals a week is too much for you…I know right now, I can cook two meals for the whole week from my husband and I and that’s all we really need. 

Two meals is not that hard to meal prep for and we eat the leftovers for lunch. I cook a double batch and I freeze when necessary. And it’s just very helpful to have that going. 

Actually one of the categories we have right now is eating out of our deep freezer, because I may have prepped a lot in the past. 

Categorize Your Meals

The last thing I want you to do is while you’re looking at that guide that you have, the meal outline based on those categories and recipes you know you and your family like, I want you just kind of rearranged them by meat type. 

If you are going to do chicken enchiladas, maybe later in the week, you have chicken parm. Try not to make yourself have to buy five different proteins in the week. And double up where you can to save some energy and to save some money. 

Double and Freeze a Recipe

I have just two more small tips, one I’ve mentioned. But it’s always handy to double and freeze a recipe.

It doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. I will put them into freezer ziplocs so that I have all the ingredients ready to go and then I can just pull them out when ready. 

Or if it’s something that’s pre cooked, I just buy a whole bunch of foil pans, and then I’m set. 

But for the day-of leftover, what I want you to do is actually go ahead and put those into single serving containers. 

Whether they can be for lunches or they can be grab-and-go for whoever wants leftovers. That way you don’t have all of these massive pans sitting in your fridge just taking up space. 

It’s a lot easier to see and it’s a lot easier for people to maneuver if they know that every single one of your meal prep containers is black, and has some delicious meal from the week. 

That’s what I use for all of my lunches. My husband does the same and it makes life easier. 

It also frees up your pans so you don’t have to keep so many 9 x 13 pans for all the casseroles you want to do. 

Anyway, I hope that some of these quick tips were helpful for you. Our extra credit episodes are going back to being nice, short and sweet. And I will see you next time. 

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51: Simple Steps to Letting Go and Decluttering for Spring CLEANing

52: Extra Credit On How to Start Decluttering

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Keywords: meal planning, categories, leftovers, recipe, plan, theme days, easy