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When I decided I had to learn how to meal plan, I didn’t schedule time to do it when I wasn’t distracted by other things. In other words, I didn’t plan time to plan.
The idea that we can multitask is a myth, so if you’re trying to meal plan, take care of your kids, and talk to your husband all at the same time, the meal planning is going to take a whole lot longer and you’ll probably make mistakes.
And this is the part where you’re getting frustrated with me because you’re wondering when exactly you’re supposed to fit another thing into your week. Amiright?
I hear ya, mama. Let’s list some of the things we’re told to do as women … Practice self care! Spend quality time with your kids! Date your husband! Exercise! Eat healthy! Build a business! Volunteer!
Shoot, I’m tired just writing it all out. So I can see why you’d be a little frustrated with me.
I admit that I don’t like having to schedule much in my personal life. When I was working, I stuck to to-do lists and schedules like a mad woman. But as soon as I left the office, I was a free woman. My husband and I left the weekends open to do whatever sounded fun in the moment.
Then we had kids, and then Ryan started his own business. I still fought schedules tooth and nail until I finally realized that they were absolutely necessary to accomplish anything.
How to Meal Plan: The Benefits of Scheduling Time
Once I started scheduling, I recognized how much it freed my mind during each task or activity. If I plan to go to the park with the kids in the morning and then prep food in the afternoon, I don’t spend my time with the kids thinking about the food I need to make.
If you’re like me and don’t like scheduling your time, I want you to try thinking about it the way I do. You won’t worry about shopping on Friday if you plan to do it on Saturday. Scheduling will allow you to focus on other things and not worry about meal planning.
How to Schedule Meal Planning
(Don’t forget to check out my step-by-step meal planning guide for more detailed how to meal plan help!)
Plan when you’re going to do each step (planning/scheduling, shopping, prepping, and cooking) and tell everyone who needs to know (spouse, kids, etc.). Set timers on your phone to remind you when it’s time to move on to something else. Take breaks. And remember: don’t multitask. If you’re creating your menu and watching TV at the same, chances are it’ll take you longer to finish your menu.
Now you need to think about when you’re going to do the different things. I don’t recommend scheduling, shopping, and prepping all in one day but you might be able to handle it depending on your other priorities.
Let me tell you what works for me. I’ll usually schedule on Friday evening, shop on Saturday, and prep on Sunday and Monday. My weekly calendar starts on Monday, which means my first dinner of the “week” is made on Monday. I usually spend the day getting caught up around the house after a busy weekend with the kids, so I can do some prep work during that time.
Because I have young kids who aren’t in a million activities yet, I’m usually able to stick to meal planning, shopping and prepping on the same days each week. But if your schedule changes a lot with work, travel, kids’ activities or social obligations, you may need to adjust the days you meal plan each week. While you’re scheduling your meals on the calendar, look at when you can fit in your meal planning tasks for the following week.
Check the weather, too! If Monday is going to be a beautiful day, schedule your prep work for Sunday or Tuesday instead. Go enjoy being outside!
If you work from home or work a flexible schedule, you may like shopping on a Tuesday in the middle of the day. My parents have an upgraded Sam’s Club membership that allows them to shop extra hours in the morning because my dad gets really annoyed if there is any line at all. After more than 40 years of marriage, my mom knows that things that allow them to avoid crowds are priceless! (Love you, Dad. Mean it.)
Give Yourself Some Grace
And I feel like it’s worth mentioning, there might be times when you’re in survival mode and the best you can do is feed your family something…anything. Maybe you just had a baby or you started back to work. Maybe you’re moving or renovating your house. Having a meal planning system is a huge help during those times, but you might also find that ordering delivery is the most you can do. Remember that it won’t last forever, and when you’re ready to get back to meal planning, you have an easy, established system to come back to.