Before kids we just kinda winged every meal and ate lots of hamburger helper. I had no idea how to cook a damn thing!
After our first… when he started eating solids our food intake got real! I refused to feed my little hamburger helper. So everyday I’d call my Grandma and ask her how to exactly cook every meal she made for us growing up. She was the main cooker in my family. I’m talking I asked what temp and for how long do you bake chicken at! I was absolutely clueless to cooking anything from scratch and that didn’t come in a box with instructions. But we didn’t that be our littles lifestyle. Over time and after having my 3rd little I realized how important it was to menu plan. Honestly it’s way easier than you think. It also way easier on your budget when you know what your making and buy it all instead of daily grocery trips. In my beginning stages I started with canned veggies, Pre seasoned meats and instant potatoes or pasta roni packs. Now that I’m becoming a seasoned cook after almost 6 years of cooking actual meals I’ve learned a thing or two about making meals from scratch. Don’t get me wrong I occasionally still used canned veggies or pasta packs but on the rare occasion. Below is my menu planning 101 for any mama wanting to step out and venture a life of sanity cooking.
Start with a game plan!
Before you jump into menu planning decide how often you plan to make a fresh meal. Some items can be doubled and frozen later (casseroles) + some you can cook the meat for that meal and the next meal at the same time to cut down on time… essential for you working mamas!
Build up a staple system
When you start menu planning it’s good to get the basic items you will use on a regular basis in your spice cabinet or pantry. My pantry + spice cabinet staples are: Salt Pepper Garlic powder Chicken + Beef bouillon cubes (instead of liquid broths) Flour Olive oil Vegetable oil ( I was recently informed that this is far from healthy) Corn starch Honey Powder ranch packets Parmesan cheese I do have other staples and spices we keep on hand… but if your just starting out these items will cover basically anything you need to make a yummy meal!
Build a recipe list
My first recipe lists came from my grandmother. I made exactly what she did. Teaspoon for teaspoon. As I leaned the taste of how things came together I started experimenting and creating my own recipes or tweaking hers to fit my families likes and dislikes. Pinterest is a great place to find recipes! If it’s not from my grandma, something I conjured up myself then it came from Pinterest! I’m talking I got my first meatloaf, stir fry or lasagna recipe from Pinterest! You won’t always love the recipes but if you kinda like them then you can tweak them to to your families likes. I know this is the most daunting thing for most people. I used to struggle with a recipe list!
Loop through your recipe list
Create a planning system
Menu planning works best when you do a weekly shopping trip! Trust me I used to try and stretch out my grocery trips as long as possible… mostly because I’m now having to take 3 Little’s with me to the grocery store. So the less trips the better. But honestly now that I do weekly trips life is so much easier and our meals are way more healthier! We eat way more fresh fruits and veggies than we ever have in our life!
Have theme nights
The best tip I have about menu planning is keeping it fun! Create a menu plan theme. I started out with having specific days of the week being geared towards a specific type of food. My fun menu planning started out basic and these are the themes I did for the days of the week. Chicken night Beef night Pork night Seafood night Easy night (pizza, hot dogs, burgers etc) Pasta night Steak night I eventually graduated past the basics and I now incorporate national holiday themed meals (which change everyday) and a “taco Tuesday” night. My kids love knowing it’s taco Tuesday and we will be having a taco themed night. Every week isn’t tacos. I change it up each week by doing “build your own tacos, taco bake, enchiladas + fajitas. This keeps it fun and entertaining for my children and myself on cooking. You can even go more in depth and do more themes on specific nights! Some themes I’ve considered trying out are: Asian Mexican Italian American Breakfast for dinner Pasta Rice Kids cook Take out Dine out Grill out Opening up your menu planning to themed is a great way to broaden your choices and help you decide which meals to make on certain days which out the stress of planning a meal! This is how I started out tracking. I saved them for repeat weeks.
Make a meal plan budget
Menu planning isn’t just about have meals planned for the week. It can also be about not breaking the bank to eat… especially healthy! Eating healthy is the most expensive option there is. It’s way cheaper to live off fast food every day than it is to eat healthy home made meals. By making a menu plan you are buying exactly what you need for the week. You don’t excessively buy things that will soon rot and mold. I only get enough fresh items to hold us through that week. If I go beyond that then I end up throwing the majority of it away! Do you menu plan? Do you wing it? Do you have no idea what your doing when it comes to cooking? Then please comment below and share your journey! Want to know when I post my favorite Pinterest recipes post? Want to know if I post a recipe how to post? Then scroll down and subscribe to my blog! Want more in depth info on how I personally plan our weeks? Then message me and let’s combine forces! Or better yet… head to my IG @mama_bear_wooten and follow my stories to see updates on what we are eating or planning for the week. I share about them often!