You can judge the state of chaotic-ness in our family by one thing alone: meals.

Yep, if I have the meals under control for my crowd of hungry little people and menfolk, I somehow feel better about things, even if the washer is broken and the house is a disaster, meals are somehow the standard by which all other things are measured.

I found a system that works for me.  And I don’t always follow it, but when I do, I’m amazed.

Here’s what I do:

1. Over the weekend plan just 3 meals for the next week

I  don’t assign a day to each meal, because life is crazy I want to be able to make my mind up the morning or night before about what we are having. And if I plan a meal for a certain day and we don’t have it on that day, because I’m a control freak, it puts me in a funk.  So I don’t match the meals to the days so I can stay sane.  But usually I cook on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  It’s really nothing fancy for example, this week:

THAT’s it.  That is ALL the meals I have planned for the entire week.  And it’s enough because, of rule number 2

2. Keep a few items on hand all the time

  • pork loin in the freezer
  • beef stew meat in the freezer
  • chicken in the freezer
  • rice
  • italian turkey meatballs
  • pasta
  • pillsbury pie crust for chicken pie
  • cheese {how embarrassing}
  • fruit
  • vegetables that my kids will actually eat {carrots, broccoli, asparagus and cucumber}

I try to always have a pork loin in the freezer so if I need to make this I can.  The other ingredients are always in my cabinets and my boys would dip legos in the sauce and eat it.  It’s that good.

3. Sunday or Monday: make bread dough.  Yes, I just wrote that.

I PROMISE, it’s SO easy, like 3 or 4 ingredients.  I HATE to bake, I hate perfect measurements and this dough is really forgiving and takes literally 5 minutes to make.

You don’t knead it.

You just let it rise and then put the big batch of dough in the fridge.  You pull off a hunk and let that rise whenever you need bread and the dough lasts in the refrigerator–for 14 days!

You can find out all about that dough in the book: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. There is also a website, and here is the master recipe if you are ambitious and want to make your bread NOW.  Wow, that website has lots of information, maybe you don’t even need the book?  I like having the book because I like books and it’s easy to find everything. Now my kids are bread addicts.  They would rather have fresh bread when they come home from school than cookies–it’s that good.

The truth is, when I make bread with my own two hands, I feel slightly like superwoman.

this is the first loaf I ever made, I DIED that it was so beautiful!  ME! I made real bread! in a real loaf shape! and it tasted good!  I am now a 5 minutes a day bread evangelist!

4. Sunday or Monday Make A Big Salad

Sometimes I buy a salad kit and pour that into a big bowl sometimes I buy heads of lettuce and actually chop and junk, and then I put in whatever vegetables we have around depending on what I’m planning for dinners that week.  We eat the salad every dayish for the first few days and sometimes we have Big Salad night where we have hardboiled eggs and ham in our salad and we call that a meal.  My husband is ok with that~and of course there is bread so everyone is happy and I feel like a real adult even if I used bagged salad because hello, homemade bread people.

5. Regular Days

For the past four years I’ve made pizza EVERY Friday.  I did that until my boys started playing Hockey and now sometimes Friday is busier for us.  But, if we are home I can use the bread dough for pizza or I make whole wheat pizza dough.

  • Friday is pizza night
  • Saturday is soup day–so my sister just told me this one and I’m already doing it and loving it.  Kendra, from the now closed blog, My First Kitchen says she makes a batch of soup every Saturday and then eats it for lunch all week.  I think that is brilliant so now I make soup on Saturday too.
  • Sunday is cheese night. We are healthy, no?  Really, grilled cheese or dang cheese quesadillas and cut up apples or strawberries and whatever is around the house–yogurt, left over brocoli casserole, soup?  My husband eats at church every Sunday night so it’s just me and the boys so we get cheese.
  • Leftover night

Usually, Thursday is leftover night, after making a meal Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we usually have leftovers and hey, I can make a batch of bread!

6. Grocery Shop Online

This is one of those luxuries I only afforded myself if I was deathly ill or hugely pregnant.  But now that Nesting Place is growing into the work that I love, I’ve decided it’s worth the $16.95 a month to have someone else do my grocery shopping for me.  This morning I placed an order at Harris Teeter after 8am and at 9:30 Melissa called to let me know my order is ready.  I’ll have time to get the chicken in the crock pot for dinner tonight.

Once I decided to focus on doing the things that ONLY I can do – {I’m the only one who can be a wife to my husband, mom to my boys, writer of Nesting Place, exercise for me, make my own friends} and get help in the areas that someone else can do for me, I saw spending that $17 a month differently.  It saves me hours a month to pay someone else to shop for me and since I have my own business, I can afford to pay someone.  Our grocery store even lets you use coupons with your online order–I’m seriously considering paying someone to clip coupons for me.

It’s taken me ages to figure out what works for me, but a mixture of planning, flexibility and routine and allowing someone else to help has worked for me. And when I actually take a few minutes over the weekend to think about our meals, our days magically go better.

Now, lay it on me, I know you have some life changing meal tips that will change my life, what are they?

how to plan out meals