Psst: Top Secret – Get the same meal planner for FREE here as a part of the “Feeding your Busy Family” email series!
How has your week been? Thursdays are always busy in our family, as we juggle homeschool co-op, sports practices, errands and more. Plus, we’re usually coming to the end of our meal plan and have gone through the week’s meal prep, so I’m looking ahead to the weekend and the following week.
And that’s why I wanted my first real email to you to come on a Thursday, so I can share with you exactly what I do, and invite you to join in.
Today, I want you to do just a few small tasks to get ready for your first full week of family meals. These should only take a couple minutes. It’s all about setting yourself up for success in an efficient way.
So, here’s your to-do list:
- Look at your calendar for this weekend and next week and note any special events or activities that may affect your normal schedule. Do the kids have swim team on Monday nights? Are you scheduled to have dinner on Thursday with some friends, and so you won’t be home to eat with your family? Will vegan Aunt Susie be joining you for Sunday brunch? These events tend to sneak up, and planning ahead can make a big difference.
- Talk to your family and set some goals together. You’ll need their support to make family meals a big success, so see if some (flexible!) family rules might be helpful. Can everyone agree to help set the table and be ready to eat at 6pm on weeknights? Can you have a standing agreement that for 30 minutes every Friday, you get some quiet time to meal plan and make a grocery list, without interruptions? That may mean that you need to have an activity ready to keep the kids occupied, or have your partner handle school pick-up so you can use that time to work, and I find that it’s easier to have that on the calendar ahead of time, rather than trying to find that 30-minute window on the fly. *Use this discussion time to also give your family a peek into the thought and effort that goes into planning weekly dinners. I didn’t fully grasp what an incredible job my mom did at putting wholesome meals on the table for us growing up until I became a mom myself. It’s important for our families to know that while we embrace (and perhaps even enjoy) this aspect of caring for them, that it doesn’t happen magically. Allowing our families to see the planning that goes into it will heighten appreciation and respect for meal times, as well as teach our children valuable life skills for their future.
- Take a quick survey of your pantry and fridge. Is it overflowing with items? Are they organized or all over the place? If you’re overwhelmed when you open the doors — and I get it, if you are! — this is a good time to do a sprint cleanup. Take 5 minutes to pull out any expired foods, any foods or staples that you just don’t think you’ll ever use, any open items that may have gone stale, etc. Do not worry about doing a full overhaul right now. But if you can get even a few things out of there, you’ll feel better! (And you may be able to donate some of the shelf-stable items to a local food pantry, so it won’t be wasted.)
If you like to use apps or technology to keep your family’s busy life on track, a shared Google calendar, or the Google Keep app can be really helpful. If, like me, you prefer using good ol’ pen and paper, you may find this simple weekly calendar I’ve created to be helpful. Print out a few copies, and then you can start to fill in your meal plan, jot down reminders and notes for the week, work on your grocery list and more. Remember, it’s your plan, so use it however works best for you.