Dinner Meals Made Manageable

An example of a weekly meal plan on the back of my shopping list.
An example of a weekly meal plan on the back of my shopping list.

I remember when I brought my son home from the hospital 2 1/2 years ago, one of my biggest fears was that I would never be able to cook dinner again.  How could anyone cook while having to tend to a fussy, hungry baby?  Cooking seemed like an impossible task at the time.

And then it happened.  He grew up into a toddler.  While my hands are free from baby holding, my attention is undoubtedly divided while trying to put on a meal.  But getting a meal together happens much easier.  This is a luxury that I know I will only enjoy for a few more months since baby brother is due in March.

Once I got back into being able to make meals again,  I planned meals… well loosely.  I sort of thought about what we’d have that week, but then when it came time to make dinner that night, I would either have trouble deciding which meal to make or if I did decide I couldn’t locate the recipe (usually that I found online) but failed to save.  Defrosting meat at the last minute, looking at tiny recipes on my phone, and trying to get it done quickly were not working.

I decided to be more deliberate about planning the meal and preparing for it ahead of time.  Based on my personality type, planning and structure are not my tendency.  I like going with the flow and spontaneity.   I love trying to improvise, BUT toddlers are creatures of structure and predictability so I realized for the purpose of peaceful meal prep, I needed to get more organized.  Now, when I plan my week of meals, I assign a specific day for a certain meal.  Some shifting does occur at times, or if we decide to go out at the last minute, I can try to adjust the plan.  But this is not the usual.

The night before I remind myself what’s for dinner tomorrow and take any meat or cheese out of the freezer to defrost.  I try to locate the recipe and have it ready and print it if need be.  In regards to remembering recipes, I have found that  Pinterest helps out the process.  If I am using a Pinterest recipe, I can either Pin it to one of my boards or like it. It took me a long time to realize that liking a pin allows you to find it again without actually pinning it.  I also realized that on my iPhone app, if I click on the word PINS under my name I can see all of them, so I don’t have to click from board to board looking for recipes I’ve pinned  I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out this trick.  I’ve also found it is helped to write cookbook name and page number by the recipe plan so I can find the recipe again without page flipping.

And where is all this written?  I write my meal plan out for the week on the back of my grocery list.  I tack my list/meal plan to the bulletin board in my kitchen for reference.  My next idea for organization is to write out a list and reference for my favorite recipes so I can find them easily during meal planning for the week.  I think now the hardest part of all this is deciding what to plan for meals each week.

I know that having a baby and toddler in the house may take me back to square one where I may feel as if I will never be able to cook again, but I now know that organization and deliberate planning can make the process less daunting.





4 thoughts on “Dinner Meals Made Manageable

  1. Awesome! Some great tips on here! I don’t know if you use Google Docs much, but that’s where I meal plan. I like it because then I can directly link to any online recipes.

    When I’m on top of it, I plan 3 – 4 weeks of meals, and then use that rotation all winter long. I then revisit that list before shopping to adjust accordingly for the week ahead. (use leftover chicken, no dinner needed for Tues, etc…)
    I usually only manage to do the long range planning a couple times a year, but then I can plan seasonally too: more grilling vs. more soups.


  2. Check out the cookbook “Desperation Dinners”. My mother-in-law gave it to me and it is quite helpful. They say their recipes can be made in 20 minutes, although I don’t always use all their short cuts. I think the book is even online.


  3. I don’t know if this will help you or not but here’s what I did: I made an “excel” spreadsheet in Google drive with all the meals I make just titles (i.e. baked chicken, steak tacos, veggie soup ). I update as needed. I broke it into categories by meat so chicken, beef, pork, vegetarian so that way if I want to use chicken I just look in that column. Then I color coded it with 4 colors for 4 weeks so like week 1 is blue , week 2 is green etc. If I’m at top of my game at the beginning the month I’ll go through and plan the month. Then when I go shopping for the week i just look for all the green meals and make my list. So it’s super helpful if I’m in rush and still provides meal variety without alot of thought in the moment. Even if I don’t plan for the month it’s still a great reference and since it’s in google drive I can access it from computer, tablet, or phone.
    Happy cooking 🙂 –Kylea B.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel like not knowing things about the features of Pinterest is very normal. I didn’t know what you just found out about the like feature. Thank you! I recently discovered that the search feature can apply just to your own pins, and it has really come in handy to quickly “pin”point a post, because I have so many pins. 🙂 Also, it seems that they roll out (and change) these features gradually, so maybe there weren’t there yet, and that’s why you didn’t know about them!


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