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.