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I waffle on meal planning. Is it a good thing or am I just setting myself up for failure by attempting to be that organized?

I can be amazingly motivated for weeks, or even months, at a time planning menus and grocery lists. But inevitably, the wheels fall off, and all of a sudden, I'm staring into the fridge, wondering what to make for dinner.

What I do know for sure is that I feel better about my life in general when our home life is more organized --- and that includes what to have for dinner. It does take a little more up front work, but the resulting delicious calm is worth it.

Actually, I think that meal planning is part of self-care . . . and I think we can work this angle to our benefit in multiple ways!

Here's the ultimate self-care / meal prep strategy . . . 

My good friend and her husband plan meals on Sunday mornings in their hot tub. They visit, relax, snuggle, drink coffee (or maybe a mimosa), and plan their weekly menus. Afterwards, they go grocery shopping. They spend part of the afternoon washing and chopping vegetables so that their weeknight prep is fast and simple. I think this works for them on multiple levels, wink wink nudge nudge!

Sadly, I don't have a hot tub, but here's what I do:

  1. First and foremost, be gracious to yourself! Don't get too ambitious and bite off more than you can chew (I mean that almost literally!) with fancy menus or grandiose plans. It's better to surprise and delight yourself when you achieve an attainable goal.
  2. Take a look at what's in your fridge. What needs to be eaten before it spoils? Move that to the front of your fridge and make some notes so you can find appropriate recipes. Meal planning does reduce food waste and save you money.
  3. Take stock of your pantry. What staples need refilling? Add them to the list. Living on the farm, we've always kept a big pantry because we couldn't just run to the store to pick up something quickly. Our well stocked pantry has all the basics like pastas and canned ingredients so I can whip something up from my "In a Pinch" dinner list.
  4. Claim meal planning time as your own. Make yourself a beverage and find a comfy spot away from the noise. Nestle in to some quiet time. This is really all about you, your sanity, your time.
  5. Find a recipe source that fits your style of cooking. Whether you use an app, search online, or have a collection of favourite cookbooks, find what you like. I subscribe to emails from Martha Stewart and use  the Epicurious app for inspiration where I can save recipes. I also like Jamie Oliver's 5 Ingredient Meals for Quick & Easy Food.
  6. Keep a Top 10 list  of your most successful meals that you can rely on. Then work in new recipes as you feel comfortable. Sometimes, I'll pick one cookbook and work through it over a few months. Over time, you'll build your repertoire to 30 or 40 standby meals that you can rotate through a 3 month period and not be bored in the kitchen.
  7. I aim to plan 3-4 meals per week. Ideally, they should all provide leftovers that can be transformed for lunch or subsequent dinners. Then, I fill any gaps with tried-and-true favourites. Personally, I don't like to be too regimented about these things. I adjust based on our schedule and what we're craving. Again, my well stocked pantry fills the gaps.
  8. Plan for one big batch recipe every week. For example, I might make a pot of chili, or soup, or roast a chicken. I can either freeze extra portions or use the leftovers on the ultra busy weeknights to heat 'n eat. And that leads me to  . . . 
  9. Love your leftovers. I know families who won't eat leftovers but I believe leftovers are your reward for cooking in the first place. Roast beef can become tacos or cheesy beef melt sandwiches. Leftover chicken is great in enchiladas, or on top of a chef's salad. This is where you get creative!
  10. One pot dinners or sheetpan suppers save on clean up time. If the recipe says "one pot", I'm in!
  11. Weeknight dinners in under an hour, ideally 30 minutes or less is my gold standard. Let's be real here folks, we're competing with fast food and take-out! You can find healthy delicious recipes that are doable in the same amount of time it takes to get takeout --- and you'll save lots of money doing it.
  12. When it feels overwhelming, return to your tried-and-true recipes. And when the motivation just isn't there, that's OK! Kevin and I ate hot dogs for lunch and dinner day when we were just too exhausted to think. Our kids were shocked (and happy)!

I'd love to hear what works for you. What are your meal planning hacks? What recipes do you rely on? What do you do for self-care when it comes to managing your home?


  • Thanks Maureen! I look up to you as someone who cooks with love!

    Melanie Boldt
  • I loved this blog and will forever celebrate leftovers as a reward for cooking. Also, meal planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation will now seem date-worthy. Thank you!

    Maureen Haddock
  • Thanks for the new way to look at leftovers. I love the idea of looking at leftovers as a reward for cooking in the first place. I also love the idea of regarding meal planning and shopping for food as a date. Food is love, after all. Rereading this blog regularly would remind readers that preparing food is also self-care. I love this!

    Maureen Haddock

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