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Quick Guide to Meal Planning and Prep

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January 21, 2023

Suppose you are tired of constantly running to the grocery store with children in tow. Or are you continually answering the question, “What is for dinner?”. It is a question y I get asked all the time. And I have had several people ask me this question or tell me that it’s impossible. No, that’s right. We will go over the system I have used every weekend for most of my life. To reduce the amount of ridiculous time that I had been wasting.

Listen below for the entire episode on The Systemize Your Life Podcast

The Mom Overwhelm of Feeding a Family

I had been married for a concise amount of time. And I remember my daughter being very young when I decided, “I am done with this. I can’t do this anymore.” While sitting on the couch scrolling through Pinterest with a notepad trying to map out meals and cookbooks.

And I was trying to figure out how to feed a family. I did not grow into that slowly. Even if you do, it is not something a lot of us put time and energy into figuring out. And I just saw it as a massive waste of my time. Having a quick guide to my meal plan and prep was what I did not know I needed.

Mom Guilt About Our Meals

Because I was spending so much time, I avoided it, and we would just eat out. But that was not the answer. That was a problem too. I was a single mom with one kiddo straight into a family of four. Blaine and I got married, got pregnant very quickly with Bailey, then we had this whole family.

Although she wasn’t eating table food, I had to plan for my eating as a nursing mom. And I also had to plan my husbands eating as a firefighter. Blain is super fit and consumes an enormous amount of food. We also had a five-year-old at the time, then ten months in, Bailey started eating table food. It was just a whirlwind.


Without a guide meal planning and prep was a lot of work and still is a lot of work. I was on Pinterest and in cookbooks, asking what you want to eat. It was just like that every weekend. And that was when I decided I needed a guide to my weekly meal plan and prep.

Because just from the creation and the ideas and putting something down that was just like a least an hour. Then I had to see what was in my kitchen and pantry for the recipe. I would have to figure out what we need. Lemon juice? Cayenne Pepper? Get out of here. I do not have time for this and cannot do this madness. I am about to cry.

Overwhelmed with Diet Restrictions

One other major complex part of this was that I had an autoimmune disease that I was struggling with. I was on AIP, or autoimmune protocol, a temporary way of eating to help reset my digestive system. It was very detailed. But I couldn’t restrict my family because they weren’t eating that way. So I knew that to take care of my health, I refused to give up on that.


It took me several attempts to get this process down to two hours. Getting it down to four or three hours of your day may take some time. If you can get it down to two hours, it may be because you have a lot of things working for you. Whatever your current process is, I promise you can shave down time on this entire process. And honestly, show up for the whole process because you have made it simple, streamlined, efficient, and systemized.

Easy Guide to the Meal Plan

We will go over that, and I want to tell you what this process will entail. Instead of throwing spaghetti at the wall and you trying different things, I will give you a quick guide to meal planning and prep in 2 hours. Then, you can adapt it to make it work in your own life.


This all hinges on a system I have used for a long time. You may already know what I am about to say if you have been around for some time or have binged all of my posts. But you must have my mini board meal planning system to make it work.


Now some iteration of my meal planning board works for you, which is totally fine. We are going to get into something other than right now.

If you have that done great.

Pick Your Start Date

On Saturday, I go into my fridge for what needs to be tossed, pull it out immediately, and figure out what we are running out of. That takes me like 5 minutes. I pull everything out and set it on the counter next to the kitchen sink.
The first thing I do on the weekend. I like to do it on Saturday, but I encourage you to have this done before Monday. I was coaching another mom and her off day was Tuesdays, so that was a great day for her to get this done. Mondays, I like to be ready just to rock and roll.

Quick Guide to Menu Board Planning

Then I go, set up my menu board, open up my recipe box, and take mental notes of what is in my pantry. Like, “Okay, I know I have a crap ton of pasta; we will probably do spaghetti night.” I know what my family likes to eat. So that is part of my system, so as I go through in my brain, I am making mental notes when doing my inventory walk.


I go into my recipe box, pull out menu cards, and go, okay, I need seven meals.

Meal 1 : Left overs Meal 2:Takeout Meal 3: Goulash

Meal 4: Spaghetti Meal 5: Meatloaf Meal 6: Chicken Stir Fry

Done!

Okay that takes me 10 minutes tops and we are 15 minutes into the 2 hour guide to the weekly meal plan and prep now.

Easy Guide to Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is where we get into time-wasting and the nitty gritty. If you are like me and you can get stuck here too. Those who like to make lists and make them pretty and have them in a cute place. You don’t want to have to go back to the grocery store, and you don’t want to sit here for a long time. That is why this is called writing a concise list.


You are writing a short list of the new things you need outside your grocery staples. It would be best if you always had your grocery staples on hand. If you need to write them out, write them out. I don’t. I make mental notes through my pattern of walking into a grocery store. Online shopping doesn’t work for me. The other day I thought I was getting two avocados, but I got two bags. So guess what? We’re making guacamole.


Once you learn the meal plan, everything you need is on the back of the cards, and you don’t have to search for it. Suppose you need a one-off item like I usually buy a giant tub of coconut oil from Costco. But that is something we believe every once in a while, and I know when we are out of those oversized items, it’s time to go to Costco. So those are the little things I put on my list. Now we are 30 minutes into this process.

Shopping bags

So now we have an hour and a half left after coming home from the shopping, putting things away, and then prepping a few things. When I go to the grocery store, it is the same thing every time. Knowing that I have the same number of bags, I put them in the cart the same way. We have this process. If you have a Trader Joe’s around you, they have a paper sack, and they are super sturdy and rescuable. They have these great long handles. Having three bags, I must carry out of Trader Joe’s is efficient. Get yourself some reusable bags.


After about an hour after I get home from the grocery store, I have 30 minutes left to start putting things away. You have a longer commute. You may be at two and a half hours for this process. That’s cool. You might live in the boondocks, so you do this every two weeks because you have a long commute on both ends, and that is okay. We want to look at the amount of time we have and have control over it.

Time Saving Hack

Here is where some magic happens, and you can save some time. When unloading groceries, I went back into the garage closest to the garage door to my house. The hatch comes open, the door gets propped open, and it is like an assembly line over here. Everyone files out, everyone brings in bags, and everyone helps unload. Each of us has a station. The girls do dry food, I have the fridge, and Blaine is breaking down boxes, taking the trash, or doing dishes from earlier. That is the whole process of unloading the groceries from the car, and it takes 5 to 10 minutes to get home.

” …what I want you to take from this is knowing exactly all of those step you can take together and how much time you can save by having this systemized. ”

Quick Guide to Meal Prepping

For those remaining 10-15 minutes that I have, I pick 3-4 things I will get done. So the eggs are boiling, I am steaming my green beans and cooking my ground beef. And then, when all of that’s done, my kitchen is done. And I have prepped some staples for the week.


Here is where we have got to in our family the two hours was a significant investment. If you have been over to Instagram, you have seen this recently. We want to take this to a whole other level. I want to stop depending on people processing our food.

Batch Cooking

I will take another 2-4 hours to batch-cook food for our family. And I am testing this right now to see what this is like. Is it worth my time for the reward I will get versus potentially paying someone to do it? I like amazing people in the town who will take my diet restrictions paleo, AIP, macros, and things I am working on in our home. And they will prep and cook them, and I have to pick them up.
That is not something I want to do, but I have to test it to know. I have been using this process for years, just as I have been using Trader Joe’s orange chicken that had already been prepped for me. It would be better if I want to prepare my chicken for a while. This will be a whole other level that will take a lot more time outside of two hours.

Staple Foods

What I am talking about inside these two hours was our staples. It was a bunch of sweet potatoes or a big batch of rice in the Instapot. I just had those things that I knew were staples for my family for the week. Those hard-boiled eggs are fantastic. Sometimes, I would say, “Hey Bailey, go pull grapes off the stem.” I have a hack. By the way, if you roll them between two dish cloths, all the grapes fall off the stem. My mind is blown.

So that is how you get the fridge clean, grocery shop, and meal prep in two hours. Feel free to set a timer. I have been doing this for years, and it may take you a few tries to get it down to 2 hours. It is routine for my family, and we have it memorized. You will have a lot of fun with it.

Don’t pressure yourself to put a timer on, although I find it fun. I discovered that this took two hours when I started timing myself. It takes a little bit of hustle to get it all done, but sometimes I don’t want to hustle, and I do want to break it up. But that is okay. What I was hoping you could take from this is knowing exactly all of those steps you can bring together and how much time you can save by having this systemized. When you do, you can get your family involved to the best of their ability.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should my meal cards look like?

Meal Cards can be very simple and easy if you have a set of index cards laying around, or even a blank sheet of paper. If you are stuck on you meal cards download my Free Meal Card template. This will give you a few recipes to get started, as well as a template to use for your other family favorite dishes.

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