Every so often, a friend or family member will ask me how I find the time to cook every night. It’s flattering to think that they look at this blog and think that I’m spending a lot of time putting meals together.
The truth is that cooking doesn’t have to take a long time. Got that? I said it doesn’t have to. But it totally can, especially if you’re unprepared.
I’m not a consistent person, so the recipes that I share are done using both the hard way and the easy way.
The hard way is when we go grocery shopping on the weekend and buy some random stuff. Then every day for the next 14 days, Yuseff and I have the same conversation at lunch, where we try to figure out what to eat for dinner. Usually, I end up having to make several more trips to the store throughout the week. We also tend to eat later because I have to wait for stuff to defrost before I can cook it.
The easy way is when I make a meal plan using this excel spreadsheet (go ahead. click it. you can download it and use it again and again) the day before payday. I decide what I’m making, make note of what ingredients I don’t already have, and take it with us to the store. I make sure I get any missing ingredients in one trip and always know ahead of time what needs to be pulled out of the freezer. And of course, we don’t have to argue at lunch about whether or not we’re going eat spaghetti again. An hour or so of planning makes all the difference.
Here is an example of one of my meal plans:
– Find some recipes! This would be a great time to knock out all of those recipes that you’ve been hoarding on Pinterest. Or go to my recipe index and choose some tried and true recipes from By the (cook)Book.
– Don’t feel like you have to over-plan. On my plan above, I left Wednesday open since it was the Fourth of July. I knew that there would probably be a last-minute cookout or that Yuseff would at least want to throw steak or ribs on the grill. I also leave “pay day” open because that will probably be the night that we treat ourselves to a dinner out. On a similar note, keep in mind that you might have to juggle some things around. You never know when you’ll get a last minute invite to a party or something. If you don’t cook a meal, but have already defrosted your meat, you’ll have to bump another recipe.
– Order your meals appropriately. If one recipe needs broccoli and another calls for mushrooms, make the one with mushrooms earlier in the week—they spoil faster than broccoli, potatoes, or carrots.
– Also, keep your schedule in mind. Do the kids have soccer practice on Tuesdays? Do you work late on Thursdays? Do Monday’s make you so crazy that you can’t take on a big meal? Make sure you schedule a quick meal for those days and leave the heavy duty recipe for a low-key night.
Many of the recipes in this meal plan are new, so of course I’ll be posting the recipes in the coming weeks!