One of the most stressful tasks during busy weeks and weekends for what matters was getting home to make dinner after a long day. I know some researches indicate cooking is therapeutic, but for me, just thinking about it sucked the happiness out of my soul. Yep, drama queen here! Sometimes I dreamed about having the next generation of smart fridges. It would be so smart that senses when I walk into the house, figures out the dinner menu, cooks it, and then tells me, “Dinner is served.” One more YEP in here! I’m a drama queen and a dreamer. As far as I know, the technology is still not here, so until then, I needed to simplify dinners routine, especially on weekdays. It took me years of failure, trial and error, and improvement to get there, but I did.
Have you heard the terms Meal Prep and Meal Planning? Well, I ran into both trying to figure out how to simplify our family’s dinner routine. One is not better than the other; they are just different. For me, the important is what I learned from both, which translates to the Magic of Meal Prep Planning (MPP). Today, I’m sharing my MPP journey with you.
- Marriage agreement Mr. and Mrs. Master Chefs. My husband and I made a verbal marriage agreement before getting married. The deal was for me to cook from Monday to Wednesday, him on Thursday, and Friday was our date night. I really enjoyed my husband’s cooking. He was able to make dinner out of a few ingredients. Every Thursday, he created something new for me to try. Sometimes really good, others with room for improvement, and a few ehhhh no, but no thank you. It did work for a while until we had our first kid. Once we had a baby at home, a few things changed, including our dinner routine, and we had to adjust as well.
- The discovery of Meal Prep. By the time we had our second kid, everything was so stressful, and making dinner every day such a chore! I felt completely burnt out. Hence, I started to look for alternatives that would help me enjoy making dinner for my family, and meal prep came along. Meal prep is just making all your meals ahead of time. Meaning, you would have more time every night to spend with your family and not figuring out what to make for dinner. Well, for me, it has pros and cons. Yes, I was less stressed out during weekdays and enjoyed a bit more with my family, but it wasn’t as relaxing, and still, I felt burnt out for making a week of meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) in one day. To add to that, by Wednesday, we were all tired of eating the same for dinner and ordered take-outs. The prep meal was wasted, and money, since we were buying groceries for meal prep and ordering take-out. It is safe to say this wasn’t the best for my family. Once again, I went searching for alternatives.
- Wait! What? Meal Planning. I know! It does sound familiar, but it is not. Meal planning is making a list of all your meals. You won’t be cooking all meals in one day, but having everything ready and already planned ahead of time. This alternative worked much better for me. I would have the list of meals, buy the grocery I need, and not stress thinking about cooking or burnt-out cooking a week of meals in one day. In summary, you would be saving time, money, a few wrinkles, and keeping some of your sanity. It sounds like a good deal to me. However, meal planning does not work too well for breakfast and lunch during weekdays.
- The Magic of MPP. Today, I do a hybrid of meal prep and planning. I have a list of all the meals in my fridge’s door, so the whole family will know what we are eating that week. All meals will take 30 minutes or less to make and won’t require many ingredients. Breakfast and lunch are meal prep. Usually, I make a loaf of some kind of veggie bread for breakfast or overnight oatmeal. I make two different types of lunches for the week, so we won’t get tired of eating the same. If leftovers, I freeze them, then we will have something to eat for the weekend. No more food or money wasted, no more stress, no more burn out, and, most importantly, much more time to spend with my family.
This specific portion of my journey has been a life-changing experience (remember, drama queen here!). It took me to so many levels of frustration, but in the end, I learned to be flexible and not to take things as they come. Our journeys are all different, but we need to adjust and modify it as necessary to keep moving forward while we enjoy the ride.
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