Asalamu’alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu ladies,
I hope you’re well. After some time away, and slowly easing back into our homeschool routine again, one thing that time and time helps me get back on my feet is meal planning.
I know so many of us think of curriculum, schedules and supplies when it comes to setting up for the week, but for me, if my home is ‘in shape’ and on autopilot, I feel our school automatically sets up! Because even if don’t have a chance to look at lesson plans on the weekend, having the everyday things like feeding my family taken care of gives me the space in my day I might just need to scour the books. And really, when we keep our homeschool clutter free, it automatically cuts down on planning, leaving you with time to be present in the moment.
But meal planning feels so daunting for many, and I get why. It did for me too when I first started because I over-complicated it all which just threw me off it altogether. As a busy mother of four, I really did want to learn the skill of efficient meal planning though because I knew just how much time cooking took; from fretting about what to cook, not having the ingredients to thinking about dinner in the middle of an amazing discussion in Islamic studies with the kids (and then having to cut it short).
After much trial and error, I found a way that stuck. And I’m so passionate about meal planning now, I dedicated a whole module to it in the How to Homeschool Multiple Kids Course – it really is that useful.
And though I have written about and shared meal planning printables with you before, I thought I’d take a step further and write this post for the mother REALLY struggling with it all.
The mother who rewrites here meals out daily or weekly.
The mother who repeatedly writes shopping lists for certain meals only to panic and just cook up something else.
The mother who has the printable, but doesn’t know how to put it into practice.
The mother buys that pre-made 2 month meal plan though she still struggles with daily breakfast.
If I’ve just described you, read on sis; this post is for you.
Step 1 – Write down ALL your family favourites aka the Master Meals List.
Yep – no going to Pinterest! Instead, look at what your family already loves. The things your kids ask for, eat and enjoy. The special breakfast, or iftaar you all look forward to. One of the biggest mistakes we make when it comes to meal planning is we change it all up and go too far out of our comfort zone- not only do we want to adopt the skill of cooking efficiently we burden ourselves by cooking things that are different and it all gets too much. But don’t start at someone else’s menu board – start at yours.
So list down ALL your family favourites (and keep this list-you’ll be adding to it as time goes on in sha Allah) – I’ve created a free printable to help you do this here.
And if you want to simplify even further, list by category; so write down all your breakfasts and focus on JUST them. Once you get into the groove of getting breakfast ready, you’ll have the confidence to add more meals in sha Allah based on your family’s eating habits (think of having a list of iftaar/suhoor ready to go all year long not just for Ramadan).
Step 2 – Decide your time frame.
Now you’ve got your meals – decide your time frame. As a complete batch cook beginner, you might want to double up the meal you’re cooking – one for now, and freeze one for later. A week in and you’ll have several meals in the freezer. Or you might want to try three days. If you feel like doing a week, go for it. The point is to decide a time frame YOU’RE comfortable with. Remember simplicity is key here to really make it a long term habit. And so that’s why those pre-made templates with 16 or so meals don’t always work for you because they’re too daunting. Batch cooking is an incremental skill, so slow and steady is key here.
Step 3 -List down the ingredients for those meals.
But not on a scrap of paper that you’ll throw away! Having recipes organised, that you can refer back to time and time again saves energy and time (check this batch cook guide and recipe organiser). Just think for a moment all times you’ve spent searching for that SAME recipe, or writing it down only for it to end up in the bin AGAIN.
Instead, take your time to write down the ingredients – because you WILL need these every time you cook write and store them. A lot of times we print just recipes, but still, find ourselves rewriting ingredients from scratch all the time. Instead, having ingredients written (remember some recipes just become second nature) means you can then just scan for what you’re MISSING. Remember spend time here to save time in the future – it’s also encouraging to see your recipes grow!
Step 4 – Scour the pantry, shop and start!
So now you’ve got the meals you love finalised, how long you want to cook for decided, and your recipes and ingredients organised (for the long run), you’re all set to cook.
So simply scour your pantry, see what you’ve already got and shop for what you actually need – then get cooking! Remember, because you’re starting from a familiar place, and for a time frame you feel comfortable with, it won’t be as daunting anymore in sha Allah.
Once you get into the groove of batch cooking, add in more meals, and in sha Allah over time, it will become just the way you cook saving you time and energy for other things. THIS is when you’ll create those weekly meal plans, and rotate these for however long you want. You might end up with a 3-week meal plan (where you spread all your favourites over three weeks) a monthly meal plan that includes iftaar and suhoor or a six-week plan -whichever you choose it will be much easier to stick to because you’ve batch cooked gradually!