Meal-plan like a boss: A Sunday afternoon can keep your family fed all week
Around the office, senior vice president of integrated marketing Naama Bloom is famous for two things: Launching the brilliant HelloFlo and doing that weekly meal-planning thing for real. Every Sunday, she sits down and plans what she's going to feed her family. She makes up her shopping list. She does the shopping. She gets a little prep work done. And everyone eats well with no tears or struggle.
Bloom has two young children who need to eat dinner before she and her husband return from work. Her babysitter isn't super-confident in the kitchen, though she's happy to do a few simple things. Given those factors, this is how Bloom plans her weeknight dinners.
1. Look for recipes
It helps to keep a weekly pattern in mind. For Bloom, it's having one fish day, a couple of vegetarian days and a meat day. She gathers recipes from some favorite cookbooks (she's a fan of Mark Bittman), she Googles for recipes and her mom sends her some.
Every meal needs to have vegetables, protein and a starch (mostly for the kids), so that helps keep her focused as well. And of course, all the meals are super-simple. Nothing is fancy or complicated.
Sometimes the vegetable is as simple as some sliced cucumbers for the kids and then Bloom makes a salad when she gets home later.
2. Post and email the meal plan
Once Bloom has her five recipes, she emails her husband and herself the menu. She also writes it out and posts it on the refrigerator so everyone knows what the plan is, including her sitter.
"Having everything written down, you know what you need to take out of the freezer," Bloom adds. She consults her list every day.
3. Build the shopping list
Then Bloom creates her shopping list on the Wunderlist app. It lets you share your lists with other people, so her husband can add things to the list too.
4. Buy the food
Some people love grocery shopping. Some people hate it. Bloom loves it — like a few other women I know, she goes alone so she can browse and look at everything. If that's not your thing, maybe your SO likes doing it. Or there are lots of online supermarkets cropping up these days. That's how I do it.
5. Avoid last-minute changes at the grocery store
OK, so you're grocery shopping and you happen to notice ribs are deeply discounted. Change of plans? Nope. When Bloom sees something like meat on sale she'll still buy it, but she'll freeze it and come up with a plan for it later.
6. Prep some of your meals ahead
Bloom will do things like arrange chicken and vegetables with fixings on a sheet, cover it with foil, write the roasting instructions right there on the foil and freeze it just like that so her sitter knows exactly what to do. She'll sometimes cook a double batch of tomato sauce with meatballs and freeze some of it for another week.
7. Use that slow cooker
You know the drill. Prep in the morning, dinner is ready by evening.
8. Have your backups ready
Bloom tries to keep veggies and tofu for an easy stir-fry just in case. Otherwise, there's always breakfast food for dinner. Regardless, make sure you have a backup plan ready in case your planned dinner doesn't work out.
9. If you fall off the wagon, just get back on
You have a few great weeks of planned dinners and then something happens — you have to travel or you forget. Bloom admits she gets out of the habit sometimes too. It's OK. You just start again next week.
This may look like a lot of work, but it's actually less work — and more important, way less stress — than ad hoc-ing your way from dinner to dinner. Plus, it costs less (and keeps you healthier) than constant takeout. "That 5:00 decision about what's for dinner, that's the biggest issue, especially if you haven't taken stuff out of the freezer," Bloom says. So when you think about it, planning is actually easier.
All right then, are we feeling inspired to go plan meals for the week? Is this the weekend we make it happen?