Life as a new mom and food blogger is way more difficult than I ever imagined, especially when you are trying to run two different blogs (What? You didn’t know? I have a baby food blog called A Life Well Fed, check it out!).
On top of that, I am teaching an online course about blogging and social media marketing (don’t judge me students, I am about to break all of my own rules), trying to get my freelance career moving at a steady pace, and oh yeah, there is that nutrition certificate that I need to finish by the end of the year.
Every nap time becomes a Choose Your Own Adventure Story.
Baby G has just gone down for her nap. Time is limited, if you are going to prep dinner, turn to page 5. If you are going to blog, turn to page 7.
Page 5. Dinner is prepped. You smell from your workout and shiver runs down your spine. If you are going to shower, turn to page 8. If you are going to make egg salad because of a sudden craving, turn to page 13. If you are going to blog, turn to page 7.
Page 13. Egg salad is done. You just caught a whiff of yourself and you realized that your hair is now matted and disheveled. If you are going to shower, turn to page 8. If you are going to stand at the counter and scoop up egg salad with anything you can find in the pantry, turn to page 19. If you are going to blog, turn to page 7.
Page 19. You wipe the crumbs off your face and belch loudly. Gosh, what is that smell? No choices now: turn to page 8 and shower!
Page 8. You step out of the shower feeling refreshed and your ears perk up. Yes, Baby G is now up and blogging will have to wait til tomorrow.
Blogging always seems to take backseat to the little things like personal hygiene. And for those you versed in food blogs, food photography isn’t even in the car anymore.
So, what can I possibly offer you?
I thought I would do a post on what I have learned from meal planning in the last 5 months.
Forgive me students, there will be now image in this post.
Meal Planning Tips
1. Have a time to plan. Create a time when you will plan the meals for the week and try to stick to it. It helps if you aren’t super hungry, because when you are super hungry, you can get ambitious and think you will actually have time to make foodie, snooty sauces that will make you laugh out loud during the week.
Last week, I may or may not have included a recipe for tomato chutney that required multiple steps and way more time than I want to spend on an entire dinner, let alone a condiment. I think I end up eating my weight in hummus and carrots and Manatee had egg whites and salad because Manatee is a saint who would eat that every night if I let him.
2. Make a list. Right after planning, I look in my fridge and pantry, and then look at the ingredients in the recipe. I make my list once going recipe by recipe, and then I make another list in the order that I will find the food in the grocery store. On the second list, I add any staples that we will need to buy.
It may sound like a lot, but it really doesn’t take much extra time. As you get to know your grocery store, it becomes easier and easier.
I will say that most of our list is perimeter stuff- produce, dairy, and frozen. It helps a lot to eat healthy and eat clean.
3. Keep a well stocked pantry. I try to keep a lot of basics on hand at all times. For every family, this list is different. Here is what we always have in our fridge and pantry on any given week:
-boxed tomatoes and strained tomatoes
-light and full fat coconut milk
-unsweetened almond milk
-canned and dried beans
-spinach and another type of lettuce
-fat free Greek yogurt
-condiments: ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, various hot sauces, mayonnaise
-nuts (pistachios, almonds, and cashews)
-apples and pears
-lemons and limes
-frozen veggies and frozen fruit
-various kinds of hummus
-whole wheat and corn tortillas
-frozen meat in the freezer
-some go-to meals
4. Have a few go-to meals in your back pocket. There are some Indian curries in a pouch that I love. I also keep frozen (homemade) veggie burgers in the freezer, homemade sloppy joes, and Texas tamales.
I also keep frozen pizza crusts (for you Madisonians, check out Gino’s Italian Deli for the best thin crusts), cooked sausage in zipper lock bags, marinara sauce, and shredded cheese so I can always throw together my own frozen pizza.
These are meals with little to no prep that I love and keep us from ordering takeout.
5. Have a system for planning. It’s easier to pick out recipes and plan meals when you are following some kind of format. This was a tip I learned from you (Thank you Amanda!) and it’s really helped me. Everyone is different. Amanda told me that they do one Mexican night, a quick meal, a pasta night, and a more complex recipe.
For us, we do one chicken meal, one meat that is not chicken (beef, turkey, fish, or pork), a tofu dish and the other 2-3 meals are vegetarian.
Notice that I only have a total of 5-6 meals? That’s because I insist on having nights off. Sometimes that’s throwing together a frozen pizza, sometimes getting takeout Chinese or sushi, and always going out at least once. Mama needs a break and Mama wants to be served.
6. Pick recipes that contain foods you like to eat. This may sound stupid but I don’t how many times I have picked recipes for foods I feel like I should like or should eat. When push comes to shove, I don’t make it and we are scrambling for dinner. This usually happens at the end of the week when Manatee and I are both exhausted. Which leads to my final tip….
7. If you know you will have a busy night or will be tired, pick your favorite meal that night. Fridays are our worst nights, so this Friday I have planned to make veggie burgers (from my freezer), coleslaw (bagged broccoli slaw plus mayo, Greek yogurt, and vinegar), and homemade baked onion rings. It’s a meal we had and loved, and even though it’s pretty healthy, it feels like junk food. Can’t beat that!
What are your favorite meal planning tips?