MEAL PLANNING…WITH A TODDLER

Hello again! Today I am participating in a link-up to share a bit about my family’s meal planning process. Throughout the past year I feel like we’ve found some fantastic little tricks to really help us with the meal planning/grocery shopping process. This way, we live a little less like this ;):
 
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Something to note before I start to explain our process is that we are relatively new parents to our rambunctious 17 month old, L. L goes to sleep at a ridiculously early time (usually about 6 PM). This changes the way we plan meals in a few ways.
 
1) We feed L dinner by about 4:30 PM each night. This means she’s usually eating leftovers from whatever we cooked the night before, as we don’t have time to cook anything for her once we arrive home from work.
 
2) We hardly EVER eat out on weeknights anymore because by the time we get off work, we’d have to rush out immediately to get dinner. I’m not usually a fan of eating at 4:30 PM so we usually prefer to eat a home. This has been a major win for our budget so that’s a nice side perk!
 
3) Once L eats dinner and has her bath, she’s usually asleep close to 6 PM. This gives my husband Tyler and I plenty of time to make dinner for ourselves. As previously stated, we usually use the leftovers to feed L the next evening. We also use them to pack lunches for us at work.
 
Now that I’ve explained some of what informs our process, here are a few of the tricks (aka luxuries) we’ve allowed ourselves this past year which have been SO HELPFUL
 
I usually meal plan once we’re home from church on Sunday afternoons. We discovered a service called “Plan to Eat” which is basically an online cookbook where you can keep track of your favorite recipes. You can categorize them by course, use tags for things like instant pot or slow cooker meals, and use the calendar function to schedule meals for a particular day. It will even automatically populate a grocery list for you once you plan out your meals for the week. It’s a LIFESAVER for us and keeps us organized. I love the internet as a source for recipes but never really had a way to keep track of them before. Plan to Eat can even import recipes directly from different websites. Trust me, it’s worth it! Right now it’s either $39 a year or $4.95 per month. They frequently run promotions to reduce the price so if you’re interested, keep a look out!
 
Once I have my grocery list made up, we use a grocery delivery service called Instacart to have the groceries delivered to our home. You guys…this is in no way a necessity, however, we have LOVED using this service. You can schedule a delivery for any day or time of your choosing. I’ve used it countless times when we’re coming back from a weekend trip to ensure that soon after being home we’ll have a fridge full of fresh food without having to make a trip to the store (the last thing anyone wants to do after getting home late from a weekend away). I will say that the prices are more expensive than what you’d get if you went to the store directly, however, we have saved SO much on not eating out and not impulse buying whatever looks good at the store. There is a yearly membership fee and then deliveries are free if your order is over $35. If you’re interested in trying out the service, feel free to use this link to get started with your first order! https://inst.cr/t/dxNpLtyM7
 
I know it’s not a great system for everyone but those are some of the ways we manage to make healthy, fresh meals for our family while still maintaining our busy schedules. I’d love for you to share any meal planning tips you have in the comments!
 
I hope you have a great day, friends!
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