The start of school always forces me to assess the chaos brought on by two months of life without strict timetables. My leisurely after-work evenings spent sipping wine, watching baseball and preparing late-evening meals will soon revert to taxiing kids, helping with homework and juggling their various activities. I can't rely on having time for those belated, after-work trips to the grocery.
But everyone still needs to eat. And as I'm the cook, the menu planning falls on my plate, so to speak.
My solution to this dilemma: I've found that if I carve out 30 minutes on the weekend to plan out meals, I can save several hours of panic and last-minute grocery store scuttling. I use this meal planner, which you can download at right or at www.fresnobeehive.com.
The left side of the planner lists each day of the week with enough space to write down daily entrees and sides.
The written meal plan on the left then helps draft your grocery shopping list. The space on the right side of the planner is broken out by food groups and grocery item types: fruit, vegetables, frozen foods, dairy, etc. There's plenty of space to write down any needed items.
Theme nights. In planning meals remember some of the greatest meal nights in the meal-planning wheelhouse: burrito night; leftovers night; breakfast-for-dinner night.
Don't let veggies defeat you. Prep veggies when you get home, placing them in individual Ziploc baggies. Taking the time on the weekend makes weeknight meal prep go much more smoothly.
Cook once, eat twice. Think about how cooking one night can save you time later on. Example: Sunday's roast beef leftovers can reappear in Tuesday night's beef stir fry. Making lasagna for dinner? Make two, and freeze one for the future.
Put leftovers in see-through containers. While foil is useful, food in foil is more apt to hide from view and stay hidden. If you can find it, chances are, it won't unintentionally spoil.
Keep reusable bags in the car. More and more stores offer discounts to shoppers who bring their own bags. If they're stored in your car's trunk, they'll be with you when you get to the store.
There's probably an app for that. Vons and Target both have smartphone apps, offering savings beyond already discounted prices.