Earlier this week I had the pleasure of getting together with Angie Trueblood, of mealplanningmama.com!
Angie graciously let me pepper her with questions about how to start meal planning, where she gets her inspiration, and what she does on those nights when the whole plan falls apart (hint: it’s not ordering takeout!)
Ruthy: Hi Angie! Let’s cut right to the chase: How do you answer someone who wants to know how to start meal planning? Do you recommend they use a recipe binder, a list, “theme nights”, etc?
Angie: I have all of this. 🙂 I have a binder that has a one-month rotation of our ‘theme nights’ that I use as the starting point for our meal plan. Then, for each theme night, I have a list of our favorite meals and recipes. My goal is to cut down on the decisions I need to make when choosing our weekly meals, so having these decisions already made saves me time AND brainpower (a hot commodity, these days). 🙂
Ruthy: When did you start meal planning? What motivated you to figure it out?
Angie: Really, not until I had my daughter, my first child. My husband and I were both working full-time, and we’d rush in the door after work and be torn between wanting to spend time with her while also needing to feed us all. Doing that without a plan made for a cluster of a night and I knew there had to be a better way. So, true to form, I created a system that worked for us.
Angie: I always keep shrimp, frozen veggies, and a great sauce on hand, so I can do a super simple rice bowl. The key to not having to run out to dinner when I don’t really want to (and honestly, if the day is requiring a last-minute pivot, I’m usually not in the mood to go out anyway!), is to have quick-cooking items on hand that make a meal that you’re somewhat excited about. 🙂 Keeping shredded chicken or meatballs on hand in the freezer are also great go-to’s and can be turned into a meal in no time.
Ruthy: Do you have a favorite ‘use up the leftovers!’ type of meal?
Angie: It’s not super sexy, but I can make a hearty meal out of quesadillas most any night. Most nights, I purposely cook more food than we’ll eat at one sitting, so we have leftovers for lunch and usually another meal where I’ll ‘repurpose’ the meal into something else. Any leftover meat or veggie is game for stuffing in a quesadilla and since we always keep rice and black beans on hand, it’s easy to make a complete meal out of it. Grilled sandwiches and soups are also great ways to repurpose leftovers.
Angie: Just start. Don’t worry about creating a complicated system that is going to work forever. A friend of mine recently wrote her first weekly meal plan EVER on a pink index card. Having that plan gave her more peace of mind than she had ever had at dinner simply because that major decision of the day was made. Don’t invest in digital meal plan subscriptions or go out searching on Pinterest first, either. Those can come in time to add variety but, first, start with the meals you know your family will eat and go from there. Obviously, if you need help, I’d love you to check out my course, What the Fork is for Dinner? In it, I walk you through the steps of creating a simple system that works for your family and your schedule through video tutorials, a detailed workbook, and printable planning sheets.
Ruthy: What’s a good way to get out of a ‘planning rut”?
Angie: First off, give yourself permission to take a break. (Ruthy: I freaking love this)
Seriously. No one needs to be making 7 dinners from scratch every night of the week for months on end. 🙂 Plan in some ‘kitchen closed’ nights where you DO go out or nights that are super easy. I love doing meat and cheese boards at home and they’re a hit for the whole family. We put a couple of different meats, cheeses, fruits, crackers and jam out and we’re done! Usually, once I come up with a couple of fun ideas, I’ll get excited again. Recently, a friend shared the idea of a ‘Takeout Fakeout’ night and it’s now my mission to recreate some of our favorites!
Ruthy: You’re big on finding simplicity in life. What’s your favorite tip for someone who feels they need to simplify things in their life a little more?
Angie: I am. And, I’m big into simplifying so that I can enjoy the people that matter. I would say first, get clear on your priorities and start evaluating how your actions reflect those priorities. If work is not a huge priority, but you’re spending 10 hours a day there, something needs to change. For me, eating dinner at home is a top priority, but cooking everything from scratch is not. So, I serve healthy meals any use plenty of shortcuts to get there. Seriously…the rotisserie chicken is better than sliced bread in my opinion. 🙂
Guys, honestly- how helpful is Angie!? And I’m in love with her site, too. It’s full of helpful tips, simple recipes, and meal planning support. Definitely my kind of website!
Don’t forget to sign up for Angie’s AMAZING meal planning course, ‘What The Fork Is For Dinner?‘ She only opens the course a few times a year, so make sure to get on the waitlist so you stay in the know for when he opens it back up again.
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