No matter who you are, eating is something you probably do several times a day. If you are mindful of what kinds of food you eat, it is something you probably plan out. And if you have a family, it is something you do several times a day and definitely have to plan out, to some degree.
Planning food shopping and meals can take up a huge amount of time. I’ve tried to find ways over the years to make the process as quick, easy, affordable, and healthy as possible. No, I’m not perfect and my family doesn’t eat gourmet plant-based meals every day, but all things considered, I’m happy with our meals 75% of the time.
Here are a few tips and tricks I use to make mealtime easier and more enjoyable for everyone:
Find acceptance for your mealtime abilities – The reality is that Monday through Thursday, I’m tired, I have to work the next day, and I might not feel like doing much in the kitchen after a long day at work. I have to let myself off the hook. OK, so there are people on Pinterest or Instagram showing pictures of fabulous, tasty, healthy meals they made. Good for them, but I have to accept that 90% of the time, that’s not my reality. It’s OK.
Use Out of Milk or a similar app to organize shopping and meal lists – This has been a major win for me. I started using the Out of Milk app a few months ago, and it is so good that I’d pay for it. As soon as I run out of something, I immediately put it on my shopping list. Then, when it’s time to do my big grocery shopping trips, I add meal items to my shopping list. The app categorizes all my shopping items (produce, bakery, frozen, etc) so that I can easily see everything I need to purchase from a particular section of the grocery store. Additionally, I use the To-Do section of the app to keep track of all the meals I have planned. I never have to think, “What can I make for dinner tonight?!” I simply pull up my Meal List on the app and see all the meals I planned to make. To make things even better, I can access a complete list of all the meals I’ve ever made. That way, if I need meal inspiration, I just look back at all the dinners I’ve previously made and choose which ones are our favorites to add back to the list.
Use an online grocery shopping service – We have used Kroger’s Clicklist multiple times now with fairly good success. There are other similar services from other grocery stores – you go to the website to add items to your virtual cart and select a pickup time when an employee will bring the bagged groceries to your car. This service is excellent when I don’t want to spend 1-2 hours on a grocery shopping trip. On the website, I either browse through items in a particular category (“frozen vegetables”, for example) or I type a specific item in the search bar and go directly to that item and add to my cart. Occasionally there will be items I’ve ordered that are out of stock, but the store will substitute an equivalent item if you wish, at no extra charge. The fee for online grocery shopping varies, but for Clicklist it’s only a few dollars – which is worth it to us.
Rethink your approach to dinner – Does dinner have to come from a “recipe”? Must a meal include cooking/baking to be considered a meal? Are you somehow a less caring parent or partner because the food was very simple and quick? Absolutely not! Sometimes our dinners are as simple as baked potatoes, frozen broccoli, and pasta.
Keep a list of the most simple meals possible – I know for a fact that at least once or twice every week I will need an incredibly simple dinner plan. I accept that and plan accordingly. At any given time I will have simple dinners I can put together with minimal time and effort. Here are a few of our go-to’s:
- Spaghetti and marinara – option of adding veggies, vegan meat, or beans
- Taco bar – tortillas, beans, lettuce, tomato, guacamole – whatever you like!
- Pizzadillas – tortilla with pizza sauce, cheese of choice, toppings of choice, brown in skillet
- Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese – mix it up with different types of bread and cheese
- Deluxe Veggie Burgers & Baked Fries – frozen vegan burgers, toppings, buns, and baked fries
- Zucchini & Corn Pasta – sauteed zucchini and corn added to pasta; throw in some sauteed tempeh, vegan butter, and seasonings
- Beans & Weiners – incredibly simple – vegan hot dogs with baked beans (homemade or canned)
- Summer Salad – I’m loving romaine topped with avocado, strawberries, walnuts, vegan chicken, and mango vinaigrette