- Welcome to Small Biz Life Episode Six: How to Eat at Home More Without Spending all your Time Planning and Cooking.
I originally recorded this episode back in January before anything was going on, at least in our minds with the global pandemic. But we decided to keep this episode because it is still incredibly important. If you think about it, we're cooking all the time now and we're cooking with what we have, which is kind of what this episode is all about. So let me know how you are changing up the way that you cook, how you can implement these strategies. And I hope you enjoy the episode. Stay safe, Mamas.
Okay, so I know some of you hate cooking. I know some of you hate planning. I know some of you are tired of eating the same two things every single week. So in this episode, I am going to show you how to start to enjoy making meals again, how to add more variety into your meal plan, and how to save a ton of money eating out.
I'm going to put a link in the show notes to our Mother of all Time Courses. There's an expanded version of this in The Mother of all Time Courses, there's also a whole bunch of other things about how to save time around your house, but this is one of the ones that I really like. There are lots of meal plan services out there and other things. But I think most people just want to put it on auto-pilot. That's why they subscribe to these meal planning services.
All right, so let me tell you what we do in our house. If you go to the show notes for its episode, which it would be SmallBizMama.com, you can sign up for the Mother of all Time Courses. And in the video that includes the meal planning stuff, I show you my master meal plan, and essentially, my master meal plan is a list of all of the stuff that we eat on a regular basis. I would say that the majority of those recipes, at least 50% of them, I have stuff on hand to make them, whenever. Or I have most of the components to make them, whenever.
What I do, that I think is a little bit different than most people is, I have this core set of groceries that I buy. Every week we buy onions, and mushrooms, and peppers, and spinach, and lettuce, and cucumbers, and tomatoes, and bananas, and apples, and whatever else. I always have pasta, and rice, and couscous, and quinoa, and various different kinds of grains. I typically, in the freezer, have ground beef, and stew beef, and chicken, and pork chops, and so I have these things.
Create a master meal plan
What I typically do, I have this master meal plan. My master meal plan currently has about 30 to 35 different meals on it. If you think about that, we typically eat at home six nights a week, and sometimes, there are some weeks that we will… I made chili this week and last week. The boys are in a chili mood, and so, we made chili.
We typically have some sort of pasta thing every single week. We typically have something that's Tex-Mex at least once every two weeks. So, there are these themes that we go through in the house. There are some things that I don't necessarily make every month or every two months. I think the boys wish I made meatloaf more often because they really like my meatloaf. With tax season coming up, I'm probably going to make a whole bunch and put it in the freezer.
I have this master meal plan. Some things we eat much more frequently than others. But I basically did a brain dump, and I said, okay, what are the things that are easy to make and can be kind of adjusted? And what things do I typically have the ingredients to make?
I made this huge list of stuff. Things like meatballs, lasagna, (I kind of went through by country) all things Italian, baked ziti, lasagna, baked tortellini, tortellini soup… you almost do word association when you're doing this.
I went through and I and I made this humongous list of all the things that we eat on a regular basis. It was about 30 to 35 things.
If we eat at home six nights a week, if we made each of those things once, then that meal plan would get us through 5 to 6 weeks of eating, which I think for most people, we're usually rotating meals through a lot quicker than that. So for me, I like that.
Brain dump out all the things that you like to make, you know how to make, things you know that people in your house are going to eat. Put that all down on a master sheet.
Now, if you're not there yet, maybe you have five or six things you make really, really well, then write that down. Then supplement with things like grilled cheese and tomato soup. That's one thing that’s on my list.
My guys love the frozen meatballs from the warehouse club from Costco or BJs, right? You buy the all-beef meatballs, they love those. You put them in a crockpot with some sauce and with a little bit of stock, and they plump up and they’re beautiful. My guys love them.
It doesn't all have to be homemade. I can be “mostly” homemade. Make that master meal plan.
If you need inspiration, go to SmallBizMama.com, sign up for The Mother of all Time Courses and you'll get my master meal plan.
Keep your pantry and fridge stocked
Once you have that, then you want to make sure that you keep your pantry and your fridge stocked. What we do, there's a lot of crossover, I find, in Italian food and Tex- Mex food. A lot of peppers, a lot of garlic, a lot of onions, we use a lot of tomatoes of all different sorts, pasta and rice and things like that. So having the pantry and the fridge well-stocked really, really helps.
I don't have a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday list anymore. What I do is, I look in the house, I look in the pantry, I look in the fridge. I have a list. I know what I’ve got of stuff to make, and I make something. I determine what I'm going to make based on the amount of time I have, what I want to use up. Right now I have chicken, so we're going to have chicken within the next couple of days. I've pulled a brisket out of the freezer that somebody gave us, so Jeff's going to smoke a brisket tomorrow. I know we're going to have leftover brisket after Monday.
So I say OK, what can I do with that?, it really helps when you also understand, “Okay, I've got leftover this. What can I turn that into?” And so that's one thing I'm just naturally pretty good at. If you give me brisket, I'm going to make stroganoff with that,I can make enchiladas with that, I could make tacos with that. I can chop it up and put it into a meat sauce to make something Italian with it.
Being able to think outside of the box with your meals is pretty helpful.
But if you have your master meal plan and you identify the common ingredients that we're going to need that we can use for a lot of different things? Let me make sure that I got those in the pantry, the fridge, and the freezer.
Have an “oh crap” meals list and keep those items on hand
The other thing that I have is an “oh, crap” meals list. My “oh, crap” meals list, that's my very quick meals I have to get something on the table. So the “oh, crap” meals list does include things like, I've got hot dogs in the freezer, my family loves grilled cheese with soup. So, I typically have stock, I typically have organic tomato soup. I typically have tortellini or egg noodles, something that I could make a quick soup with some carrots, some celery, which again, those are things I always have, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic, put that in, cook that up. You can put some chicken in if you want, you don’t have to, put in some sort of noodle and broth… and that’s soup, Something like that is really quick.
The frozen meatballs are super quick. I always have a package of Trader Joe's Orange Chicken in my freezer because I can put that in the air fryer and get it done really fast. I just have to make some rice in the rice cooker and poof, it’s dinner. Those are my “oh, crap” meals. Spaghetti with tomato sauce is an “oh, crap” meal. It doesn't have to be complicated.
You should have a couple of things that you know you can get on the table within 20 to 30 minutes, and have a couple of those on hand all the time. That “oh, crap” list, I put things I can dump in the crockpot. Those are also considered “oh, crap” meals.
This morning, we were going to make the brisket but we woke up too late. Everybody slept in this morning, and so for us, we're like all right, what are we going to do?
So I thought, I've got ground beef that's already cooked in the freezer. That's another thing. Pre-cook ground beef and keep it in the freezer. I've got beans, I've got tomatoes. I'm going to throw stuff in to make chili and we had chili for dinner.
Having that master meal plan, having your pantry and fridge stocked, and then having a couple of those “oh, crap” meals, and making sure you have all the components on hand.
I don't think about planning our meals. The thing that we do, we have a list on the fridge. When we're running low on something that we're pulling out of the pantry or I'm pulling out of the fridge, there's a core list of stuff that I'm going to restock. For example, we're running low on milk, we put it on the list. We have a lot of cheese, but if we're running low on a particular kind of cheese, we put it on the list.
I find that based on this rotating list, this core list of stuff that we buy, I would say I can typically make 40 things on my master meal plan list without buying anything special. And that's pretty awesome. It's just a reconfiguration of ingredients and spices that you put together.
If you want to see my master meal plan that I put together, and some of the stuff on there is just hot dogs with carrot sticks and celery sticks, that could be dinner.
One of the things that we said on the Small Biz Life Podcast is: dinner does not have to be a five-course, six-hour thing. It really doesn't.
You can put your line down in the sand and say, this is what I'm trying to achieve with dinner. And then you make something that fits those parameters. When we buy hot dogs, and I buy really, really good hot dogs, we always serve a vegetable with it. Every meal has to have a fruit or a vegetable. If you have your defining meal rules, that really helps, because then you're just kind of checking off boxes. For me, and this is me personally, I don't make the guys adhere to this, but I try to eat greens at least twice a day. I'm trying to check off “Do I have something green on my plate?”
You've got to come up with what your rules are.
I try to limit our sodium. There's even a lot in the organic foods… if it's something that's jarred or canned, it has a lot of sodium in it, even if it's low sodium. If I know we're going to have tomato soup tonight, I'm going to try to limit what we’re intaking for sodium for the rest of the day. I'm going to make sure that we're having other things with it so that we're not filling up on soup. Carrot sticks, celery sticks, other veggies. What can I kind of put into that, to kind of offset the sodium intake or so that we can consume less of it?
I think for a lot of people, the idea of cooking and meal planning just seems like this overwhelming thing, and it really doesn't have to be. Have those core things that you like to make that are easy to make, and then you could always introduce something new. Sometimes I'll try a new recipe that I find on Pinterest or wherever and oh, that's really good, and that will go into the master meal plan. That becomes a new thing that we have.
Experiment. Try new things when you feel like it. But if you're in a time where you've got lots of things going on (we don't try new recipes during tax season. It doesn't happen, because tax season on his own is enough). But I've become really good at running this master meal plan and keeping us stocked up on these regular things that we use.
We used to eat out probably 4 to 5 nights a week during tax season. And last year, Erik was only one, and even the year that he was born, we did really, really well. I think there were some weeks we ate out twice a week. but for the most part, it was usually once a week. So you can do this.
If you have questions, you can ask them in our Facebook group. You can ask us on our Facebook page. Go to SmallBizMama.com for all the ways you can connect with us.
Let us know where you're struggling and we can help out with that. I'd also love to know what your favorite meals are. What are your go-to meals when you're super busy? I'd love to know that as well.
All right, Mamas, thank you so much, See you next week.
Thank you for listening to Small Biz Mama with Kristin Ingram.
If you like to learn how to create more margin in your life, please visit us at SmallBizMama.com.