Meal Planning

A few years ago I read an article about meal planning. I have to be honest, when I first read the article my first thought was “why would anyone do that”. Well as the years went on, and my kids got older it started looking like a good idea. See I have three boys that play sports. So as you can imagine my life can be a bit busy. I have also put on weight mostly due to eating lots of fast food and pizza. Now I know you are probably asking what having kids and gaining weight have to do with meal planning. Between work, helping the kids with school work, and runing the kids too and from after school activities I was not eating until late if I cooked, or I was just grabbing fast food. Meal planning has helped me stick to a diet, make sure my kids eat healthy, and reduse stress by helping me manage my time better. It also fits in to my time management process. Now that you see where I am going with this article lets take a look at how I do it.


The Process

I have tried makeing lists using paper, and several note taking apps. I have downloaded templates for Microsoft OneNote but none of then work for me. The main issue was getting home to find out I did not have everything I needed to make the meal I was planning on making. Another issue was getting to the store to buy groceries and not remember my list or what I needed to buy to make the meals I want to make for the week. What is really needed to properly do meal planning is a goot app. The app needs to have more then a calendar that lists the meals you want to make on a day. The app should hold recipes, a shopping list, and have some kind of pantry function. I have tried several over the last year and finally settled on Paprika. This app meets all my requirements. It also has a Mac, IOS, and a Windows app. Parika has a decent pantry function that will keep track of what I have on hand so that I can add only what is needed to the grocery list portion of the app. I can download recipes from several websites and add a recipe directly on to meal calendar while adding the ingredients to the built in shopping list. Haveing a good meal planning app is a big part, but it is only one part of the process. You can plan meals all you want but when you have limited time you may find yourself resorting to old habits(I know I did at first). The key is to prep a head of time. I tipically plan out the weeks meals on Saturday mornings and then go shopping. On Sunday’s I prepare what I can a head of time. I cut vegetables and marinade any meat. If i am makeing a caserol or going to be using the crockpot I put it all together. Several meals (soups, some breakfast items)can be fully made and frozen, then heated up on the day you plan to serve it.

Have you tried meal planning? Do you use a different app, or do you implement it different? I would love to hear about it below in the comments.

Time Management for Busy Parents

The holidays have passed, the food coma has passed, and the New Year hangover has been cured. People are returning to work and kids are returning to school. That means dedlines for work projects, the return of homework for kids, and after school activities. After the busy season leading into the holidays and the lazy time between Christmas and the New Year; how do we get back on track? I usually take some extra time off around the holidays and use this time to reevaluate my life in general. I look at finances, short term goals, long term goals, and the systems I use to organise and manage my life. This is not a quick or easy task, but it is one I believe is necessary especially for busy parents.


Method

Setting goals for yourself is one thing. With work, chores, projects at home, kids extra curricular activities, school work, and other personal commitments the question is how to you manage completeing those goals while meeting all the other responsibilities you have? You need to have some kind of method to organize and keep track of everything. There are many books on project management and time management out there. I have read many of the books and tried many of the time management methods out there over the years. I have settled on the Getting Things Done Methodology. I will not go into detail since this is not a post about GTD but about general time management.


Tools

Once you have decided on a method you need to setect how you will apply the method, keep track of your schedule, and tasks. There are mutiple tools out there that can help with this. No one tool will meet all your needs. Unless you are going to use only paper and pencil your choice is also dependent on which devices you will be using. Some apps like Todoist have apps for multiple devices and computer operating systems. Others such as Omnifocus will only work with one platform. I use an iPhone, iPad, HP laptop with Windows 10 (for work), and a MacBook Pro (for personal computing). For notes and refrence material I use Evernote. For storing other documents such as Word and Excel files I use Microsoft OneDrive. Both of these options have apps for Windows, Mac OS, and IOS. For scheduling appointment, tracking projects, and other tasks I use Informant (formally know as Pocket Informant). Informant has IOS and Mac apps. It also has an Outlook add-on that runs on Windows. This allows me to keep track of my schedule and task list no matter where I am or what machine I am using.


What method do you use and what tools do you use? Please feel free to leave a comment.