One of the easiest ways I've found to streamline mealtime (STRESSFUL with a 9-month-old!) and grocery trips is to meal plan. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with meal planning, it is an organizational system of planning out what your family will be eating for a specific time frame (weekly, monthly, etc...).
As of now, I prefer a weekly menu plan, as being pregnant causes me to constantly change my mind about what I want to eat! To make my menu planning easier, I try to stick to certain dinner themes for each night of the week. Here's how I am doing it right now:
Monday--date night--out to eat with hubby!!!
Tuesday--stir-fry or omlettes
Wednesday--crockpot (could be anything, but for us it's usually Italian)
Thursday--chicken, fish or casserole
Saturday--main dish salad (taco salad, grilled chicken salad, etc..) or soup, depending on season
Sunday--leftovers or something very simple, like sandwiches.
I sit down on Saturday nights to make out my weekly menu and it's companion grocery list. I always ask my husband for his special requests (always pizza!) and either fit them in to one of the catergories or make an exception for his request. I do try to remain flexible with menu planning, as I always like to try new recipes, but I find that most recipes generally fit in to my plan. I prepare side dishes according to what I have and what is in season (lots of salad in the summer, root veggies in the winter, etc..). Being organized with menu planning has saved me quite a bit of time, not only in preparing meals, but with trips to the store as well! I make one trip to the grocery store (and one to the farmers' market in spring/summer) on Sundays to buy everything needed for the week.
I don't use a theme for breakfasts or lunches, just try to keep them quick and easy for simplicity's sake! Here's a typical week of breakfasts and lunches in our home:
Wednesday--bagels, butter, smoothies
Saturday--french toast, pancakes or scrapple
Sunday--something super-fast, as we are out the door to church!
Lunches are usually leftovers from dinner the night before. If there are no leftovers on hand, then I may use one of the following options:
Lunch: chicken or tuna salad, bean burritos with salsa, grilled turkey sandwiches with tomato soup, peanut butter and jam, chicken caesar wraps or hummus plate with pita bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced onion and black olives.
This is what works for me! I realize this system may not be usefull to everyone, but it has definitely saved me quite a bit of time and money. I like the feeling of knowing exactly what I will make for dinner each week, saving me last-minute dinner stress!
I would love to hear from you about your meal planning systems!