Don’t Overthink Meal Planning

Don't Overthink Meal Planning!

In a previous podcast episode called Simplified Menu Planning, I encouraged listeners to not overthink meal planning. (You may listen to that episode here.)

In this audio, I described how my original freezer cooking, in which I plugged all of my entrees into categories (based on meat types), led me to look at meal planning in a more simplified way. I made my master list of most of the entrees that I fix under each category, and then I can see what meats are on sale, scan my master entrée list, and choose meals to make.


Podcast Handout for “Simplified Meal Planning”

Simplifed Meal Planning Podcast



Listen to the podcast here!


Get asked efficiency questions a lot:

1. Doing the mundane, routine, or regular more quickly and more efficiently gives you more time for the exciting, ground-breaking, earth-shattering!

2. Teaches our children efficient work habits.

3. Makes you feel like a million bucks! 🙂


Podcast: Simplified Meal Planning

Podcast: Simplified Meal PlanningDonna Reish, author of numerous writing and language arts books as well as Character Ink blog, Raising Kids With Character parenting seminar, and Language Lady blog, answers readers’ questions about efficiency in the kitchen. In this follow-up to Five Tips for Kitchen Efficiency, Donna shares more kitchen efficiency tips—especially meal planning for busy families. In this podcast episode, Simplified Meal Planning, Donna describes two “thinking” processes for deciding what to have for meals: (1) Basing meal lists on meats or main ingredients and keeping a running list of the things you make and (2) Keeping staples for the most common meals on hand. Donna shares her master entrée list in the accompanying handout to help get your creative juices flowing. She also focuses on making quick decisions and not getting bogged down mentally or time-wise with indecisiveness.


Baking Rice

My grad-student daughter from Illinois, my fifteen year old son, and I spent half a day this week cooking with my daughter who is expecting her first baby (our first grandchild) in four weeks. I have done freezer cooking for twenty-two years, so the girls just naturally do these types of cooking and food preps as well.

In three hours, five of us did fifty meals! That is twice as many as I normally would do in that time with that many people working simply because I was splitting the meals between Cami and me–so we averaged four servings per meal (instead of the normal eight servings that my meals now make). She took the smaller ones (see picture above) while I took the bigger ones. So in essence, we did twenty-five entrees that fed three and twenty-five entrees that fed six to eight.

The details of how to freezer cook are definitely for another time (and I am looking into doing a podcast about it for those who have been asking a lot), but I did want to document the fact that I cooked rice in the oven for the first time, and it turned out wonderful!

One of the entrees we were making is called “meatball stroganoff over rice.” We had long-grain brown rice, but my daughter forgot to bring her rice cooker, and mine is well, buried or lost or something. (I’ve been decluttering and getting rid of things and putting things I don’t use as often in tubs, and, well, I lost the rice cooker.)

Normally, when I do freezer cooking (usually once a week I do four to ten entrees for the freezer during one of my twice-weekly (or thrice-weekly) Kitchen Sessions), I start things immediately that take a while. One of those early tasks would be to put a lot of rice in the rice cooker for this stroganoff dish. I couldn’t put it in the microwave because that would tie up the micro too long, and I didn’t want to cook it on the stove because it would also be tied up–plus, I hate watching rice on the stove top while I am freezer cooking. It is a pain and just another thing to think about when I am crazy busy in the kitchen.

I remember a friend telling me that another mutual friend cooks her rice in the oven, so I Googled it and discovered that it looked as simple as the rice cooker or micro method (both of which I love and yield perfect rice imho).

I will put the link below from for detailed instructions, but I skimmed the recipe and did what I always do: did four times as much as the recipe said while not really doing what the instructions say–and hoped for the best!

In a nutshell, I put four cups of rice and eight cups of hot water in a jelly roll pan (huge “cookie sheet” type of pan with great sides–mine take up my entire oven, like the size of two 9×13’s or so). I did this twice. Turned the oven on 375, covered the two pans tightly with foil, and forgot about the them for forty-five minutes or so. Then I pulled them out, removed the foil, and had perfect rice. It didn’t take up my micro or stove top; I didn’t have to stir or watch or add more water, etc. It was that simple.

Note that the instructions say that you need to boil the water first, add butter, etc., but I literally did what I wrote above. Easy peasy.  If I were doing it again, I would use broth. I always cook my rice in broth, but for some reason I forgot this time.

Anyway, we pulled the rice pans out of the oven and dipped the rice into the bottom of our foil pans, placed our meatballs all over the rice, then coated the meatballs with our stroganoff gravy. And they looked delicious!

Here is the official instructions from

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