Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Meal Planning - go for it!

What is your best time-saving tip?

Ah, this is an easy one - Meal plans! They save time on grocery store trips, and the nightly angst of "what's for dinner?" A meal plan seems so much harder and time-consuming than it actually is. It is a small investment for the amount of time you save.

I have a confession - I really hate going to the grocery store! What a waste of time! :) When WeaverDad and I first married and I was working full-time, the last thing I wanted to do at the end of a workday was go to the grocery store, walk around the entire store in uncomfortable "nice" shoes, stand in line with all the other people shopping for dinner, get home at 7:00 and THEN start cooking dinner. (I ate a lot of cereal when I was single. *wink*) And now that I'm staying home with the kids, I get to wear comfortable shoes and I can go to the store when I want to which helps, BUT, I get to bring the kids with me! Enough said, right?

I've done meal plans for 11 years now. As I write that, that freaks me out a little bit - but it's true. My husband can taste if meat has been frozen (I know!) so I shop by the week so that I can serve fresh meat as much as possible. I've done it several different ways. When we were first married, we ate out quite a bit, so I only planned 4 days a week. Then, 5. We moved to a place a little more remote and going out wasn't as easy, so I planned 6. Punkin arrived and we never went out, so I upped it to 7. Hubby was laid off, and I planned very carefully for awhile, checking the sales flyers and doing some bulk buying.

When SnugBug arrived, I found that I procrastinated going to the store because it felt like so much effort to plan the meals. So, I continued shopping by the week - but I planned for a month at a time. My original system was that I cut cardstock into 2x2 squares. I went through our recipes and wrote the names on the cards. Then I could lay them out on the table and arrange them as needed. I included cards that said "open", "new", and "out". After I arranged things for the month, I would transfer the names to a calendar page, and then when it came time to do my grocery list, I knew what to shop for! This worked well for me and I did that for almost 2 years.

Then, we started homeschooling and I started my business, and finding time to do the monthly meal plan became difficult. So, I came up with a 6 week meal plan. It's based loosely on this formula:

1 mexican
1 italian
1 meat & potatoes
1 fish
1 veggie
1 slow cook (for activity night where we don't get home until after 6:00)
1 easy

I don't plan nights of eating out, but I sure don't miss out on them when they are offered (or when I can finagle them.) I just skip a meal from the next week's list when I'm making my grocery list, and include the missed meal the following week.

And, since I personally find it easier to modify someone else's ideas instead of starting from scratch - here is what it looks like:

Week 1
Crescent Picadillo Bundles
Spinach Lasagna
Scallops & Rice
Veggie Night (example: spinach/ cornbread, pasta salad w/protein, corn)
Frozen slow-cook (straight from the freezer section)
Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato & Basil

Week 2
Fiesta Casserole
Hamburger Steak
Salmon, rice & veggie
Antipasto Plate
Slow cook pork chops
Soup & Sandwiches

Week 3
Beef Tacos
Brunswick Stew
Chicken Marsala
Tilapia, broc
Chicken Pot Pie
Hot Dogs & Rice
Frozen slow-cook

Week 4
Chicken Tacos
Bow-Tie Lasagna
S&B BBQ pork chops
Chicken Squares
Beef & Noodle Casserole
Roast, veggies
Tortellini w/ alfredo sauce, salad

Week 5
Frito Soup
Rotisserie chicken
New fish
Cheese Enchiladas
Frozen slow cook
Soup & Sandwiches

Week 6
Texas Hash
Simple Marinated Chicken
Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes with Ham
New veggie
Frozen slow cook
Mexican Chicken Salad

I know some of you use meal plans. Please share what works for you!

Happy meal planning!


Alycia said...

What a creative system! I loved the idea of settting out cards to formulate your meal plan. I have been struggling with this and find myself standing at the pantry trying to decide our meal, more times than I would like to admit ;) Thanks for the tips and recipe ideas!

MorningSong said...

I am with Alycia! Meal time was very stressful for us as we stood at the pantry door trying to be inspired! We were doing that until about a month ago and then I joined Google calendars and printed one out. I put it on the fridge and wrote out a lunch/dinner meal plan for two weeks. So we take that list - make a grocery list and then we have our meals planned for at least 2 weeks. This also helps us with grocery shopping b/c we do it all at once. Only occassional runs to the store for milk. The scheduled meals has changed our life! Much more peaceful and much more pleasant!


Heidi Jo said...

do you mind sending some of these recipes my way...via email if you want? holy cow, to be so husband would faint!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

great system! I do 7 days at a time and hit the store once a week. I actually write my meals on one list for the week (which hangs on the fridge) and then make the shopping list based on the meal needs. Seems to work out. I am getting inspired to plan further ahead! Thanks for sharing this system.

Amber said...

It would make life a lot easier if I made a 4-6week menu vs. one week. Great idea, thanks!!!

God Bless,

Momma Roar said...

This is so awesome and I'm glad you shared it today.

I still appreciate so much that you shared this with me a few months ago - I'm not following my plan as closely as I did at first - but I am at least sticking to planning out a week or two and then getting the groceries all at once.

I think summer is hard to plan meals for since hubby works outside and isn't always real hungry so I try to keep things on the lighter side sometimes. I'm looking forward to fall and getting back to some of our favorites!!

Just Mom said...

I've never used a meal plan system before. I probably should start one.

Thanks for the post.

Momma Oak said...

For the last 6 years I have been making menu's for 2 weeks worth of meals. It has been working great, but now I think I'm ready to move to 6 weeks and I like the idea of having a specific meal type for each day.

thanks for sharing!

Lori said...

Wow! You are so organized.
What a great idea.
I hope you mind my swiping your menu plan idea. Thanks for sharing.

Spice Mom said...

I love the meal planning idea. 4 of my friends and I get together once a month and do "Cooking Club." We each pick 2 recipes and purchase the ingredients for these recipes x 5. Then we get together and cook. We all have 3+ children, so we make larger sized meals that typically feed our families for dinner and then leftovers for lunch. We usually spend less than $80 a month on 10 meals. Our best month was $57 for 10 meals. It works out great!

Jessie said...

That is so organized - my husband has been asking me to make a big list of all the foods that we like as a family and then every other week picking some off it to make and then finally deciding on what to make by weekly grocery sales. I just can't seem to get my list made though.