Meal Planning has been on my mind lately for a few reasons, one of them being we just finished up our month of no-dining-out (100 small things task #74), so I'm taking it as a sign that I need to blog about it again. I did a post a while back about how I got started if you want to check that out again.
I think there are stages to meal planning:
1. feeling overwhelmed at the thought of planning meals ahead
2. planning meals simply so you aren't scrambling at dinnertime every night
3. planning meals because you see money savings
4. planning meals to save even more money by not just buying meal ingredients but using the things you already have available
5. planning meals because it's the only thing that makes sense
Whatever stage you are at, know that it takes slow steps and consistency to continue on the meal planning journey. And the most important thing to keep in mind is that YOU have to do YOU. There is no method that suits everyone. Meal planning isn't supposed to be another thing to add to your already filled parent plate - meal planning is something that is supposed to be helpful!
Here's how it works for me right now, as a stay at home mum to three little kids. And after three years of meal planning, I have a stronghold in stage5 of meal planning:
Recipes: About ninety percent of my monthly meal planning recipes comes from pinterest. The thing about pinterest is you can find anything your heart desires on there. and lots of times, anything your heart desires is the opposite of helpful. My kids aren't picky but they prefer certain types of food and many times its food that doesn't include a lot of spice and fanfare. Simple, yummy, type stuff. This helps me streamline the kinds of things I'm pinning to my meal boards because I know some things are just not going to fly with family meals.
While planning out the meals, I make sure to comb through the pantry, canned food cupboards, and the deep freezer to do an 'inventory' of things that need used. In this way, I'm able to save even more money by using food that we have on hand but lots of time, gets pushed to the back of the shelves until they expire.
Shopping: We do one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month for supplies for the month of meals that are planned. I keep the running grocery list on a full sheet of paper as soon as I start noticing we need certain items during the month. Throughout the month though, we obviously need to replenish daily used items (bread, milk, eggs, lettuce) and so we'll have to double up on those things throughout the month. Otherwise, everything else is purchased at the big shopping trip (we get 90% of our food at ALDI).
Planning: I only plan for five meals during the weekdays and then with leftovers or dinners at the grandparents houses, we usually can make it through the whole week with no trouble. I mark down the meals in my planner because it's convenient and kind of my favorite thing.
We are meat-eaters, so I work to spread out various types of meals throughout the week. Based on meat sales/prices help to determine what we will be eating over the course of the month too. I try to stretch different types of protein too (beef, pork, poultry, seafood like shrimp and salmon)
I only plan out our main dish and go pretty loose on the side dishes. We stock up on frozen veggies, those Knorr side dish, and anything else that might seem delicious as we do our big shopping trip to supplement as side dishes on the meal plan day. We also have salad as an option at every meal because the momma must have salad all the time (we keep dried cranberries and croutons on hand for salad toppings!) Lunch is for leftovers or throw-togethers (sandwiches/salads/soups,etc) and Breakfast is sometimes quick (waffles, cereal) or a chance to try pinterest yumminess.
So for the month of November, here is what our month of meal planning looks like:
Monday: Cheesy Veggie Chowder
Tuesday: Slow cooker Cream Cheese Taquitos
Wednesday: American Goulash
Thursday: Loaded Chicken & Potato Casserole
Friday: Breakfast for dinner! French Toast & Sausage
Monday: Homemade Pizzas
Tuesday: Please-make-more Crockpot Meatballs
Wednesday: Broccoli & Wild Rice Soup
Thursday: Chicken & Stuffing (with broccoli)
Friday: Shredded Deer Meat
Monday: Ranch Porkchops
Tuesday: Tater Tot Enchilada Bake
Wednesday: Slow cooker Chicken & Gravy
Thursday: Crispy Shrimp Pasta Alfredo
Friday: 'fancy' hot dogs
Monday: Open-face layered tostados
Tuesday: Crockpot french onion dip subs
Wednesday: Veggie loaded Fried Rice
Friday: Leftover Turkey Burritos
Monday: Turkey Pot Pie
What stage of meal planning are you at? Do you have any family favorite recipes to share?