Okay before we dive into this post we have to be clear on something. We're all friends right? So totally no judging in this area because 1) I'm not an expert and 2) I'm pretty sure it's a work in progress that sometimes works better than others for ALL of us, myself included. Mkay? The topic of today... is meal planning. (Did I just hear you groan? I groaned right along with you there.)
The other day, I posted our dinners for a week. I love how food brings everyone together, even if it's in the common complaint about how almost all of us hate the chore of grocery shopping. Another thing I loved was how you all told us how healthy we eat... you know why we eat healthy dinners right? 1) Because my Mama pounded that into my head growing up and 2) I love to bake. Trust me, I way overcompensate by baking and force feeding my family brownies on a weekly basis. Okay, that was a slight exaggeration. But really, I do bake often. Sometimes I bake healthy things.
That was a super easy post on my end, because I'd already taken the
time to plan our meals out in advance before ever making the decision to
post on it. And let me be clear- I do really well with this most of the time, but then there are times when I stand, staring blankly at my fridge, thinking, "Umm.. eggs anyone?"
The first thing I do, is gather up my trusted, favorite, cookbooks. These happen to be my three faves currently. I try to challenge myself to make at least two or three brand new recipes each month. (Does it always happen? No.) I go through them, tabbing pages that look good, and I leaf through my recipe book with old stand-by's and yank the ones I want out, putting them into a pile. That part can take five minutes, or five hours, and let's be honest, I don't have five hours, so I pick recipes quickly.
Part of that process, is that I only keep recipes that I have tried and liked and cookbooks that I trust, around. I toss magazine pages in a heartbeat if I haven't made it soon after clipping it. (I'm a thrower. I admit it.)
The other thing that makes this process go quickly for me, is that I make a menu list of dinners, beginning with a quick and easy one the night of grocery shopping. (Can you say rotisserie chicken, anyone?) I glance at our calendar, marking holiday meals, company, and other events, so I know to plan for those accordingly. Then I fill in the rest of the nights with the recipes I've gathered and marked. I try to make note of weekends that will be leisurely, or fast-paced, and plan easy to prepare, or more complicated items in light of that.
Once my menu is filled in, (which takes another five minutes or so) I flip through each recipe, scribbling ingredients onto a separate grocery list. That's when I check spices and pantry stapes, and there are things you buy each week like milk and eggs, etc. that also go on there. I generally do this two days before the grocery day so that I can add to the list as I see we need to restock items. And I must admit... as prepared as that sounds, I'm famous for always forgetting at least one thing either on my list, or at the store. It's become something of a joke around here.
I keep my menu list posted on the side of the fridge and mark dinners off as we make them. Sometimes I change something around last minute too, but since all the nights are accounted for, it works out. I should probably say that I also plan leftover nights if I know something is going to make a large batch.
I hope this was helpful to someone out there struggling to figure out how to streamline the process. I find that we don't have to run to the store as often, so we spend a lot less when I take the few minutes to do this!
Do you meal plan? What works best for you?