Last time we talked about getting a daily schedule in place. Today we are looking at meal planning! Meal planning is one of those areas that can really cause stress if it is not under control.
We all know what it is like to have the evening hours creep up on us and not have a clue what we are going to fix for dinner. We either end up going out to eat, ordering out, or fixing something quick and easy that is not as good for us (like opening a can and heating it up!). The good news is that it just takes a little bit of planning ahead of time and you can have this area of your life under control! Not only will your stress level go down, but you will save money, and eat healthier!
STEPS TO GETTING YOUR MENU PLANNING UNDER CONTROL
1. Make a meals list!
Get a piece of paper out and make a list of your family’s favorite meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Get your kids involved and let them tell you their favorite meals. Write them all down! Now that you have your lists in hand, you are ready to make a menu!
2. Make a menu!
You can make your menus a week at a time, two weeks at a time, or a month at a time…whatever works best for you. Grab a blank calendar and choose meals from your meals lists for each day of the week (breakfasts, lunches, and dinners). Keep in mind if you have certain days of the week that are busier than others…plan easier meals for those days. Place your menus in a prominent place such as on the refrigerator so you can see it easily each day. Once you have your menus made up, you are ready to make your grocery list!
3. Make a grocery list!
Take a look at the meals you have on your menus, look at the recipes (click here for instructions on making your own recipe book!), then make your grocery list based on what ingredients you need to buy.
4. Go shopping!
Once you have your list in hand, go do your shopping! Come home, put your groceries away, resting in the fact that you are well prepared for the coming week.
5. Prepare the meals!
Each day you simply need to check in the morning what meals are planned for that day, get any meat out of the freezer, etc. When the time comes to prepare the meals for the day, you will have everything you need!
I know this seems simplistic, but it really isn’t that hard! Follow these easy steps, and you will be well on your way to being organized in this area of your life!
MEAL PLANNING TIPS
There are many ways to do meal planning and I just wanted to share a few tips and advice about some different ways you can do it. You really have to find a system that works for you and your family. Don’t think that if you don’t do it the way I do that you are doing it wrong. The right way is the way that works for you! Ok, now for some tips!
- Cook meat in bulk. Buy a bunch of hamburger and cook 3-5 pounds in a large crockpot by cooking on high until done, breaking up the hamburger and stirring throughout the day. I add some minced onion and garlic powder while it cooks. Once the hamburger is done, drain in a colander and rinse with water (this helps the flavor of the meat when you freeze it not to get that greasy taste). I let the meat cool, and then scoop 2-3 cups of meat in freezer bags and freeze. This meat is now ready for sloppy joes, casseroles, spaghetti, pizza, beef enchiladas, etc. This saves so much time and helps cut meal preparation down a lot. Use this same concept when cooking cubed chicken or any other meat. Precook the meat and then freeze it in small quantities to use for meals.
- Double up meal preparation when you can. If you are making a meal that can be frozen, 2X or 3X the recipe and freeze the extra for another day! I have done this and it is not that much more work to prepare enough for 2 or 3 meals while you have all the pots and pans dirty.
- Use Google Calendar for your meal planning! Once you have a list of meals that your family loves, enter them into your Google Calendar (make a label for your menu) and have them repeat every other month. If you can get enough meals to rotate, you will have a variety and your menu plans will be done! If you ever want to incorporate a new recipe, just go in and edit the calendar and add in the new recipe. I have been doing this for quite some time now and it has worked pretty well. I print out my calendar for the week and it includes my menus for each day (entered as events on each day). I use that to make my grocery list and then it goes on the frig. That way I can easily see any appointments for the week, as well as all the meals! If a meal that you have scheduled for the day doesn’t work, you can easily cross it off and write in what works. I do this when I want to use up leftovers. I love using my Google Calendar!
- Use the editable menu planning forms (link below) and fill in a month or two of meals. Print them out and then just rotate them each week. This is a similar idea as using the Google Calendar, but you are just using the menu planning forms to fill in your menus so that you have a bunch of week’s worth of menus to rotate.
I hope this has given you some helpful ideas to get you started in getting this area of your life a little more organized. Just remember – no guilt! Use the system that works for you! If planning a week at a time is what works best for you, then do it. The important thing is that you have a plan and the plan is working for you.
Have a wonderful day in the Lord!