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Meal Planning-A Refresher Course

February 22, 2008

I have spoken of meal planning with a couple people (in real life) recently and it seems like it is a habit that many people would like to have but don’t currently do regularly, so I thought I would revisit the issue.

My method works for me because I like to have a little spontaneity built into a plan. Planning helps me to utilize the meats I have in my freezer, the staples I have in my pantry and the vegetables I get from our CSA share. I get the remaining ingredients from our local health food store and a grocery store in town, in that order; making one weekly trip also saves money on impulse purchases.

I plan my menu on Thursday (if I’m lucky) or Friday (this is the more frequent day) and grocery shop on Friday. I plan five meals per week, because I don’t generally cook on Tuesdays or Thursdays since Maddy has tae kwon do on those evenings and it has just proven to be too problematic to try to fit in cooking and a sit-down dinner. We eat leftovers or things like nachos, grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas on those nights. We almost never eat out.

Here is an example of a weekly meal plan:

  • Chicken Paella; Roasted Squash
  • Penne with Roasted Vegetables and Goat Cheese; Salad; Crusty Bread
  • Chinese Braised Beef; Rice; Sauteed Cabbage and Carrots
  • Roasted Chicken and Potatoes; a seasonal vegetable which will be chosen at the store
  • Bacon, Lentil and Kale Soup; Beet and Carrot Salad

I am going to test out a new facet of weekly meal planning that was inspired by an idea that Angelina was going to implement. Her method will utilize index cards with recipes on it and some type of binder with page protectors. This doesn’t work for me, because I usually print recipes out on letter-sized paper. What I think will work is to pull out the weekly recipes, put each into a page protector and bind them all together with those metal ring thingies* that you can buy at office supply stores. This will keep valuable counter space more clear because five or six pages bound together uses far less space than a 3″ three-ring binder that is busting its seams.

*This is the technical term.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Evelyn permalink
    February 23, 2008 3:18 pm

    I can’t even imagine going grocery shopping without planning menus ahead of time. It works for me. Even though I assign them to certain nights, I still quite often change them around to fit our schedule. It makes grocery shopping so much easier though.

  2. Prairie Momma permalink
    February 23, 2008 5:55 pm

    I have decided that meal planning for me is like furniture placement – after a while I just have to rearrange. So, our current arrangement has been going for over a year now. We have 3 menus that give us breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have just rotated those three menus throughout the year (Jan, Apr, July, Oct is one menu). It has worked, but we realize we are a boring family when it comes to meals and eat the same things over and over. I’ve tried to fight that for years, but I am finally OK with it. I realize that I like the idea of cooking these wonderful meals, but the reality is that I want easy so that I can do other things. I do enjoy cooking, but there are just other things I enjoy more. My girls have helped me in this area by pointing out that we eat more variety than our counterparts living in the west 150 years ago. That’s true, and I am happy I have an easy to please family. That said, we eat from our menu (makes shopping a breeze especially with my printable shopping list designed by my daughter), but we also give ourselves the flexibility to try something new here and there as our schedule and moods allow. Good luck with your menu planning!

  3. Lisa permalink
    February 24, 2008 6:10 pm

    Mom-I can’t either. I can only imagine myself standing in the middle of a grocery store with no list and three cranky children trying to make up meals in my head and purchase suitable ingredients and spending twice as much doing it so I didn’t miss buying something I might need. Scary!

    Cathy-I think it’s great that you have a method that works for you. I couldn’t do something like that because I like to try new stuff all the time and I would feel stifled. But I can see the definite advantages and time-saving for having your list and menus pre-created and you just have to pull them up.

    Do you use the crockpot alot? Just asking because I don’t use it much, because I don’t like the results as much as stove-top cooking or oven baking, but I have to admit that I enjoy the time-saving aspect and cooked two meals in it in the past week and half when I knew I wouldn’t be able to have something ready without it.

  4. Prairie Momma permalink
    February 25, 2008 5:44 pm

    I do use the crockpot – but mostly when I need convenience (away all day and want to come home to dinner ready to eat, cattle work that requires my hands as well, etc). Don’t get me wrong, we are not rigid with our menus and stray quite often. However, I have discovered that having the menu has been beneficial from the standpoint that if I’m detained, sick, busy helping John, etc, it’s been very easy for the girls or even Joshua to step up and fix dinner as they just have to look at the menu and go from there. There have been times where emergencies have come up that called me away, and as strange as this sounds, having the menu set up has had a calming effect on my family. There is a sense of stability in that menu for them and has been a blessing that we never even considered. It has been great for us, and I think it’s been good because we’ve learned how to use it to our benefit without being controlled by it. Good luck with your menu planning as well as changing your routine. Those are tough things to do but so wonderful once the change is accomplished.

  5. Lisa permalink
    February 25, 2008 7:09 pm

    Sounds like you use the crockpot like I do.

    I can see how having a regular menu can give your family comfort in times of an emergency. It’s something that they can fall back on.

  6. Cathy permalink
    December 9, 2008 4:38 pm

    Good tips here, Lisa. When I’m unorganized I usually start wasting a lot of time.

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