Many of you have commented on my meal-planning. Mostly on the fact that I plan all three meals for all seven days of the week. How do I do it? Why do I do it? It’s easier than one might think. And it’s what works for me. 🙂
Before I begin I grab a piece of paper, an index card and a pen. I also pull up the weekly sales flyer online for our local grocery store. I scan the flyer to see if there are any really great sales that I’d like to utilize for our meals. Are hot dogs on sale? Or milk? Hey, breakfast sausage is on sale – sweet! I write these things down on my index card, which will be used for compiling my grocery list. Then I sit down to plan the menu.
I prepare my notebook paper like this:
And then I begin. The first thing I do is plan my breakfasts. This takes only a minute. Common breakfast options include: Srambled eggs, turkey bacon or sausage, biscuits, gravy, pancakes, oatmeal, cream of wheat, fruit, yogurt and cereal. Sometimes I’ll make a skillet breakfast casserole which also requires tater tots (and then we’ll have extra tots for another meal) and on occasion we’ll have french toast, cinnamon toast, or cinnamon rolls. I always plan biscuits & gravy because it’s hubby’s fave, sometimes twice. I usually plan a bigger breakfast for Saturday morning and a quick, easy breakfast like cereal or yogurt on Sunday morning. It’s as easy a plugging options in, 1-2-3.
The next step is planning the supper meal because sometimes leftovers can be used for lunch the next day. I take a quick look at the calendar for what we had for supper the last two weeks to make sure we don’t over repeat anything. If there was anything that we didn’t get to use for that week, I plug it in first. I consider weeknight commitments (such as church, dance, etc.) and keep that in mind when selecting what night to prepare what dish. Next I check my deskpad calendar for any ideas I might have jotted down while browsing menus on Monday and I plug those in into the week. At least every other week I plan a breakfast for dinner, I particularly like to do that on Sunday. Then I fill the rest of the nights in with common supper ideas that we haven’t had in a while. My husband doesn’t like to try new things too often, he’s somewhat of a picky eater and we usually work on a tight budget, so we repeat things a lot but I rotate them around enough to keep things from feeling repetetive.
Common supper ideas around here are: Rice & beans & cornbread, chili & cornbread, our family casserole (a ground beef, green bean & potato dish), Tuna Helper’s Fettuccini Alfredo or Creamy Broccoli or Tettrazini with salad & bread, Spaghetti with bread and salad, Frito pie, Taco Soup, Potato Soup, Meatloaf or Porcuppine Meatballs, Tacos, Enchiladas, and hamburgers.
The last thing I do is plan the lunches. I go down the list looking at the supper meal the night before. If it is something that will have leftovers or something I can easily double to make leftovers, I’ll write that down for lunch the next day. Then I go back through and fill in the blanks. I look at what is being served for breakfast and dinner so I can catch any nutritional gaps. I don’t want to plan oatmeal, mac n cheese, and potato soup all on one day. Instead I’d plug in something with more protein like an egg/cheese/bacon wrap or a peanut butter sandwich and some fruit. After just a minute, the lunches are all filled in, too. Lunch is actually the hardest meal for me to plan, believe it or not. I run low on lunch ideas. My kids don’t like corn dogs, fish sticks, grilled cheese (unless served with soup), and a ton of other common kid foods I just can’t think of right now.
Common lunches around here include: PBJ’s, grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup, mac’n’wienes, nachos, fried egg sandwiches, baked potatos and hotdogs. And of course, leftovers. 🙂
After that the meal planning is finished, but I’m not. While I have everything out I make out my grocery list. Adding to the list of sales items (that I should have used while meal planning and should erase if I didn’t) I go through each meal on the menu. I write down what I need to purchase to make that meal. If in doubt, I get up and check the pantry because I hate going back to the store and it’s a waste of gas. When I write something down and then find I need it for a second meal (like ground beef) I go back to that on the list and add a (2) or something appropriate. Once I’ve gone through the whole menu, I double check the grocery list to make sure everything looks okay. I then add beverages and snacks and any other household items I need and now I am ready for the next week. I take my things to my desk where I write the menu on the deskpad calendar and slip the grocery list index card into my coupon organizer.
Then I sit back and enjoy the feeling of organization for a moment before real life kicks in again. 🙂
I find that doing things this way really does work best for me because:
- I don’t usually find myself needing to make repeat trips to the store for forgotten items.
- I spend less money in the long run because of that.
- I feel like we have better meals for the extra planning work – more balanced ones for sure.
- Having it written down helps me plan better for the next day (taking meat out to thaw, etc.)
- The kids enjoy knowing what is on the menu all week.
- I don’t find myself staring into the pantry trying to decide what to fix anymore, I just look at the menu and grab the stuff.
- We stick to the menu at least 95% of the time, but enjoy the flexibility of swapping meals according to spur of the moment plans or cravings.
- Planning all the meals is helping me with my weight loss plans because I plan on having something extra around for myself when I don’t want to indulge on the family’s fare (Yogurt instead of biscuits and gravy, or having salad available with the fettuccini alfredo.)
- It also helps with the meal rotating and spacing to avoid too much repetition like I mentioned earlier. I don’t often hear “We just had that!” anymore. 🙂
- If I ever need to because of the budget (I have once or twice) I can redo my shopping list for what I need for the first half of the week and what I need for the second half of the week so that I can break up the shopping trips – and it’ll only take me a minute.
As I said, this really doesn’t take that much work or take that much time, either. The more I do this, the faster it gets, too. In fact, it takes more time for me to blog about it than it does for me to create the menu! 😉
So you can see.. I plan all the meals on all the days because… that’s what works for me. 🙂
For more Works For Me Wednesday tips and ideas visit Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer.