Well folks, we’re at it again. More blogging about meal planning. I thought that it might be instructive if I explained the process that I go through to achieve our meal plan. As I work on it, I try to keep in mind that the whole goal of meal planning for me is to save some money, save some time, and make the transition from getting home to having dinner go smoothly I move forward from there. You need to do the same thing. I mean, the whole point is for things to be easier, right? So, have a look at what I do but then modify it to make things simple for your family.
Grocery day here is usually Sunday. Sometimes Monday. That means that I usually end up working on the meal plan on Friday or Saturday. If I can, I do it in the most comfortable location possible. With maybe some tea or a glass of wine. Sometimes, in desperate times, I work on it while I’m commuting.
I write out the days of the week and then take a look at my schedule. I automatically assign one day to take-out night – around here that’s usually Friday, a reward for a long hard week at the office. I have a sort of repertoire of ‘easy’, low-prep dinners too. I’ll usually pick one (pasta with sauce and veg or maybe something that can be made in the crockpot) and assign that to the night that is the busiest night (for now, that means it’s the night I go to class). Since we almost always take leftovers for lunch I’m not embarassed to have “lunch” for dinner. What I mean is, if I know that I’ve got a really busy week ahead, we’ll have sandwiches and soup or sandwiches and salad or in the summer, maybe grilled chicken breast and salad. Since we haven’t been eating sandwiches all week long they seem like a treat when we have them for dinner.
Ok, so I’ve got two meals taken care of. I then tend to assign one night a sort of ‘leftovers’ or ‘pantry’ night, a dinner that could be made by using up some of the odds and ends that I don’t want to spoil. Frittata, quiche, curry, stirfry, pizza, and pasta bake will usually fit the bill. I don’t do this every week, I kind of make a judgement about this on Saturday when I’m preparing the menu and see what odds and ends are floating around.
For all the days that are left, I mostly follow the basic meal assembly system of protein, carb, veggies. If you’re new to meal planning you might want to write down in three columns all of the carbs, protein, and veggies that your family will eat. I do it just off the top of my head.
My protein list goes something like this: poultry (chicken or turkey), beef (roast, ground, steaks, ribs), pork (chops, ribs, roast, pulled), fish, shrimp, tofu, eggs, legumes or none (sometimes we have vegetarian nights that don’t have a protein)
My starch list goes something like this: potatoes, rice, bulgar, polenta, quinoa, and bread/pita/wraps/taco shells
My veggies list is too long to list, but you get the idea.
Ok, so now, I just pick something from each list and then try to turn it into some kind of meal. Since I like variety and have ‘moods’ about food, I don’t do it entirely randomly. You could, but I don’t.
My husband and I like to both contribute to the meal planning and to the grocery list. We do all of our planning online, in a shared Google document. I enter in all the meals as I think of them and my hubby has editing capability or he can put in some of this own meal suggestions. We keep a running grocery list through the week in the same shared Google document (for things like laundry soap, if I happen to notice that we’re running low, on say, Wednesday).
As soon as the meal plan is prepared we write the grocery list. That way we don’t forget to buy anything at the store.
So, here’s a sample of one of our menus:
Monday – Leftovers (from Sunday)
Tuesday – Pancakes, bacon, fruit salad (it was my daughter’s birthday and she picked)
Wednesday – Tofu and mixed vegetable stir fry with rice (basic garlic sauce)
Thursday – Spinach, tomato, and cheddar omelets with toast
Friday – Take-out
Saturday – Linguini, turkey meatballs, and marinara sauce; carrots and cucumbers
Sunday – Meatloaf, mashed potatoes with rutabaga, and peas
If any of you have tips or ideas or suggestions for you’re finding your meal planning, let me know in the comments!