Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Meal Planning

Recently a friend asked me if I planned meals and I was happy to enthusiastically tell her I did. I relayed this story to her:

I was sitting at the counter one evening either working painfully slowly or lamenting about working on it or procrastinating altogether about my meal planning when it occurred to me that this should not be an issue in my life. I have been cooking/baking/providing meals every day for 18+ years. Sitting here with this kind of attitude wasn't doing me any good. That thought cut all my excuses to the quick and I decided to put a stop to it once and for all. 

So here are the tools I use and how I meal plan.

First off, figure out what to have for supper tonight. Make sure that is taken care of. I mean, stop reading this right now and go figure it out if you have to. This idea is from FlyLady.

Second, print off the Dinner Menu from Paperworks or assemble some writing material for planning for about a month.

Third, look at your activity calendar. Its important to note what days you might need specific meals or types of meals. Since Thursday is both basketball practice and speech, having Parmesan Chicken Strips that I hand bread isn't going to work. I want a casserole that can be ready to go or reheated once the late stragglers come in. 

Fourth, start writing in meals. Write specifically and as much as you need. Don't think you will remember where that recipe is located when you get to it two weeks later- example: honey glazed pork chops/Nourished app, etc. Go about it any way you want but write it out and do it fast. Fill in as many meals as you can right then. Later you can fill in the blanks. Don't over think it. You can do this!

My rating system: a star means definitely make again, a bullet points means maybe, an x means never again (and I get rid of the recipe)

Fifth, assemble your shopping list. Use whatever you want for that. On a very rare occasion do I write out my shopping list. When I do, its because I'm planning something bigger, like family coming for an extended stay with many meals or my brain just isn't clicking and I've got to write it out. However, I always use ZipList for my final go to the store list.

I'm quite excited about ZipList! 
It's an app that functions as a recipe box and a grocery list maker (You can also add other lists, too.) so you have it with you always.
It's a recipe clipper that you can tag and organize. This is an online function in which it will capture the recipe on the webpage you are on, make the ingredient list for you and allows you to decide what you need to purchase.
These two functions sync between each other.

Confused? Don't be. Go to, create an account and add the recipe clipper to your toolbar (like the Pin It button for Pinterest). Also download the free app to your smartphone and get those synced. Now visit a webpage with a recipe you want to make. Hit the Recipe Clipper button and a box should pop up with the recipe in it and usually (but not always) a picture. From there you can tag the recipe- chicken, oven baked, etc.- whatever tags you want to use. Or add the recipe to the calendar feature it has if you want.) Or add ingredients to your shopping list. It will split out what you might need and what you might already have but no matter you can add what you need from whichever list.
Clipping the recipe allows a couple of things to happen more easily. You have not only the ingredient list/shopping list with you, you also have the recipe with you. I've found this to be handy on several occasions when traveling or when I need refreshing with how that recipe is made. Also, with the tags you can pull up, say, only crock-pot recipes for better meal planning. 

Sixth, go shopping. Sometimes I will shop for only a week's worth of meals at a time, sometimes I will shop for meals for everything I have planned. (I almost never plan an entire month at a time.) I generally go to the grocery store once a week because of fresh produce since that is always gone first and I only have so much fridge space for it.

This isn't a post on how to save money on groceries. It's how to plan for feeding yourself or your family every day and not let it stress you. Sort of like my training plans where I don't want to think, I just want to run and get it done, it's the same with meals. I can't let it consume more of my time and energy then it should. 

A few last tips

  • Make sure to plan "normal food" at least once a week. "Normal food" is Ben's way of saying "Please make regular spaghetti and not only Mexican Beef with Spaghetti Squash." My kids are good sports and I think stretching their taste buds is a good thing but I have more willing kids when I keep "normal food" in regular rotation.
  • Clean out your fridge. Starting with the condiments and only one shelf at a time, take them all out. First check the expiration date. Toss if it's past. {gross} Wipe the shelf out and put the rest back. Keep the jellies together, the salad dressings together, etc. Do the same for the main compartment. Unless it's a leftover that you will eat for lunch or that is supper tonight- toss it! Wipe the shelf off and move on. Top to bottom. Set a timer for 15 minutes and see what you can get done. 
  • Do the same for your freezer. Wrap properly and label it well. Toss unkept/unmarked/freezer burned/suspicious looking items. I did this last week and it took me less than a half hour total even though I split up the fridge and freezer work into two separate times. 
  • Make a list of what is in your freezer and meal plan off of those items. If you know what you have then you'll use it. It's also budget friendly.
  • Do the same for your pantry/cabinet items sometime. (Do fridge/freezer first)
  • "It's leftover night, honey. What do you want? We've got steak, chicken, pasta…" The Incredibles movie is maybe my favorite Pixar movie. Leftovers. First off, make sure you leave a meal for them- maybe Sunday night or Saturday lunch or even lunch the next day. Then make the leftovers consumer friendly. Store them properly. In containers. With lids. And labels. Eat them (within a week or less) or toss them. Nothing gets pushed to the back of the fridge without you knowing it. Plan for them. Make a giant pot roast for a meal then shred the meat for something else you plan to eat in the next day or so or freeze it (add it to the freezer list).  
I'm obviously a list/planner girl. I really can't imagine how some function without either. Even so, I have to let that not overrun me. The point isn't the planning and the lists. The point is caring for my family. You can do this!

Alrighty, I'm wordy and bossy today. I don't mean to be. Now it's your turn. What works for meal planning for you? And, what are you eating tonight?

1 comment:

  1. I plan my menu weekly, but all my resources are online. I plan my menu on Google calendar adding links to my recipes saved on Delicious (Yahoos social bookmarking). I use OurGroceries for my grocery list. I like to avoid paper as much as possible.


Thanks for reading. Kind comments are always welcomed!