When people ask me how I manage to cook so many meals weekly for such a large family and I respond that I meal plan, the number one response I receive is:
‘I need to do that”, followed by “I wish I did that” followed by “How do you do that?” and then there is the occasional “I could never do that”.
How do you do it? Do you do it? Have you been saying you should but still haven’t started? Well, this is a great week to start because meal planning saves TIME and MONEY.
- I pick the day before I plan to go shopping to meal plan.
- I “shop” my refrigerator first to see if there are any produce or refrigerator items needing used. By doing this and making sure I plan the first meal of the week with those ingredients nothing ever gets thrown out. This saves big money; especially if you buy organic produce like we do.
- I shop my freezer and pantry next. This helps me remember what ingredients I already have, and saves me from putting unneeded items on my shopping list.
- (This one I just started doing recently) I check the weekly sale flyers and see if there are any deals to good to pass up that I can plan some meals out of. If my local supermarket decides to offer chicken at .49/pound, then it is a great week to make chicken a few nights.
- I meal plan 7-10 days at a time: foods for breakfasts, lunches, and diners that week and a few grab bag dishes (these could be snacks or desserts…) Some people meal plan a month in advance; do what works best for you.
- I usually pick 1-2 cookbooks and a couple of cooking magazines to glean inspiration or recipes from, no more. When I sit down with a stack bigger than that, the choices become over whelming.
- I make sure I am matching my planned dinners preparation time with the family activity for those evenings. For example, at our house I know Wednesday nights are a great night for something that can either be made very fast (20 min or less) or is the night I do a crockpot meal since this is the night my daughter has ballet and music and who wants to start cooking complicated or time consuming dishes at 7:30?
- I utilize the knock knock brand meal planning notepads for planning and shopping. My family can look at the meal planning one and know what we are going to have that week. The shopping list pad has items already listed so you just check off what you need (I like that). (Before I found these, I used standard 3 x 5 notecards for my meal planning and they worked just fine!)
- As I pick meals and place ingredients on my shopping list, I make separate shopping lists for separate stores. This makes shopping go faster and you can also delegate a spouse or driving age child to pick up items from one of the stores if you choose. I try very hard to keep the list within one store, which personally for me, makes my week less stressful.
- Remember, especially if you like cooking ethnic foods, some spices may not typically be kept “on hand” in your spice cupboard, saffron for example, and they can be expensive! When I have a dish that uses just a little of a spice or herb, I try to menu plan at least one other dish that week that needs that same ingredient. That way, none goes to waste.
I hope some of those were helpful. Do you have any others you can add? Leave a comment and let us know!