Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Meal Planning Success

I have fond memories of my mom jotting down her weekly meal plans and making her grocery list accordingly. When I was first married I was always at a loss for what to make for dinner. Thankfully I knew how to cook; not only am I good at cooking but I love to do it. Unfortunately, when you’re standing in the kitchen an hour or more before dinner and unsure of what to make - it’s very frustrating!

Making a weekly meal plan has been one of the single most helpful tasks I do every week. If I don’t, I’m always scrambling to make something and oftentimes find myself missing key ingredients. I thought I would share my tips...

1) Get a notebook or planner dedicated for meal planning...

I have a cute but simple notebook - it also has pockets inside to hold all my notes!

2) Write down all your family’s favorite meals you make on a regular basis...

Fairly straightforward!

3) Write down any new recipes/meal ideas you come across...

If your inspiration is from a cookbook - write down the name of the cookbook with the month and page of the recipe. If your inspiration is from an online recipe - write down the name of the recipe and the website or print it out (I also highly recommend using an online pinboard such as Pinterest). These tips will make finding recipes faster!

4) Every week write out your planned meals for each day (I usually do Sunday - Saturday)...

In order to have a good variety of foods - I typically plan 2 vegetarian meals, 2 chicken meals, 2 fish/seafood meals and 1 red meat meal (lamb or beef). This also help me utilize leftovers into other meals. I also plan quick-fix meals for my busier days - so I’m not always rushing to get everything done.

5) Make a grocery list...
After I have the week planned I go down the list of meals and write down the ingredients I will need for each meal (if I think I have an ingredient then I’ll circle it so I can check after I’ve finished to make sure I have it - and whether it’s enough)

6) Organize the grocery list...

I usually have to go to 2 stores - Costco and Sprouts (our local farmer’s market store). In order to make shopping quick and easy (and ensure I don't forget something) - I organize the grocery list according to each store. Then I organize the list further by how I shop in each store. For instance - at Sprouts I start my shopping from the south entrance - so I write the list starting with everything found on that side of the store first.

7) Post the weekly menu on the refrigerator...

This way everyone can read what we’re having and I don’t have to answer, “What’s for lunch/dinner?” all the time!

8) Save the weekly menu plans...

I have months and months of weekly menus. Every week when I'm ready to make a new menu I search through the previous weeks for ideas. I typically try to make at least one new recipe every week... I also make some meals regularly (2-3 times a month) while other meals I only make once a month. The soonest I will repeat a meal is 2 weeks. Having the previous weekly menu plans lets me know when I made the meal last and also reminds me of meals I haven’t made in awhile as well as any new recipes. Great way to avoid getting into a "food rut."

These tips keep me organized, prevents waste, and never leaves me at a loss for what to make each day. Sometimes I will switch meals during the week, because life happens or I don't particularly "feel" like that meal for the day. That's okay - because I have everything I need, so swapping meals is no problem.

This also keeps me on track with my weight loss - there is very little temptation to dine out, especially when I have such delicious, healthy meals planned!

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