Have you ever been stumped about what to cook for dinner, or pulled out a recipe only to find that you didn’t have all the ingredients on hand? If so, you should try meal planning. I’ve tried variations of it over the last few years and have finally settled on a system that I like. Basically, before each grocery shopping trip (which we do about every two weeks around payday), I plan out all the dinners that I plan to cook and note any ingredients that I’ll need to buy. As you’ll see below, it’s pretty easy and very helpful.
Meal Planning Supplies:
The Meal Planning Process:
- Check the schedule. First, I note on the blank calendar anything on our schedule through the next grocery shopping trip that would affect if, or what, I cook. For example, if hubbie is traveling for work, I mark it down so that I keep dinner simple on those days. Or, if we’re planning to eat out on the weekends, I’ll note it so that I don’t cook. Other examples of things I note on the calendar are holidays, birthdays, parties at home, evening church services, etc.
- Select dinner menus. Once I’ve noted all our family activities on the calendar, I then go through my recipes and cookbooks and start plugging in dinner menus on the calendar (making sure to either note the page number for the recipe on the calendar or set aside a copy of the recipe). My go to sources for recipes are: Pattie LaBelle’s LaBelle Cuisine, a couple of family cookbooks and the Food Network. Here are my general guidelines:
- Make at least one new recipe.
- Make at least one dessert.
- Make quick meals on busy days and complicated ones on the weekends or when I’ll be off work.
- Make meals that’ll leave leftovers so I don’t have to cook everyday.
- Make meals that require fresh items (e.g. salads, raw veggies, etc.) soon after grocery shopping day so the items won’t spoil.
- Update grocery shopping list. Once I’ve scheduled all the meals, I then go through all the ingredients lists, check to see if I have the items on hand and add them to my shopping list if I don’t.
- Cook dinner. Each day, I check the calendar to see if I need to pull anything out of the freezer or prep anything for the next day’s meal. If I’m not feeling what’s on the calendar, I just switch it out with another day’s meal. Here’s my August meal calendar if you’d like to take a peek (be forewarned though, it’s a little light on veggies).
Benefits of Meal Planning
- Coordinate your dinner menus with your schedule.
- No worries about what to cook at night.
- Have more productive grocery shopping trips (i.e. spend less money).
- Avoid cooking too many similar items back-to-back.
- Have all the ingredients you need to prepare a meal.
- Remember when to take food out the freezer.