Meal Planning, y’all!!
It’s a life saver!! I hear so many of my friends talk about how they don’t have time to meal plan or that they are not organized enough. How can you not!! Seriously, my life is crazy busy all the time… as is everyone’s it seems. Our schedules are constantly pulling us in different directions weekly and sometimes even daily. Dinner time together is a big deal to us. We always do our best to sit down together. There are plenty of times when Otis is not home and his plate is going to have to wait for him in the microwave, but such is life!
I really got serious about this when I quit my job. Our income was cut in half, and so our budget had to also see some major cuts. I have always considered myself to be a pretty organized person, but I struggled with this. I was working full-time, home schooling our kids, helping with ministry and squeezing naps in anytime I had an open spot longer than 10 minutes. I would be too ashamed to admit how many times I was in Wal-Mart at 4 AM because we needed fill in the blank. Meal planning helps me look at the week(s) as a whole unit. It helps me to have more control over my time and budget.
The whole point of this post is to encourage you to give this a try. I literally sit down at some point during the weekend with a notebook and make my plan. I personally plan two weeks at a time, but that is just our preference since our paydays are biweekly. I then look at our calendar and see any days that we might be away from home or have a function to attend. I plan the easy dinners for those busy nights and mark any days that we have planned to eat out.
I shop my own pantry and freezer first.
This week I happened to have a family size package of chicken breast tenders in the freezer. So, right now as I type this post…. that entire pack of chicken is in the crock pot with just basic salt, pepper, and a bouillon cube. I have found that shredded chicken goes a lot farther in our house than just grilling it. That pot of chicken will provide two different dinners for our family. Tonight it will be Chicken Tiki Masala and then another night it will be chicken tacos. Once the chicken is cooked, I can personalize the seasonings depending on the dish. Another plus to this is that I have most of the work done for my taco night in a couple of days.
I always ask my family if they have any requests.
My son is eight and kinda picky. He has the eating habits of a two-year old. He likes corn dogs, chicken nuggets, peanut butter sandwiches, and ramen noodles. He barely eats any veggies and very little fruit. He loves spaghetti though!! So I can pack the veggies into that dish that he requests almost weekly and feel a little better about his eating. If he makes the request, then it gives him something to look forward to and gives him a sense of ownership. He gets excited when it is the night of the dinner that he chose. Of course, anyone can have a request and I do my best to work it in. I try to test out a new recipe once every couple of weeks. You guys know it’s true- we see all those cooking videos all over social media. We like them or pin them, but never actually try them!!! haha!
Make a shopping list.
On the bottom half of my sheet of paper that I write my menu down on, I go day by day and write down what I need for each dish. I always go over this list twice so that I am not forgetting something. I add any additional staple pantry items and go shopping. Also make sure that you are using all of the items on your list. For example, if I am going to buy a package of mushrooms for a recipe that only needs half of them. I am going to make sure that I have something else that week that uses mushrooms so that nothing is wasted. Also, sometimes it is cheaper to buy in bulk and that can help your budget out as well. Plan Accordingly!!
There ya go….it’s as easy as that and anyone can do it. Once you do it a couple of weeks, you realize just how easy it is and what a game changer it is!! There have been times that I have not made a menu and I end up making a trip to the closet grocery store to find something for dinner. I usually spend way more money just picking up a few items for one meal then I would have if I had planned out my list/meals.
I also find that if I have it all planned out, then I might find time to do some of the prep word ahead of time. Instead of chopping one onion, I might just go ahead and chop two so that there is no chopping tomorrow. I feel so much together if I have my menu done. My family can check the board and they know exactly what is for dinner. The kids don’t ask to go out to eat, because they know that dinner is already planned. (although sometimes the board actually says “eat out” because I look at our calendar and know that is a busy day/night or that we will already be out at dinner time, etc…)
The last big thing that made this more fun for me was a trip to Hobby Lobby! 🙂 I mean, if I am going to get organized with our menu, then I need a cute place to write and display it!!! I bought a chalkboard menu from them and it sits right on out counter top– we love it!
I hope this might help some of you. I cannot say enough how much of a difference this made in my day-to-day routine. Good luck and happy planning!!