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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monthly Meal Plan

Being a planner, you'd think meal planning would be something that comes easily to me. You would be wrong.

For some reason, it has just never clicked. In 8+ years of marriage.

We've always done pseudo-meal plans for the week. Like, we'll plan on spaghetti and enchiladas and chili and get the stuff for the week but leave the decision until the end of each day. Then we spend half an hour messaging back and forth about what we have and what we might want and how none of it sounds good, and, more often than I'd like to admit, I pick up a pizza on the way home.

But in November we tried out planning the meals for the whole month, and, for us {only two months in, but still}, this has been a huge success.

Here's how we do it. We sit down towards the beginning of the month before that weekend's grocery trip and make a calendar--very basic, nothing fancy. Using PENCIL, we put down what we're going to have every night. We do a lot of repeats every week {enchiladas, spaghetti, potatoes and veggies}, so the M-F is actually really easy--it's just picking what to have which night and assigning someone to cook it. The meals Jason cooks are always the best, of course.

The weekends are a little trickier. We think about if we have plans or if we might have leftovers, if we'll have the money to eat out or if there's a new recipe we want to try or an old favorite to include.

Here's where writing it in pencil helps--if we need to change something, we do. No biggie. This has come in handy several times where we've changed "eating out" to "leftovers." ;) We've also given ourselves the freedom to swap meals if it really doesn't sound good one night, but we haven't done that yet.

For some reason, it has made a huge mental difference to say, "It's enchilada night!" instead of, "OK, we can have enchiladas or spaghetti or potatoes...sigh...but none of that sounds good." We just say we're going to have something, and, boom, we have it. Much less stressful, too, to know that only one of us is responsible for dinner that night.

We'd love to get to the point, too, where we do as much of the shopping for the month at the beginning of the month, but we're not quite there yet.

If you've never been good with meal planning, maybe give the monthly a try? It worked for us, and I'd love to hear what works for you!

12 comments:

  1. Great idea. I'm trying to be better at planning meals and actually was glad I had quite a few planned and supplies available because I've been stuck inside since Thursday due to the ice.
    Ann

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    1. Yes--it helped us through that as well!

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  2. Anonymous12/10/2013

    Doubling up works well. Prepare twice as much and label and freeze the rest. One meal for this week and another for one of the following weeks. It's a God-send, too, if you get unexpected company. And thank You, Jesus, for the invention of the crock pot. Throw in a 2-3 lb. roast and 4 cups of cut veggies, whatever stock or gravy-ish thing you might like (McCormick makes a great little packet...on the onion soup mix/gravy aisle, usually.) , hit "low" and come back 8 hours later to a great smelling house and wonderful dinner. Additionally, the crock pot only uses the energy of a light bulb. So you can leave it alone while you go out in the world without fear of burning down the house! And if you can't wait 4 hours, it'll cook on "high" in 4.
    I also pick up two rotisserie chickens (if cold, warm 25 mins. in a 325 oven) then pick 'em and freeze the meat in 3oz. portions in sandwich bags, then all in a gallon freezer bag. In no time, I can thaw the chicken in the microwave and throw together Mexican rice, a stir-fry, white chili, or chicken salad . Great time saver.
    Happy days!
    Leah
    P.S., If you haven't got a crock pot and you plan to make the purchase, be sure to get one with a "warm" setting. "Low" continues to cook food, so you can't use it just to keep something warm.

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    1. Oh, we love our Crock-Pot! I like the idea of doubling up, too--will have to look into that for January.

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  3. We've been trying to do something similar too. It saves so much money!

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    1. I haven't crunched the numbers, but I think so, too!

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  4. I started this in September when I bought an 8X11 weekly planner that I did not really need, I just thought it was so cute, and I now have it on our kitchen counter with meals written on it. I try very hard to only go to the grocery store twice a month, so I plan these meals (3 a day, actually) ahead of time and base my large shopping trip on it. We usually do not end up eating leftovers, so I try to only make the amount of food we will actually eat. We have spaghetti, tacos, pizza, and a soup each week. We do mix the meals up sometimes, but at least I know we have the ingredients in our house. It has saved money, but mostly it keeps us eating at home, and the "what shall we eat?" question always has an answer! It takes me about 45 minutes to plan ahead and figure out if I have any coupons, write out a menu and shopping list, but then I'm done for 2 weeks! I also am a plan ahead, list making gal, so it's kind of fun. But the huge trip to the store with at least 2 kids in the cart is less fun :)

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    1. Good for you!
      I want to start planning the rest of the meals as well. Right now, I only do suppers and lunches on the weekends (or days I'm off).
      I sneak off to the store at 6 a.m. on Saturdays when everyone else is sleeping; it is quickly becoming one of my favorite times of the week. ha
      And, yes, having the answer to the "what will we eat?" question is the most helpful part, I think.

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  5. We started monthly meal planning about three years ago when our local grocery stores had 15% off the first Tuesday of the month. I would menu plan from the first Tuesday to the first Tuesday and then we would buy all our staples for the month. Week to week we'd have to buy some dairy and some produce but for the rest we were good to go. It saved us A LOT of money on both groceries and on not eating out.

    I still menu plan because I find the hardest part of cooking is deciding what to make. Like you said above, it doesn't matter if I'm not in the mood for soup because soup is what is on the menu. Although we are flexible as well and, once in awhile, the meal for the night does get turfed in favour of leftovers, another meal or pizza. But it's not as often as when we don't meal plan.

    Can you tell I'm a HUGE fan of menu planning?! :)

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    1. I knew I would be--just had to get it going with a system that worked for us!

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  6. I like this! My goal in 2014 is to reign in our grocery spending. I have a bad habit of going to the grocery store for one big trip each week, then somehow needing to go back in for small things, which leads to other mindless spending. The ice storm last week made it evident to me that if for some reason I'm missing something for a particular meal, I most likely have MANY options in my pantry and freezer to just cook something else. Who cares if it's cinnamon rolls? ;)

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    1. Cinnamon rolls--YUM! We've definitely gotten better about stretching the food, too. Mid-week grocery trips are a huge pet peeve for me, but I haven't quite gotten rid of them yet. Generally it is for diapers or wipes, though, so I'm doing a little better on the food!

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