On household organization: Part I-Meal planning

I have had people ask me about my organization systems in the past, or ask things like "how do you manage to find time to go to the gym as a working parent?" so, I thought I'd share a few ideas that help me keep the insanity at bay. Here is the first installment, all about meal planning.

Every Sunday I look through my cookbooks and magazines, review bookmarked internet recipes or google and plan for my family dinners. It's rare the I plan 7 meals, because I think ahead to the week.

In this particular week, I had to work out of town Monday, and wouldn't be home until late, so I knew I wouldn't be cooking. (That night became "Fenfo" as in "fend for yourself, mama is gone") I also knew Tuesday night we were invited to dinner with Bran's parents, so I didn't plan a meal for that night either. In my meal planning, I also take into account what type of meals I need for each night. On Wednesdays, we go to small group and we have to leave the house by 6:15, so whatever I cook needs to be quick- so I go with either put together ahead of time and throw it in the oven meals, or crock pot meals. I know I will be home at a decent time Thursday night, and have no where else to go, so that's a good night for me to make a meal that I've never made before, and will take a bit of time since it's a first run. Final thought here on the number of meals to plan: I usually cook for 4, though we are 2 adult and 1 toddler eater- which means USUALLY there is enough of 1 or 2 meals left over for another nights' dinner.

Also, to keep costs down, I balance vegetarian meals and meat meals. I know this wouldn't work for every family, I have many friends whose husbands might hunt me down if I suggested their dinners not contain meat everytime- BUT if you're like us, and like tofu and cheese quite a bit, feel free to skip meat a few nights- you'll be fine, AND you'll save $$$. Another thing I do to save money is to try to plan meals based on what ingredients I already have on hand. If I have ground beef and chicken in my freezer, I don't plan a fish dinner. If I already have pasta sauce and lasagna noodles, I plan lasagna and only have to buy cheeses.

Once I have my meals planned, I make a shopping list. We typically go to two stores on Sunday afternoons (either Bran or I go) Target and Fresh and Easy or Target and Trader Joe's. For meat, we hit up Costco once a month or so, so meat is on hand in the freezer generally.

After all of the dinner items are on the list under the appropriate store, I add things to the list for breakfast (not a major meal in our house- usually oatmeal, cereal, english muffins w/ peanut butter, protein bar) as they are needed (some weeks, not at all) and things for lunch- usually Smart Ones meals and salad stuff for me, and Bran will eat leftovers from dinners during the week or make a PB&J. I also add cleaners and household items to my Target list, and snacks for Keegan during the week.

I make a list of the dinners we will be having during a week, and post them on a $3 magnetic dry erase board, so I never have to panic and think "what do I make for dinner tonight!?" and my family knows what to look forward to.My favorite places to get recipes are:
The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
Real Simple Magazine

5 comments:

  1. We started doing this a few years ago and it really cut our grocery bill down alot! I know some people who plan every meal of the day, but we just do dinners (the kids & hubby aren't home for lunch, so I just make sure to have enough bread/lunchmeat/microwave meals for them. Planning out your meals and shopping lists makes it very economical...that way you're not going to the grocery store and just buying what looks good, only to realize once you get home that you only have one night's worth of food!

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  2. Hi Nat! I started doing this too. I haven't quite gotten the art down yet, but I guess it'll take practice. I agree with Jen though, it really makes your shopping trip more economical. =) Thanks for sharing!!

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  3. I've already read 2 meal planning posts today, and they are making me feel pretty inadequate! LOL :) Maybe it's because I don't have kids yet?

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  4. lol, I guess I will ditto you again. ;) We usually go shopping every two weeks (with a quick stop for milk or other small things in between), and we plan our meals two weeks in advance too. It's honestly cut our grocery bill about it half.

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  5. I do the same as Diana. I plan meals for 2 weeks at a time, and with small runs to the store for items like milk and fresh herbs. I started doing this 7.5 years ago when we got married. I am a list girl and decided it was too overwhelming of a task to think of what to cook every night on the spot. I have talked with friends that spend up to 3 times what I do per month!! I think this is such a great money saver :)

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