Monday, January 19, 2015

Meal Planning - some fresh ideas

If I have learned anything (which I Totally HAVE) from Food $ense, it is the importance of Meal Planning.  Sure there are lots of other things to learn and to put into my life and habits, but this Meal Planning stuff is life Changing!

I am certainly not perfect at it, and I don't have the cute factor down in doing it, but I am ridiculously aware that if I don't do it, my life seems to fall right apart and people don't get fed - mom gets stressed and money gets wasted. All bad bad things of varying degrees.

I have come a long way from my first attempts, which were just post-it notes that I made while I wrote out the grocery shopping list, to pages that I printed out online with cute borders and lots of colors. I went back to just writing in pages of a notebook while waiting for church to start each week and at one point I even progressed to looking through the grocery ads that came out on Tuesday and meal planning then. If this teaches me anything it is that Meal Planning is a process. There really is not right or wrong way to do it, (unless you don't do it - and then That is wrong). Do what works for you and your family, but you have got to do it.

Lack of a meal plan means more stress on you, frazzled and naggy kids ("What's for Dinner?!?") a ballooning food budget, multiple trips to the store... anarchy in the kitchen! and eventually the dreaded trip through the drive-thru of defeat.

That was some pretty graphic imagery there. Let's talk about happy things - Like... Meal Planning. :)

Here are some of the BEST tips that I have found to help you refine and rearrange your plan to work for you.  It doesn't have to work for anybody else - just you, and just you right now. You'll probably have to tweak it a little when summer rolls around and then again when school starts back up again. It is a process, the only thing that matters is that you do it. ....    and onto the tips / tricks!!

  • 7 nights a week is for superheros.  You look great in those tights, but you do not want to plan 7 "made from scratch" dinners. Plan a night of leftovers, Plan a night of sandwiches, Plan a night where you let your husband or the kids cook. 
  • Pack your pantry. and then cook from it. Dinner doesn't have to be a 12 course meal, and just because you are planning it ahead of time doesn't make spaghetti any less of a great idea!
  • Have a theme night. Taco Tuesdays, Pizzas on Fridays, Clean our the fridge Wednesdays, or put each family member in charge of helping and deciding on a certain night. Just like our breakfast for dinner Sundays, you can have Chinese food on Saturdays, Narrowing down your choices into themes not only makes decision making easier, but it established traditions and brings continuity and stability to your family dinners. 
  • Be a Weekend Warrior. Prep on the weekends, or shop on the weekends... Heck! Cook on the weekends and reheat during the week. Use the times that you have help around the house to your advantage. 
  • Plan Two-fers to your advantage. Nothing is quite an ingenious as cooking once and eating twice! Use that invaluable tool when you are planning. Today's crock pot pork roast can be pork street tacos for the day after tomorrow. Cook rice on Sunday and use it three times during the week. You have the oven on, you have the ingredients out, you'll be so darn glad you planned ahead and saved yourself the work. 
  • Have a Leftover Night. You bought it, you prepped it, you cooked it. You really should eat it - All of It! I grew up in a house where "leftover" was a dirty word. Don't let your kids grow up thinking that. Just because you already had it once doesn't not make it bad to eat again. You paid good money for that food and you worked hard to prepare it and make it delicious. It should be enjoyed - every last bit of it!! 
  •  Make a Master List of 10-20 Meals. Sometimes you forget the things you already know. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but my family adores spaghetti. But I sometimes forget to make it, or I think it isn't "fancy" enough. WHAT?!? Do I need to make my life harder? Keep a list of the things your family likes and be sure you keep those items on hand in your well stocked and beautifully organized pantry (SNORT!) If you kids like spaghetti, feed them spaghetti, you don't need to be forcing them to eat foie gras because you saw it on pinterest. 
  • Review your Family Calendar. Nothing stinks more than having dinner all planned and realizing you aren't going to be able to make it happen. If you have a busy night with soccer and lessons, plan a leftover night, or put something in the slow cooker. If you have a day where you are going to be home all day, plan something that might take a bit more time. Don't plan to make chili on the hottest day of the summer and if you can help it, it is probably not best to plan a grilling night on the one day this month that it is suppose to rain. 
But the most important thing about Meal Planning, is just that you do it. There are absolutely no right or wrong ways to do it, and something that works for one person might not work for you. But doing it Will change your life! Get out there.... get a scrap of paper from the bottom or your purse and write down Monday - Hamburgers with Sweet Potato Fries...... now doesn't that sound Good!!