He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young
. {Isaiah 40:11}

14 April 2011

How I Meal Plan

I don't know about you but I love to plan ahead. I particularly love the free time that comes with good planning however.... I HATE TO MEAL PLAN! Sitting down to decide what I'm going to be in the mood to cook or eat in advance just seems a little crazy to me. Once again, however, the love of free time and saving our budget wins out and I plan anyway.
I'll admit now that I don't always stick to the plan. Sometimes there's last minute changes to our schedule {we're offered a free meal at a friend's house, our extended family has an impromptu pancake night together, or my lack of will power gets the best of me and I just don't want to cook} but this is the general plan that is successful in getting me in and out of the grocery store quickly and keeps me from staring blankly down its aisles wondering what to make and what do I already have at home.
I know there are TONS of resources online. Some cost you, some are free, some work specifically to help you lose weight or find a balanced diet, others are nothing but comfort food. The reason I don't use any of these resources is that, after browsing through many of the recipes, the meals just don't appeal to our family's tastes or they have unhealthy processed ingredients.

So how do I do it? 
Tools: Cookbooks and my computer
Step 1: before I even think of planning, as soon as I get a new cookbook, I go through the entire book with a pack of Post-Its and mark recipes that sound good to me and I want to try.
Step 2: Using MS Word, I create a two column document for each week. Each page will hold my weekly plan, a list of all the ingredients needed for each dish and a shopping list organized by sections of the local grocery store that, once printed, I can organize all the ingredients I need plus other miscellaneous things that I run out of over the course of the week.
Step 3: I determine a very vague schedule to follow every week. For example: Tuesday is usually seafood because I shop on Mondays and don't want my Haddock going bad before I cook it. Thursday is usually homemade pizza day since it's my least busy day and I have time to make the dough. Saturday is usually breakfast for dinner because it's easy and I don't like to cook on Saturdays. Sundays are usually slow cooker {SC} days because I sing at church in the mornings and like to come home from church to a finished meal.
Step 4: Time to start going through my recipe books and filling out my menu based on my schedule in step 3. As I pick a recipe and the book or site open, under ingredients I write the name of the recipe, the ingredients needed, and often the book or site I found them on as reference for the recipe.
Step 5: At this point, I often print out my menus and before I go shopping for the week I fill in all the things I'll need to buy for that week.
That's about it! 

P.S.   I've heard some people say they spend more when they meal plan versus "winging it". I can only assume it's because often they have chosen recipes that don't share ingredients. Meaning that if I buy a large package of ground beef, I'll plan for a couple of recipes that use ground beef that week so nothing is wasted. Or if I need to buy lettuce for sandwiches, I often plan for a chef salad later that week.That way I plan for all excess. I also replace basic non-perishables once I see that I'm low and don't usually wait until I'm all out. This way I can make the best of sales on those items and don't have to run to the store when I realize I'm out of something at the last minute.

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