Monday we talked about tracking your money and being aware of where you spend your money and on what. Part of tracking your money is meal planning. You can plan the week, or the month, whatever works for your family. For us, weekly meal planning works best.
We had been on the Fly by The Seat of Your Pants meal planning system, and to be honest, it wasn’t working. Every day the same question “What are you thinking for dinner?”was posed to me, sometimes as early as 9:00am. I got so tired of being the only one to come up with the answer I started answering “Reservations”. That usually got met with a smirk or a laugh until Sam realized I was serious. But eating out every single night is expensive, nobody can agree on where to go, and pants are required. That’s 3 strikes in my book.
Sunday evening, as we sat around eating frozen pizza again, I grabbed a notebook, my smart phone, a bunch of cookbooks and started planning out this week’s meals. When I started to really pay attention to our “go-to meals” I noticed there was a lot of pasta and very few vegetables. Not only did I need a plan to answer the question What’s for dinner, I needed one to save money and make better choices.
Bill Gates is quoted as saying “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” When it has come to feeding my family, I admit I am lazy more often than not. I love to cook, I just hate the clean up afterwards, so I always going with frozen meals or meals that required little energy. Also, there’s a little “They just ate yesterday” thrown in there too and I was tired of it always being up to me to decide what’s for dinner. I found a way that indulges my desire to be organized and take everyone into consideration and I could make better choices, find easy to make meals that were better for us than frozen meals.
6 Ways to Make Meal Planning Less Complicated
1. Know your family’s schedule for the week. The first thing I did Sunday was make a note of what nights Sam is working and what days he has off. He can help with meal prep or even cook on the nights he’s off so I take that into consideration. I know that Zoe has Girls on the Run two days a week after school so those nights are going to require quick easy dinners, or crock pot meals.
2. Check the weather for the week. I know this sound unrelated but the weather can determine meal options during the week. If Sam is off and the weather is going to be amazing, I know if I ask, he will cook dinner on the grill. I have to plan for that. If it’s going to be a really hot day I don’t want to turn the oven on. If it’s a cold GotR day Zoe is going to want warm comfort food for dinner and not sandwiches or frozen pizza.
3. Round up your recipes and cookbooks. I had my laptop with Pinterest open, and I had a whole stack of new and trusted cookbooks. We love lasagna but I hate all the work and mess it takes to put it together. I found a great crock pot lasagna recipe we are trying out this week. I had several recipes I had made with the girls, but hadn’t made them for Sam and Zoe.
4. Get input from your family. They are going to be eating these meals, they should have some say in what is for dinner. Sam said he wanted stew one night, but it’s not one of my favorites, so we compromised with a great potato soup we both love. Zoe’s birthday is coming up and she gets to choose dinner and dessert for that night. Also, some nights dinner can be fun. We are having burgers and fries and milkshakes one night for dinner.
5. Keep a calendar or journal. I like to keep track of what we had for dinner when, because you don’t want to repeat or double up too soon. My first attempt at meal planning we were going to have pasta three nights that week. Scratch that, and try again. Also, Zoe has about 3 absolute favorites that she always suggests when asked. We have to keep track of when we make those so we don’t end up eating them every single week.
6. Make a shopping list. Once I had our meals planned for the week I made a list of everything I would need from the store. I made the mistake of listing the items by meals, and it made it really hard to shop, we were always having to backtrack because we forgot something. Next week I will write the list by isles and sections in the store to make shopping a little easier.
Using all of these steps, it took me about an hour to sit down and come up with a week’s worth of dinners for my family and a shopping list of everything we would need. Having a list also helped save us some money because we weren’t buying things we didn’t need.
Do you meal plan? What are your tips and tricks to make it less complicated?