I’ve been meal planning for a while now, my first meal plan post was back in February, but I was doing it even before that. I love knowing ahead of time what I am going to be making for dinner so that I’m not scrambling at the last minute trying to come up with something to eat.
Through meal planning I have found that I really enjoy cooking; I like spending time in the kitchen and I really like trying out new recipes and finding good things to feed my family.
I wasn’t always a good cook, I’ve been slowly learning since I got married. My mom is a GREAT cook, and unfortunately I didn’t pick it up much when I was growing up. But, her good cooking must have rubbed off on me, and the fact that I grew up with wonderful meals with the family most evenings, made me want to be able to give that same gift to my children.
Once you have been doing something for a while, you learn what works, and doesn’t work, for you. And sometimes you need to tweak or change systems that you have in place in order to make them work better for you. Lately, I have been feeling that the way I am meal planning is not working so well for this season of life. In fact, it’s kind of been stressing me out, more than helping me, so I knew it was time for a change. Less stress = happier mommy = happier family!!
There are a couple of reasons my current way of meal planning is not working for me right now:
1. I’ve been scrambling on Sunday nights to make a meal plan for the week. I’ve been known to stay up very late with a serious case of “meal-block” just trying to figure out what we’re going to eat. It really shouldn’t be that hard.
2. It is hard for me to go to the grocery store. I really like to go without kids (or at least without the one that tries to grab everything off the shelves and climb out of her seat the whole time), so I usually end up going late at night after K is in bed.
3. Because it’s hard for me to actually get out and get there, I’ve only been consistently getting to the grocery about every 2 weeks. This sometimes leaves us in a place where there is not a whole lot to eat in the house, which is a dangerous place to be because that’s when take-out and fast food creep into your life.
4. Although I meal plan on Sunday, I rarely get to the grocery store at the beginning of the week to get stuff that I will need for that week.
So, I’ve decided that from now on, I’m going to plan my meals from Thursday to Wednesday, and plan 2 weeks worth of meals at a time. I think this will help me in many different ways:
- Less stress on Sunday evenings. With this new way, I’ll be able to plan over a few days at the beginning of the week.
- I’ll do my grocery shopping later in the week, probably Wednesday or Thursday, which fits in better with my schedule for the week. I won’t be stressed about trying to get to the store at the beginning of the week to get the stuff we need.
- Planning for two weeks at a time will hopefully allow me to be able to go to the grocery every other week, instead of every week. Or, if I do have to go, it will just be to pick up a few things like produce, milk, and other perishable stuff, or I can just send Jer to grab a few things on his way home from work.
- Going to the store every other week will help us to stay on our grocery budget. Shopping less means fewer impulse purchases that can wreck havoc on the budget.
- Planning for two weeks will also hopefully help us to waste less food. I am ashamed about the amount of food that we waste and throw away. I really, really want to do better about that, so one of my ideas is to overlap ingredients. For example, when I make chili I use 3 cups of vegetable juice. There is not much else that I use vegetable juice for, so the leftover usually ends up going bad and getting thrown out. If I am going to make chili one week, I want to find a recipe that also uses vegetable juice to make the next week so that I can use it up instead of throwing it out. I also want to plan specific leftover nights, or plan specific ways to use leftovers.
So, that’s basically my new meal plan. Simply put, it’s Thursday to Wednesday, 2 weeks at a time, overlapping ingredients, and shopping on Wednesday or Thursday – I think this will work for me!
How do you plan meals for your family? What tips can you share for successful meal planning?