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Family Meal Planning
Edited on 1/7/13
- Feed The Freezer Traditional FoodsEdited on 6/27/11
- Meal Planning ResourcesEdited on 6/27/11
What's your favorite way to meal plan?post #1 of 133/12/13 at 1:50pmThread StarterI have been struggling with this for years. Ideally I want to have healthy lunches, snacks, and dinners planned for the week. I usually end up with frozen meals for lunch, delivery 2x a week, and lots of crackers and cookies. This is so not how I want to be eating. I have tons of recipes that I want to use on Pinterest! How do you organize and plan out your meals? I have half heartedly tried a few methods but they all end up being too time consuming.Sponsored Linkspost #2 of 133/13/13 at 10:18am
There are a million ways to meal plan. The most important thing is to find something that works for you and your family. Some people need a really flexible plan, where the days can be swapped. I have certain nights that I work late and have to have prepped ahead or a recipe the DH is comfortable with. Or we might just have left overs or breakfast for dinner on those really busy nights. I plan the more time consuming recipes on days when I'm home and have the time. I make a note on the calender of when I have to prep certain things. If I need rice for 2 meals I will double the batch and reheat it the second time. Planned leftovers are huge savers of calling for a pizza when you are too tired to cook. I work in some of our favorites and always like to add in new recipes here and there also. I keep my recipes in a 3 ring binder in plastic page protectors. But I love searching the net for new recipes. I have tried out a few techniques but I've found that this is what works best for me! First I have a dry erase calender that I use. It lives in our junk drawer and it is a life saver! First I take inventory of what I already have on hand. Check freezers, fridge, pantry, when I'm super organized I keep a list and cross off as I use things. Then I look through the flyers and decide which store has the best deals for me to put meals together or if I'm better off shopping at Aldi based on prices. Then I piece together what is on sale with what I have on hand to make meals. I write out the calender while making a list of what needs to be purchased. Also when look at the flyers and shop I will buy extras of the things that are priced really good, meats for the freezer, things that we will use. Some weeks I just buy produce, dairy and a couple odds and ends. Other weeks are more stock up weeks. I tend to meal plan for 1-2 weeks at a time. We are on a budget and therefore find that less that we are in the grocery stores the less we spend!
I plan dinners only, breakfast is oatmeal, eggs, bagels, cereals, smoothies and lunch in our house is either left overs or a sandwich, fruit, yogurt. We always have PBJ on hand and usually sliced cheese and sometimes deli meat, but more often we will use up chicken leftovers and make chicken salad, or just eat the leftovers in multiple different ways.post #3 of 133/13/13 at 11:07am
I mostly only plan dinners. I look at what days are busy(extra activities ect) what days DH won't be there for dinner,what days we can use certain things for leftovers.
Once I know our schedule I take a peek through the cupboards and make a quick list of what I have a lot of(what dried beans/pasta/rice ect)
Then I ask for requests.
Then finally look thru the flyers and take account what I have/requests and build my meals around that
Slow cooker meals on busy days.
Make extras of certain veggies/beans ect to overlap into other meals.
Breakfasts are cereal,homemade oatmeal,pancakes(made in bulk and then frozen and thrown into the toaster on busy mornings),scrambled eggs,toast w pb,french toast. It depends on how busy we are.
Lunches are leftovers for dh to take to work. Ds sometimes takes leftovers to school or sandwiches ect. Then dds and I make lunches up as we go(perogies,leftovers,sandwiches.)
post #4 of 133/13/13 at 1:47pm
I also only plan dinners (though not as consistently as I should!). Fortunately, my husband also likes to cook, so we share that. We plan only for a week or two at a time, more than that and we don't stick to the plan. When I find a recipe I want to try, I print it out and stick it in my 3-ring binder in page protectors that I can just slide it in from the top and it's protected against most spills. I flip through that first to find things we haven't tried yet and pick a couple for 1 week. Then we come up with the "regulars" that we know by heart or are familiar with making and try not to do too many recipes that need special stuff that we don't usually have on hand to prevent huge grocery bills for that week.
For snacks & breakfast especially, I keep a bowl on the counter filled with different fruits. I hand-pick most of it and only choose, for example, about 4-6 apples, 4-6 oranges, and a bunch of bananas so that there's a bit of choice but not so much fruit that it will go to waste. I try to rotate in different kinds of fruits depending on the season & availability, like right now I have been getting lots of oranges and grapefruit while in the mid to late summer I'd get more berries and watermelon. I try to have some that are grab n go like bananas or apples that I can eat in the car for breakfast.
When I go into work (3 days a week), I keep almonds at my desk for snacks and try not to keep more money than I need for lunch (if I don't pack one) so I can't hit the vending machine or get a dessert.post #5 of 133/13/13 at 3:03pmThread StarterThanks everyone! I was looking for the method you use to plan. I like the binder idea, very simple. I have tried using an app but it didn't really work for me. I have also tried just typing up a weekly menu but I end up not following it or forgetting where the recipe is. I also have a difficult time adding new recipes and just fall back on old favorites.post #6 of 133/13/13 at 6:12pmFirst, make a list of foods/dishes your family likes. Decide if you want to categorize your weekdays (meatless Monday, pasta Tuesday, etc.). Get a calendar - we use a dry erase calendar. Label the weekdays with your categories. Distribute the meals. We go at least a week between two of the same, usually two weeks.
Since you are wanting to do more than just suppers, divide the days into sections. Put as much detail for each meal/snack as you desire. We are pretty flexible about veggies and sides. Decide how often and when you will be shopping, getting food from coops or CSAs, etc. Use that to adjust meal plans - we get fresh veggies once a month, so we often have a big salad that day.
Use the shopping timeframe to figure out which meals need to be covered by which shopping trip. Make a shopping list to cover all the meals and snacks.
Remember to stay flexible. We love using the dry erase calender because if family comes into town, we can move an especially favorite dish to another day rather than wait until the next plan.
We do 5 weeks at a time, which works great for our schedule. You could use a 5 weeks calendar for one week with 5 meals/snacks.
Also, when we started, we planned simple meals that didn't need a recipe (spaghetti) and meals in a box (tuna helper). It really helped to not have the pressure to both meal plan AND start cooking from scratch. We added in a recipe or two each week to build our repertoire. We usually keep simple things that we have memorized rather then drag out recipes all the time (meatloaf, baked herbed chicken, etc.). We even have pie crust (for pot pies) and bread recipes memorized.
Edited by Wolfcat - 3/13/13 at 6:33pmpost #7 of 133/14/13 at 3:27pm
I have tried a few different ways.
Usually I just list 7 dinners on a piece of paper. I do not assign them a specific date. I would only try one new recipe per week.
I put the meal list on the refrigerator. I cross things off as we have them.
I pull any recipes I need for the week so they are out where I can find them.
Another method I have used is to just make a list of 28 dinners and then rotate that list for a couple of months. I do assign days for meals. No new recipes really during that time period but no planning has to be done for a few months and it is good for cooking double and freezing things because you know you are going to have that meal again in a few weeks so it can cut down on cooking future meals. My family was fine with this type of plan because really they are happy eating their favorite things most of the time. I kept all the recipes for that plan in one folder.
I don't plan breakfast, lunches, or snacks unless it is a special occasion because we eat the same things all the time. If I did plan them I would just make a list like I do with dinner.
post #8 of 133/17/13 at 9:11amI meal plan only 4 dinners at a time, it means 2 grocery shopping trips at a week but it keeps from getting derailed. I also try to keep indregiants for an easy pantry meal on hand, like canned tomatoes, frozen onions, garlic, pasta, canned beans to make an easy pasta dish or soup, or grilled cheese sandwiches & frozen sweet potato fries.
If I'm on a roll and keep to my meal plan, the pantry meals can add a 5th or 6th meal without an additional shopping trip. By having perishable/fresh ingrediants for only 4 meals at a time, if we go out or order pizza one night, it doesn't throw me too off track, I just pick back up the next night knowing ingrediants won't be spoiling in the fridge.
For the 4 day plan I buy only one meat & use it for 2 different meals, the others 2 palnned meals are usually vegetarian. It lets me make use of the value packs of meat at the grocery store. If I buy chicken breasts, half goes to tacos on Monday, the others go to a pasta dish on Wednesday. Since I've bought tortillas, cheddar, salsa & sour cream for the tacos we'll also have a quesadilla night. If its ground meat I do meatballs one night & suffed peppers another, sausages on the grill one night & in a risotto or pasta sauce the next. This helps me from putting meats in the freezer & forgetting about them.
Edited by cali2tx - 3/17/13 at 9:48ampost #9 of 133/17/13 at 12:02pm
I used to be a meal plan goddess, really good at it, but it almost felt like a full time job!
Now what I do is a lot more simple. I don't even write it down. Our plates are half protein, half vegetables. For each dinner, I use two vegetables.
PROTEIN VEGETABLE 1 VEGETABLE 2 (1) Chuck beef sliced red cabbage sliced red onions (2)Roast chicken mashed potato & sweet potato frozen peas (3) Salmon creamed frozen spinach sliced carrots (4) Spicy pork chops sliced green cabbage sliced apples (5) Beef shoulder roast baby carrots baby potatoes, maybe celery? (6) Haddock broccoli cauliflower (maybe carrots too) (7) Chicken drumsticks sliced carrots sliced red peppers
We do it with...
(1) balsamic vinegar and bacon grease
(2) butter and milk
(3) salmon is nice cooked in coconut oil, spinach great with butter and parmesan (creamed), sliced carrots are nice cooked in chicken stock
(4) push down on pork chops and slice horizontally into thin slices, cook meat in lard, remove meat, and in the same pan cook cabbage and apples
(7) like chicken paprikash
See how simple it is? After one month you won't even have to think about it or write a shopping list/meal plan anymore, you just know what to do :) You buy the meat that sounds good, and think what two vegetables would go well with it. You don't even need recipes!
We only shop one time per month, but I don't need to meal plan anymore. If I do write a shopping list it's because I need something I don't usually buy (christmas recipes for example)
We don't eat lunch or snacks (we don't need them, not hungry), instead of lunch we do breakfast. We eat soups, leftovers, eggs and bacon...
I don't plan soups, I make a big pot of soup and keep it in half-gallon mason jars in the fridge. About 2 soups per week.
My fridge is always stocked with things like baked beans, leftover rice, lacto-fermented vegetables (never go bad), so we just grab what we feel like eating that day.
I always try to have leftover meats for breakfast (or your lunch).
And I always have half-gallon of chicken or beef stock in the fridge, so I can always cut one carrot, one onion, and peas with some leftover meat, and make a 5 minute soup if it's an emergency :-)post #10 of 133/24/13 at 8:21am
I meal plan for two weeks at a time. I write on a piece of paper the dates for two weeks. If I know I am going to be out on any of those nights then I put that down. Example:
3/24 - Sunday - Baked Tilapia
3/25 - Monday - Lasagna
3/26 - Tuesday - Dinner at Mom's
Then I fill in what I want to have for dinner each night. I don't actually stick to this exactly. Just because I wrote Lasagna for Monday, I may decide to make something else that I had planned for a different day. The idea is just to get enough ingredients to make the amount of meals that we need. I try to base meals off of ingredients I already have or that are in the sales flyer. I also try to plan meals that I can make in the crockpot on weeknights or the occasional frozen dinner that my husband can just pop in the oven. On the weekend, I like to try new recipes or do a double or triple recipe of something I know we love and then freeze the extra for a quick weeknight dinners.
For breakfasts, I always have cereal, oatmeal, fruit or bread for toast on hand. On the weekend, I usually do some type of baking or cooking. Like a double batch of banana muffins or a double batch of blueberry whole wheat pancakes. Then I freeze half of what I made so that we always have some type of homemade healthy breakfast item available.
Lunches are leftovers from dinner or sandwiches. We usually try to make extra of meals that we really like so that we can have it for lunches for a couple days. I also always try to make sure I purchase ingredients for some easy things for my husband to throw together. Like flour tortillas. He uses them to make egg and cheese burritos for breakfast or uses left over chicken for quesadillas.post #11 of 134/16/13 at 9:22ampost #12 of 134/21/13 at 11:58pm
I also mostly plan for supper, which will then become the next day's lunches and (sometimes) supper too.
I usually do it one week at a time, usually before the big weekend grocery shop. Greens are usually either romaine or whatever greens we picked up at the market (choi sum, bok choi, broc, etc.)
Sunday: Risotto & a bean/bughur casserole + greens
Monday: Repeat + greens
Tues: Pasta & ham + greens
Wed: Char siu + rice + greens...
Thurs: Japanese curry w/ fake beef + rice + greens.
I tentatively put down the days of the week for a certain dish, but will swap around sometimes (e.g. making Tues night supper on Wed. & Wed's on Tues).
Our breakfasts are usually the same, day after day: toast, yoghurt, eggs, or cereal.
We don't plan snacks. We have fruit & nuts and cheese in the house.post #13 of 134/24/13 at 7:54pmI meal plan for 2 weeks and shop for 2 weeks. I make a list Friday through Thursday. Breakfast lunch and dinner. I make a grocery list based on what we have on hand and the ingredients for the meals. I would like to make a board that has the name of the meal on one side and the recipe on the other. We will be able to switch days if necessary.
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