Friday, January 31, 2014

Meal Planning

I don't consider myself a chef but I sure do love cooking. I enjoy trying new recipes for me and Jon, and really enjoy making meals for friends and family. Being a mama I don't exactly have all the time in the world to prepare a meal but even before Ford was born, I was NOT about to spend hours on a recipe. I am all for finding ways to bring a new and yummy meal to the table in under an hour (while simultaneously watching Scandal and singing silly songs to my baby in a highchair). When Jon and I first got married I would go to the store once a week and just buy stuff. Chicken, pork chops, random veggies and fruits that were on sale. I never really went in with a plan. Nightly dinners would be a meat (grilled chicken, flank steak, ground turkey), a starch (cous cous, potatoes, rice) and a veggie, most likely frozen. When we moved into our house about 2 years ago, I was ready to change up our meals. 

I am a huge proponent of meal planning because I am borderline OCD when it comes to organization and it saves me time and money! With a traveling husband, it also helps us from wasting food. Meal planning can be daunting for some people so I wanted to share my routine.

  • I go to the store once a week, never a specific day but usually when we are running low on milk and fruit
  • Over the weekend Jon and I will go through our weekly schedules. He usually travels 1 night a week, sometimes 2, but sometimes none. I don't plan to make dinner on the nights he is gone and if he returns in the evening, he always picks up takeout for us which is a nice treat.
  • We go to community group every Thursday night and have family dinner twice a month. If it is a family dinner night, I prepare my side dish/dessert/etc but if it isn't, we usually eat leftovers.
  • Now that we have a baby, we like to go out for lunch rather than dinner since we try to keep a good routine for him. We usually go out to eat 1-2 times a week, mostly on the weekends but some nights when it is spontaneous. 
  • So if Jon is traveling 1 night, bringing home dinner 1 night, and it is a family dinner week, that leaves 4 nights I need to plan for. I won't cook every night because we love eating leftovers and that frees up time we can spend together in the evening. If I have 4 nights to plan for, I will plan 2 meals.
  • I tend to stock up on meat when it goes on sale so I will check my freezer to see what meats we have on hand (chicken breast, ground turkey, Italian sausages, turkey sausage, fish). Then I head over to my Pinterest boards or blog recipe page and browse recipes that A. use the meats we have or B. Look good. I don't always have meat on hand but try to use the weekly ads from the grocery store to get the best deal. I also try to plan a side if I think of something that would go well with the main dish but often times I will just grab a couple of florets of broccoli, a pound of fresh green beans, or carrots to steam alongside dinner. 
  • I love trying new recipes and try not to make the same thing twice too close together. Since it's been cold lately, we've been loving having soups in the crockpot which are so easy and great for warming up leftovers! 
  • So once I decide on what I'm making, I go through the ingredients and cross reference what I have in my pantry. Do I have breadcrumbs? Italian seasoning? Sour cream? I also take inventory on our staples- milk, bread, eggs, cheese, cereal, yogurt, lunch meat, etc. I use the Cozi iPhone app to write down my grocery list, it has separate lists for grocery and wholesale (Costco). I organize my list by how I walk through the grocery story. I enter in the produce, walk through the meat and dairy, then hit the dry goods, followed by household/makeup/baby, and end with frozen. That way I am efficient with my time and am not running around the store with a baby.
  • And it's as easy as that! If I plan on making XYZ on evening and it requires shredded chicken, I will try to prep and cook the chicken beforehand if I have a free moment during Ford's nap, etc. Last minute dinner prep happens when Jon is off of work and hangs with little man or I set him up in the highchair with a teether.
One of our recent favorites, baked chicken Parmesan

Meal planning shouldn't be daunting! It requires just a few minutes of prep and is worth the time, money, and food savings. If you have any questions about recipes, meal planning, or food prep, feel free to email me!
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10 comments:

Mel said...

I love meal planning too! With busy lives - kids sports on many weeknights, it helps keep me sane. I couldn't be a full time working mama without it! And I like to have dinner on the table within an hour of getting home from work so things need to be organized. Last night I cut up all the veggies and onions and ingredients for chili, and this morning I browned the meat before throwing it all in the crock pot on my way out the door. Thinking about that delicious meal cooking away while I'm at my desk is very gratifying! The incredible smell of it cooking is probably driving my Pug bananas though!!!

Sarah @ The Not Quite Military Wife said...

We always meal plan too! My husband loves to know exactly what we are going to eat each night!

Christina Schergen said...

I meal plan...we almost never eat out b/c with 3 kids it just isn't fun lol...we will often order take out and bring it home...which is fun!

With meal planning I find the most important thing is using leftover in different meals. That way food isn't wasted.

This recipe looks good!

Susan said...

I always use pinterest for my meal planning too, I have boards for new recipes and a board for the tried and true ones that we love. I always have the whole week planned out before I go. When we were first married though, I was just like you, I had no plan and making dinner was so much more overwhelming.

Angie's Angle said...

I do this now, but for two weeks at a time for the most part, and I find its so much easier to know what is being made and have everything you already need. Though we stray from the menu sometimes, its so nice to have it set!

I use pinterest (I am super OCD about my pinterest boards), a handful of our cookbooks, and just our regular old average things.

Celeste Aslanyants said...

I love meal planning, but I am not so consistent with it. If life strays from the norm even a little bit it all goes out the window and we're eating frozen pizza or take out every night. With Arsen traveling so much now it's really thrown me! BUT, I love all the tips you shared, and I'm super hopeful that I can get back on track - yet again- and start it back up!

Jessica Lynn said...

I LOVE meal planning! It keeps me sane during the week.

If you end up sharing your meal plan, come share it over here! I host a weekly link up every Sunday! http://www.jessicalynnwrites.com/2014/02/this-weeks-eats-paleo-zuppa-toscana.html

Carolyn said...

Love this! I got out of the habit of meal planning when Weston was born, and so I'm working to get back into it! :)

Christina Stirneman said...

Great post! I love trying out your recipes, and this post was such a helpful compliment to all of the recipe posts. Some of my favorites are Ritz Cracker Chicken, Chicken Pot Pie on the Fly, and the Spicy Tuscan soup (made that Monday and had the leftovers today for lunch actually!)

Lauren Elliott said...

Always great to see other ideas from families that meal plan as well! It has been our saving grace for saving time and money! I like to use your recipe page too, so many great meals! :)

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