I’ve decided to start posting my meal plans on the weekly. I’ve had several people ask about my meal planning process and so I thought I would share. I’m constantly on the look-out for good recipes and suggestions, and I’m hoping this opens me up to some input.
Growing up I was very involved in not only meal preparation, but also meal planning. My Mom taught me how to rummage through a cupboard and figure out what could be made with what we had. As I’ve been on my own, I’ve started a few habits that have really helped me plan meals more effectively, have saved us money, and helped us eat healthier.
Bountiful Baskets has become a big part of my meal planning. I recommend signing up for it if you’re looking to increase your fruits/veggie intake and wanting to try new things. It works well because it takes away half of the work of meal planning-if you get a basket with brussel sprouts, eggplant and yellow squash…that’s what you’re going to eat this week and you don’t have to make those decisions.
My planning process:
- ONE: I’m constantly on the look-out for good recipes. As soon as I find them, I add them to my pinterest board to save for later. Requirements for a good recipe include: using normal ingredients, having an element of healthiness to them and *ideally* not using box mixes/etc. If I eat something I love at a restaurant, I go look for a recipe and add it to my board. If my friend makes something amazing-I ask for the recipe or go look for something similar.
- TWO: I do Bountiful Baskets. This does most of my meal planning for me and all I have to do from there is fill in the gaps.
- THREE: I look at the ingredients I already have. At some time on Sunday/Monday before dinner I sit down and plan my meals. This is the key-it’s such a habit for me now I can’t imagine not doing it! Typically Sunday night as we’re watching some tv with the kids in bed I start putting together what we have in the fridge and what we want to eat for the week. This way I can assess what we already have (veggies from bountiful baskets/half a pack of chicken breast leftover from the week before) and decide what to do with what I’ve already got.
- FOUR: I map out my week and plan meals to match each day. If Tuesday is going to be SUPER busy and filled with errands and appointments leaving no time to make dinner, I plan accordingly. If I know I’m going to be home all afternoon-that’s a great opportunity or try a new recipe or make something that’s more labor-intensive. The point is to assess what’s going on each evening so you can make meal plans to go with it. If you know you’re running kids to activities until 6 PM, preparing a full dinner just isn’t an option at dinner time. A few things to keep in mind for those busy days:
Just planning on eating out. I can’t tell you how much money this has saved me. When I started meal-planning I was WAY too optimistic about my abilities and would plan 7 full dinners for the week, buying ingredients for all of them. I then would fail at making dinner every day (I was working much more then) and we would eat out, double spending. It is much easier to accept that sometimes eating out is going to be the best option and just plan for it then to double spend and have ingredients go bad.
Plan meals that don’t have to be made right away. I have a few meals I make that can easily be kept in the freezer if I just don’t get to it OR take only a few minutes to grab and go. We’re not above a quick PB&J on the run either!!
Cook a big meal the day before and live on leftovers. I have few recipes I make that are huge and can easily feed our family of 4 for 2 days. If I know I have plenty of time on Monday and NO time on Tuesday I’ll make one of those dishes.
Make Progressive Meals. I’m a big fan of meals that double or triple as different meals. Mondays Pulled Pork Sandwiches easily turn into Tuesdays Mexican Pork Nachos with the addition of Cumin and Wednesdays Cafe Rio Style Pork Salads. Rachael Ray is awesome about including many of this style of recipe in her cookbooks and I love her for it.
- FIVE: Grocery Shopping. When I write my list I sort things by category, making my shopping trip significantly easier with my littles. I also try to stay open minded when I can to shop sales-sometimes I’ll just have “meat for fajitas” on my list and look for what is on special.
- I do not cook on Fridays. Friday (unless we have special circumstances) is date night or pizza night. Most weeks that is the only night we eat out and it’s what keeps me sane. This is the treat that I look forward to every week, knowing that I will have a few quiet hours with my husband (and no children) and someone else serving me dinner. Date night is very important to me.
- Saturday we grill. Saturday nights we almost always grill with friends or do some thing with friends that is eating. We love gathering together and having everyone bring their own meat and a side dish to share. I’ve just picked up bountiful baskets that day so I usually have a beautiful veggie side dish I can throw together (homemade salsa, grilled zucchini, etc)
- Sunday is for slow-cooking. Sunday I love to try new crock-pot recipes and hearty pot roast/ox tail/meat and potatoes style stuff.
- Lunches. For lunch I typically eat leftovers, leftovers made into salad, sandwiches, quesadillas, or potstickers. The joy of cooking every night means eating yummy lunch the next day for me!
- Breakfast. We always have eggs on hand and I’ve been in love with making breakfast burritos in bulk and having them in the freezer as a great grab-and-go!! I also love a good green smoothie!!
After years of doing this I have a few staples that live in my kitchen. I think we determine our own staples by what food we find ourselves often making. Raw tortillas, chicken stock and siracha point to our love of mexican food and you can typically find all of those things in my kitchen. I keep apples and oranges for the kids to snack on, and to pack in lunches. Lately I’ve been in love with Crio Bru and you can often find my french press and electric teapot on the counter.
The goal of all of this is to streamline your week and merge your life plans with your meal plans. Meal planning has saved us lots of money, helped me become comfortable as a cook and made my family so much healthier and in love with good food!! My children happily snarf down smoked salmon and broccoli (some days) because they’ve had the opportunity to try those things (anyone who knows my kids knows they sometimes are AWESOME eaters…and they’re sometimes the most picky…but we try). Ultimately this has made things much easier for me because I know what I’m making everyday and I’m not left hungry at 5:30 PM wondering what in the world to make for dinner.
Anything I left out? How do you plan your meals? What are some of your favorite recipes? Share below!!