A lot of posts on Pinterest are all about meal planning, and making your life easier. I am ALL for meal planning, and here’s why:
1) It keeps me organized
2) It keeps us making healthier choices
3) It keeps us in our budget
There are probably a ton more reasons why I like meal planning, but those are my big three. That being said, I started out planning a bit hap-hazard. I’d write lists with the days of the week and start filling them in. And that worked- sort of. Then, I attempted to use other people’s templates, and I found that while there were parts that I liked, they just didn’t flow with my natural progression of meal planning.
So, today I am sharing my template with you, along with my thought process on why it is set up the way it is. If you want to skip ahead, and just get the planner- by all means, scroll on down to the bottom!
I try to be a “twice- a- month” grocery shopper. That means, we make our large shopping trips around our pay days. This works for us because the money is in the budget during those times, and generally speaking I can get everything we need for 2 weeks, except for fresh produce. Money saving tip- when doing this “twice a month” plan, we buy a lot of our meat in the family value packs. A lot of higher cuts of meat are more cost effective this way. Once home, I portion them out into sets of 2 (since it is just darling husband and I) and put them into a small freezer bag. Then, several of the small freezer bags containing the same type of meat go into a larger freezer bag. I highly recommend the double freezer bag plan- your food will be protected from freezer burn, and it’s just easier to have it all contained in a nicely labeled bag. **Editor’s note: Darling husband decided to combine bags the other day- We ended up having meat medley for dinner because what we thought were 2 steaks turned out to be 1 steak and 1 pork chop. oops!** At any rate, it’s not unusual for me to come home with 10 chicken breasts and 14 pork chops. This is magnified even more if there are BOGO deals. Seriously- you may as well get 2, and freeze those suckers. A lot of times, cashiers ask me if I’m having a party. Oh honey, it’s always a party at my house!
To answer what you must be wondering… “How big of a freezer do you have?” UM, just a regular freezer in my side by side standard fridge. BUT- when packing in freezer bags, those suckers are primarily flat. and flat- STACKS. We’re coming up on a pay period, so my freezer right now doesn’t show the justice of this statement, but I’ll take a picture after pay day to show my stacked and stocked freezer.
Anyway, back to business. I start off my meal planning by filling out my “What’s on Hand” box. For this box, I open up the freezer, the fridge, and the pantry and make note of what we have- like I said, when you buy meat in bulk packs, you tend to have some around. This makes up the base of my meal planning, but if you aren’t a stockpiler like me, look at your local grocery ads. “What’s on Sale” is an easy substitute for the “What’s on Hand” section. I do this first, because that way, I know what I’m workin’ with.
Next, I look at our weekly calendar. I’ve found that this is crucial because I use to go to the trouble of planning out really great meals for the week, only to be totally derailed by a hectic schedule that ultimately resulted in us ordering a pizza. Coming home after a busy day and seeing a meal requiring a lot of effort just isn’t going to happen, so plan
Then, I make my preliminary grocery list. This is the list of items I KNOW WE NEED prior to even planning any meals. Usually this includes fresh items that we constantly use, and constantly need.
accordingly. Some weeks will be crazier than others. During those weeks, I rely on tried and true 30 minute or less meals.
Finally, I get down to the bottom section with the days of the week. Generally, I will put a star or a note by those days that I mentioned in the Weekly Events section. Just for a visual reminder. A lot of this is pairing up my “what’s on hand” with what we’re in the mood to eat. Sometimes there are some new creations, but a lot of times, we have “rotation” meals that frequent our kitchen once or twice ever 2 weeks. I try to throw in a meatless meal when I think I can pull a fast one over on my sweet husband, but sometimes that just doesn’t work out. Once meals are on the calendar, I think about the non-staple ingredients I’ll need to pick up at the store, and add it to the grocery list section!
And that’s it really! The only other thing, is following through. To help with that, I post the meal plan. It keeps everyone in the house aware of the plan, and reminds us to thaw out any meat that we may need in the upcoming days.
I made my weekly meal board by using scrapbook paper, and a collage frame from A.C. Moore. Best $20 craft ever.
I hope you’ll find this useful, and start to add meal planning into your life! After a few weeks of practice, you’ll be SO surprised with how much time and energy it saves you!
Until Next Time,