Meal/Menu Planning

People often ask me how I  make my menu/meals. Well, the answer is quite simple (like me): I plan! I treat my meal planning like a business…I try to save time and money…being efficient, not crazy. 🙂

Here’s what I do. I plan for a month at a time, so that I don’t repeat meals too often. I get out my laptop (has my grocery list on it), my calendar, my planner, and my recipes. First, I copy over all the appointments, birthdays, important days, etc from my planner to my calendar. (Yes, I have a paper planner, not in a smartphone…I live a simple life, remember?) This helps me plan my meals. For example, if I know I’ll be gone until dinnertime, I will plan a crockpot meal or a frozen meal for that day. If I know a meal takes longer, I plan that for a day that I think I’ll have more time.

Next, I get sort through my recipe box (once again, think “simple”) and pull out the ones I want to make this month. Then I fill in the meals, trying to not have similar ones next to each other. If I decide to add a recipe to the menu, I then look at the ingredients and make a tally on my computer about what I need…how many bags of frozen broccoli, how many pounds of beef, how many cups of cheese, etc.

I take my laptop to the pantry and the freezer and add staple items or subtract items I already have at home.

step-7

On my menu, I mark if I have something already frozen (the F is circled) or if I want to freeze part of it. Often my recipes make more than 3 or 4 portions, so I freeze half of it for the next month. This is a HUGE time saver, money saver, and REALLY helps us with portion control.

After I print my list, I almost always have to cross something off, add something on, etc. That’s ok…at least the majority is typed (so I can read it better 😉  )

step-7b

After shopping, I do as much cooking or prepping as I can. When I buy onions, I go ahead and chop them right away and freeze them in individual bags. Otherwise, they go bad or I forget that I need to chop them. And I HATE chopping onions. One of my good friends bought me a Ninja for my birthday last year. What a blessing!  I can chop 6 onions in about 15 minutes, and only have to wash the Ninja once!  Yay!!

If I find beef on sale, I buy it and brown it right away. Then I freeze it. It can thaw in about a day, so I just have to look at my menu and know what to pull out of the freezer for the next few days.

step-18

If I buy things like wraps or tortillas, I split them into the proper portions and freeze them accordingly. That way, I just pull out what I need for one recipe and the rest stay frozen. This bag of tortillas makes three batches of enchiladas. Again, this really helps with portion control and saving money.

For each week, I use this chart. It helps me keep track of my portions (which helps with my stomach issues and to maintain proper portions and ratios). The portions are based on the 21 Day Fix/Beachbody portion control system. I have found this system to be extremely helpful, HEALTHFUL, and yummy!

step-8

On the left side, I fill in my workout for the day and what DVD it’s on…this saves me time each day.

step-8b

I then write the meals on the left hand side and fill in the portions for each meal.These portions are on my recipe cards.

I love planning for a month and shopping for a month and we are fortunate to be able to do so. I still go to the grocery store weekly to get dairy and produce items, but those are trips my husband can do for me if I’m too busy.  Keep in mind…my menu is flexible! I end up switching meals around within the week or, sometimes, not making it at all. Nothing is set in stone, but this is a great guideline for me. I also love the menu because I don’t have an answer the question of “What are we having for dinner?”. I simply direct them to the menu!

I hope you find this helpful and can customize my system to fit you and your family! Happy meal planning!

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