Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Meal Planning

Ok so first of all, ya'll are not making this color decision easy, looks like blue is leading the way at the moment though. And B actually weighed in too with blue. BUT that coral is so pretty. I gotta do SOMETHING in it, right?

So here's something else I need an opinion on. I have never been a menu planner. I just sort of buy stuff to make meals on a whim. Sometimes I'll do one big shop and other times we are running to the store numerous times a week based on what we need/want. I don't want to continue that bad habit. I'd love to start doing some menu planning and do one big shop each week.

We were eating really good and healthy up until our fast ended about a week and a half ago, and then I sort of went on a pizza binge. I love pizza. Any kind. Delivery, Digiorno, I don't discriminate. So unhealthy! But also so easy! Once a week is fine, like Fridays, so I'm not banning them completely, but we gotta get back into some healthier eating habits.

During the day I do much better and I really do love healthy snacks like bananas and yogurt and apples and pb. That's not our problem area, it's dinner time! I would like to start planning meals so I know early on what we're having for dinner. Whether I need to prep ingredients early or get the crock pot out etc, so that we aren't making decisions when we're starving and just go out for dinner instead {or grab a frozen pizza}

So, do you meal plan? How do you decide on what to buy and what to eat and do you spread things out in a couple of different meals, like say if I buy some ground meat or a bag of chicken? If so what are your favorite meals where you do this. Is there something online you use to help you with the planning? Any good blogs with some recipes? 

Help a sister out....Give me all your tips. I want to start cooking and planning better!

12 comments:

  1. you love them both so do something in each one lol.. and meal planning i just started doing this.. i got a 8x10 frame and put scrapbook paper behind it and put menu in stickers on the paper. then dry erase marker for the days of the week.. then plan the meals.. like for ex.. mon stuffed peppers.. tues pasta chicken wed left over stuffed peper and thurs left over pasta chicken.. do every other day your not getting tired of left overs and big one.. buy things you will need for several meals.. use half the meat for the peppers and half the meat for a soup .. hope this helps!!

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  2. I LIVE by meal planning! We both have crazy schedules that usually mean I'm getting home at 7-7:30, or we're eating quickly at 5:00 before nighttime church stuff, so without a plan, we'd starve or weigh 300 pounds living on drivethrus. I'm a big fan of cooking one big piece of meat (whole chicken, roast, meatloaf, turkey breast, etc on Monday or Tuesday and then repurposing the extra meat later in the week. Example - today there's a whole chicken in my crock pot, tonight we'll have chicken rice and broccoli, tomorrow I'll do a pasta (meatless meal) and then Thursday and Friday repurpose the chicken in a casserole and then quesadillas (or sometimes it's in soup, depends on the weather). Saves money on meat, and your meat is precooked for later in the week and can be prepared faster. Another favorite is a roast, repurposed into bbq beef and stew. Or, a meatloaf broken up and used in chili (also crockpotted) later in the week. I buy larger cuts/packages of meat at Costco once a month, 2 packages chicken, 2 beef, all different cuts, it costs me a good $60-75 bucks, but it lasts the whole month. Another week I do a dry goods stock up, then another a frozen foods stock up, which means 3 weeks of big grocery bills, 1 week of like $25 for some milk, bread and produce. In total we only spend about $250 a month on groceries and I cook about 25 days a month. Granted, there are no kids in my house, but we pack lunch and my husband is home by 2 most days and is a major snacker.

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  3. I meal plan, that way I only go to the grocery tore once a week. First I go through my pantry and fridge, to see what I have and what I can use it for. Then I take my stack of recipes out and go through them to see what to make the following week. I write everything out. even all the baking I will be making the following week. It saves time and money and I dont have to drag my two little kids to the grocery store every other day. :)

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  4. Weeks that I meal plan everything just seems to run smoother. I work full time and so does my husband so by the time we get home at 5:30 each evening the last thing I want to do is try to come up with something to make {unfortunately this happens more than I’m proud to admit}. We have two littles {1.5 and 3.5}. They have early bedtimes and on days when I don’t meal plan they get chicken nuggets with some fruits and veggies and then I throw something together for me and hubs after the kids are in bed. BUT when I meal plan we all get to sit down and eat together. Amazing concept!

    So here are my tips –
    *Before I go grocery shopping I make a list of what I want to make each night for dinner. I look through the freezer, fridge, and pantry to see what I already have on hand that can be used that week. Then I decide what I want on the rest of the nights that week and make my list accordingly. If I don’t feel like making what is on the list one night I know I have everything on hand for another meal that is scheduled that week and just swap days. Now the trick for me is to stick to the plan {with a few swaps as needed}. If I happen to not make a few things on the calendar then I end up wasting fresh ingredients which is never fun.
    *I try to use the crockpot at least twice a week which leaves me with one less thing to worry about when I get home. Typically I’ll do a roast on a Monday night, a noodle dish on Tuesday, beef stroganoff using leftover roast on Wednesday night, some kind of chicken dish on Thursday and I always cook up extra chicken to use another night, Friday are freebies {pizza or takeout}, chicken enchiladas or something with leftover chicken from Thursday on Saturday night, and a more time consuming meal on Sunday night since I have more time to prep and cook. *If I make soup in the crockpot I make a large batch and vacuum seal the leftover into meal sizes and freeze.
    *I’ve found that while making one dish it is sometimes easiest to just build off the ingredients and make the base for another meal at the same time. For example, if I’m making a stir fry with chicken and veggies, I’ll also make a sauce for Cajun Chicken Pasta which uses a lot of the same ingredients.
    *I would love to try to do one big meal stockpile day on the weekend and freeze meals so all I have to do is pull them out the morning before and throw in the crockpot or warm up and serve when we get home during the week. Hope to try this soon!
    *Some of my favorite recipes come from The Pioneer Woman – the Cajun Chicken Pasta is one of my staples now. I also love ourbestbites.com.

    Thanks for the inspiration to get back on track when it comes to meal planning. The only problem I have with meal planning is that I get stuck on making the same things over and over. So not only am I going to start meal planning again, but I want to try to make at least one new dish each week. Good luck to you and my apologies for the longest post in blog history {or something like that}!

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  5. I've been following you for awhile, but this is my first time to comment.

    Anyways, I grew up with a mom who always planned out our meals & only went shopping once a week. So it was just second nature for me to do the same. I actually only shop once every 2 weeks besides running back for a few fresh ingredients after 1.

    For me it takes a bit of planning and commitment. Once every 2 weeks I work on a meal plan. I go through my fridge/freezer/pantry to see what I have on hand and keep that in mind as I make a menu. Just recently I've taken to writing the menu on a printed out calendar page so that I can post it on the fridge for easy reference. I make sure to have some really easy to put together meals too (like BLT's or hamburgers) just to give myself a break or if that night happens to be a busy one.

    I use a couple of different sites to get recipes allrecipes.com, pinterest, and a blog I really like is chef-in-training.com. I like you LOVE pizza so I've started to make Fridays pizza night. That makes every Friday easy to plan.

    The biggest challenge I've had to deal with is trying to get dinner on the table while my little one (She's only 4 months.) is super fussy. Which seems to be every evening about dinner time, go figure! To combat that I just try to prep dinner as much as I can during her last nap and before my husband gets home. Some days that happens, some days it doesn't.

    I've found that not only does menu planning help me keep my sanity it really does help us save money. That's always a plus!

    Hope this helps at least a little! I really enjoy reading your blog. God bless!

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  6. Here is what I did to get started:
    - pick a day to plan and sit down when it is quiet. I plan after my daughter is in bed the night before I grocery shop.
    - I wrote a list of main dishes that I like to make. I started this in a piece of paper and just added when I thought of one. I started make meal plans by list first.
    - Then I added sides, grains/breads to the list. That way I can pick a main dish and the sides without thinking a lot.
    - There are tons of free Weekly printables on the web - but I started with a paper with the days of the week. Choose meals from your list and make shopping list from the menu. Think of days you know you aren't cooking.

    I kept it really simple at first... later I have done these things after getting in to the swing of things.
    - I put a freezer/pantry meal at the end of the week. (Spagetti, frozen chili, mac and cheese) That way if we don't cook or eat out I dont waste. I can just move the pantry meal to next week.
    - I sit with my store sale flier and see what is on sale and pick a dish(es) that go along.
    - If a meal is a good freezer meal I make double and freeze 1/2. Chili, black beans and rice, pasta sauce without noodles...
    -I try new recipes and if I like them then I add them to our big list. I only try one new recipe a week usually. New recipes take longer to make for me and usually have ingredients I might not have on hand.
    - I check my fridge and freezer to see what I need to use up. I plan meals to use what I have first.
    - I have put my meals on recipe cards - including condiments. Even the easy ones. That way when I plan - I pull the weeks recipe card and check to make sure I have all I need to make it. I used to be out of things like basil or low on ketchup - but now I check and add it to my grocery list.
    - I plan meals with ingredients that need used fast on Monday or Tuesday. Like fresh fish or produce that needs used.
    - I look at what can be prepped for the day before - like making rice or cutting veggies. I do that when my daughter is napping or through out the day.
    - If I have a busy day planned, I plan something EASY for dinner that night. Grilled cheese and carrot sicks can be a meal on our plan... what ever works.
    - Write notes on your menu... if I see i have things in the cupboard or think of something I want to have soon - I write in on my menu I have that week. I keep the old menus to look at when I plan.

    Start small and add things as you go. Sorry this is so long. Hope it helps.

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  7. Im still working on meal planning and haven't mastered it yet..But I do have several different wonderful recipes on my blog. Schneider-tablefortwo.blogspot.com and I also get TONS of easy recipe ideas off of pinterest. And I too LOVE pizza but I buy the fresh pizza dough from Trader Joes and make my own healthy pizza with all sorts of yummy veggies. Really simple and cheap!

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  8. Oh the dreaded meal plan. I love it when I do it, but honestly I haven't been that great with it. I find it helps to have theme nights. Example- taco (or Mexican) Tuesdays. Crockpot mondays, salad night, pizza night, dinner for breakfast night. Then I don't get overwhelmed with all the choices!! Also you should check out MoneySavingMom.com. She puts up a meal plan every week, and sometimes I pretty much copy her plan. It's simple and the work is already done :) Gotta love it!

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  9. Thankfully, my sweet hubby is the cook. But I do like to help in the meal planning. We NEVER go out to eat (as in maybe once a month)! So we like a variety of quick, easy, healthy meals. Plus, I like to coupon which is easier if we plan the meals before we get to the store. The crock pot is our best friend and we usually have at least 1 crock pot meal a week. But typically, we only go grocery shopping once a week. The only time we go more than once is if I want to stop for fresh bakery bread or the occasional forgotten ingredient. I have a TON of quick recipes I could give you but I'll share our most recent gem:
    We always make homemade chicken soup... chicken, chicken or vegetable broth/stock, onions, carrots and celery (celery thrown in about 10 minutes before serving so it's still a little crisp). Cooks in about an hour and makes a TON. Then for the next night's meal, we use the left over soup (broth drained off) and add cream of chicken (or cream of celery or cream of mushroom, whichever you prefer), pour it into two frozen pie shells and bake until the pie shells are brown and now you have homemade chicken pot pie!! Tastes Great and both are pretty healthy. :) Even the kids eat it (if I pick the carrots out for Hailey)! Great blog idea, I'm borrowing some of the ideas!
    Love Ya!
    Crystal Bowen

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  10. I write out a monthly meal plan, and then shop every two weeks. Once a month is at Costco, and the other time is at the grocery store. I have been doing this for a year, and it works so well for us.

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  11. yes! meal planning is such a life-saver for me because I'm in grad school and I work part-time but I also cook for my fiancé and his brother. here's my process:

    on tuesday or wednesday (whenever they come out) I read the online ads for my two favorite area grocery stores. I base my plan for the week on what meat is at the best price that week. If it's a really good price, I might buy a lot of it and freeze some for later. I used to do the same with produce, but now we're part of a produce-sharing program that gives us a basket full of fruits and veggies every week. They send out en email letting me know what will be in the basket on Tuesdays, so I compare the produce list with the sale ads for meat and that's how I decide what to cook. If I don't have specific recipes in mind, I go back to my Pinterest boards or other saved recipes and search them to see if any of the ingredients are mentioned.

    Then I plan a meal for about 5 nights of the week. We eat homemade pizza every Sunday night (my fiancé loves it, and if you use fresh veggies it's much better for you!) and we've just started doing different kinds of burgers on Friday or Saturday nights. We usually end up eating leftovers for at least one night, sometimes two.

    Crockpot meals are awesome, and many of them can be done ahead of time. If I have extra time on a weeknight or Saturday, I'll prep meals for the next few nights to get ahead. Usually this involves chopping vegetables and meat and putting it in a gallon ziploc in the fridge or freezer, depending on how far away that meal is. Here's my Mama and Baby Love and Annie's Eats also have great tips for freezer cooking in the crockpot.

    Hope this helps! Pinterest and blogs like Annie's Eats and Pioneer Woman are definitely my go-to sites for inspiration.

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  12. I forgot the link to my crock pot recipe board on Pinterest. :) I save lots of recipes, and I try to go back and comment on the ones I make so I can remember if they're worth making again!

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