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Topic: Meal Planning
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3/3/2017 2:52:16 PM
Member since:
Mar 2009
Total posts:211
Meal Planning

Does anyone meal plan? How do you go about it and stick to it? Do you meal plan first then grocery shop every week or two accordingly? Do you prep anything ahead of time? I have a little one and my job puts me away for supper 2-3 days a week so I would like to give meal planning/prep a go so that she still eats properly when I am away. My husband can cook if I leave specific instructions on what to do. I have a crock pot too if that helps. Any tips are appreciated.


3/3/2017 10:19:28 PM
Member since:
Apr 2010
Total posts:343
I do

I plan meals at least a month in advance. Sometimes two months in advance. I try to plan our Sunday meal so that I have leftovers that I can create something else with for the freezer to eat on the days when i am short on time, or need the s/o to make supper. Some examples are if I'm making lasagna, I make a pile of sauce and freeze some for spaghetti and turn some it into chilli. Both hit the freezer. Or if I make a roast chicken I make extra mashed potatoes and make a sheppards pie type casserole and through it in the freezer. A few times a year I make ground turkey cabbage rolls and throw them in the freezer, I do the same with meatballs. Left over roast beef gets turned into beef and barley soup (via the crockpot) and frozen in appropriate sized containers. I go grocery shopping once a week.


3/3/2017 10:23:59 PM
Member since:
Mar 2009
Total posts:3028
meal planning

There's not One Right Way to meal plan, but here's what I do:  
I take a calendar that I get for free somewhere (this year's calendar - the one from the garage where we take our cars), and in blue ink I write out my menu. I might note in things that I have to consider on the calendar ahead of time so I can plan (for example, if my husband will be away that day, or if we need to eat early for some reason). I like using the calendar because i hang it in my kitchen and I have it to refer to for ideas.  
I generally write out my menus in one-month blocks, but I've also been doing it a long time. I would suggest start with a week, especially if you're shopping weekly right now as it is. If you're *really* at a loss what I plan for a week, write down everything you've eaten in the past week. Voila, you have an instant 1-week meal plan to get you started.  
I make sure to have at least one "flex day" per week, a meal that can easily moved or deleted. That way, if we have leftovers that need eating up, or it's been a terrible day and we're ordering pizza, or even if I need a quick meal another day I can just swap them. My flex meals are usually things that are quick (under 30 min) and use primarily pantry/freezer staples or things I have on hand always, like spaghetti, tomato soup and grilled cheese, a quick stir-fry using frozen stir-fry veggies, or omelets with toast and a tin of fruit salad.  
Also, plan for leftovers. We have a roast chicken every other Sunday. On Sunday, we have the chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy, all the trimmings. The carcass is picked relatively clean, although not usually completely clean. Lunches for the next day are made out of that. Then I put my chicken and veggies in the crockpot and cook it down into chicken broth overnight, usually until the next afternoon, and is then is put in the fridge or frozen. Then I pick the carcass right clean, and the meat from there is saved for soup. Monday is usually stir-fry with leftover chicken meat, or chicken tacos, or chicken casserole, or chicken on salad, or some other meal that uses leftover chicken. Also make lunches out of that. Repeat until the chicken is used up (usually the last bit goes into a chicken salad sandwiches). On the last day, have chicken soup using the bit of picked chicken and cutting up a couple of carrots (or use leftover carrots from Sunday's dinner), a bit of celery, some noodles and maybe a loaf of home made bread. One chicken gives 3-4 suppers for 6 people plus lunches. Nothing is wasted, and nothing is thrown out.  
Then shopping. I do shop every week for perishables and to fill in on sale items, but monthly for pantry staples and stuff. But weekly works especially if you're starting out. Make a list of all the ingredients you'll need for the week. Don't forget to include things for breakfasts and lunches, snacks, etc. If you don't already keep a running list on your fridge of things that are out or nearly out, start one. That way you know you're almost out of baking powder before you're actually out.  
Make a specific list. Don't list "pasta", but list "3 bags pasta", and possibly the types (macaroni, spaghetti, penne, etc). If you take a yogurt cup every day, and your child takes one every day to daycare as well, you know you'll need at least 10 for a 5-day work week. If you have 3 meals planned for salad, you need 3 heads of lettuce.  
Do you shopping, and then how much prep you do will depend on what you eat and how much you do in advance. I do find it's helpful to do some things in advance - I will separate meat into their portions, for example, and will premake things like meatloaf and meatballs for the freezer. I also precook dried beans and freeze them, and if I bought a large bag of peppers I might chop some and freeze them. Lettuce I'll usually clean and put in ziplocs with paper towels so it's ready to go. Most make-ahead stuff I do when I make those meals - I'll make 2 lasagnas instead of 1 on lasagna day and freeze the extra, or 2 trays of bean enchilladas and freeze one for another meal. If I'm chopping stuff for tonight's supper and I need the same veggies chopped up for tomorrow's stew, I'll chop both meals at the same time if I have time today. You'll have to experiment to find out what works for you.  
Then, it's simply a matter of following the meal plan. If we ate what's on the plan, I put a red check on my calendar. If we didn't, I write what we did eat in red so I know for next time. That helps me see if I consistently plan on "stew" but never make it, I should probably stop planning stew. We use our crockpot(s) a lot (I own 3, including my old beat-up one that's been demoted to strictly a bean pot), but you don't necessarily need to. It really depends on what your eating habits are.  
One things, however, that's important is that you consult your menu the night before. That way, you know if you need to take out meat to be defrosted or put beans on to soak the night before.  
That's my system. But really it's a trial-and-error for your unique family and your needs (and skill level). Just remember that while meals don't need to be complicated or fancy to be nutritious, delicious and filling.

Happy_ Hour

3/4/2017 9:00:46 AM
Member since:
Mar 2009
Total posts:543

Wow, Abbysmum.  
You really have your s-t together!! I just wing it and hope for the best.


3/4/2017 10:52:19 AM
Member since:
Dec 2008
Total posts:30

We make a weekly meal plan, I bought a white board with each day of the week in it. Every Sunday morning I will sit down and write out our weeks meals and then make my grocery list from that.  
We typically always cook enough "supper" for 2 meals and then eat that for lunch the next day. I also run a daycare, so we don't usually have a ton of left overs once I've fed all the kids.  
We grocery shop weekly as I find fruits, veggies and dairy don't last longer than that in our house. If I find we have a lot of "extra" food after a week, I will make a meal plan based on what we have left in the house and try to do a "clear out"  
All school snacks get bough whenever we are running low or when they go on sale, usually once every month or 2 we will do a big shop and stock the freezer up with meat.  
If I'm making lasagna I always double or triple up on the sauce so there's extra for a quick meal. Anything that can be make in bigger portions and frozen will be. It makes it a lot easier with a family to have quick meals for the busy days or the lazy days.  
I find making a monthly meal plan was too hard, and we were changing our minds a lot and switching too many things around.  
It's hard to try and fine new things to make, I find we eat the same 10-12 meals all the time. wish there was a group where people would share their ideas and recipes for everyone!


3/4/2017 2:47:53 PM
Member since:
Mar 2009
Total posts:3028

@Happy_Hour. I only like to look like I've got everything together. ;) But in all seriousness, planning is key to keeping things in budget and under control. "Winging it" had us spending $1000 a month on groceries, but planning literally halves that.  
@Thatmom. We could start a thread. "The ebrandon meal-planning recipe swap"? I've read however that the average family eats the same 20 meals over and over, so really you only need to add another 8-10 to your reperatoire and you're good to go!


3/4/2017 6:00:58 PM
Member since:
Dec 2008
Total posts:30

Yes, a meal planning prep/ recipe exchange group would be awesome!  
Im not sure how to go about doing that lol


3/4/2017 6:25:53 PM
Member since:
Sep 2007
Total posts:1127

I did a monthly meal plan. Basically, I took recipes that my family liked and put them in a list. I combined them with sides and suggested veggies.  
Then I created a blank calendar on a computer program, and started putting these meals in. I like variety, so I made sure meals were only duplicated once in a month. I also took into account leftovers (usually for lunch). I know how much my family eats, so suppers are doubled for the "leftover" meals. I found having a flexible meal day was important too...just as Abbysmum found.  
If I had to skip a certain meal for whatever reason, I would make a note of it and not buy ingredients for it the following month because I already had them. I did also have an "open" meal, for when I had time, that was set aside to try a new my plan evolved over time if I found a new hit.  
I then went a little further by figuring out the ingredients needed for each meal and put it down in a monthly grocery list. This saves money too, and too much brain power later.  
I found that we saved money, had less stress and ALWAYS had a good meal on the table that everyone enjoyed. It was a lot of work at first, but very much worth the effort in the end!

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