Opera and Cowboy boots

 Meal Planning for the week and save time and money!

Do you ever stand in front of your refrigerator and wonder “what am I going to feed my family?” Or wonder why your food bill is so high even though you can’t find anything worth eating? Meal planning is a simple way to help take that frustration and confusion of what to cook for dinner. Just a few simple steps makes sure that I have what I need and that I am not wasting food that will go bad because I forgot that I bought it.

Now if you are going to say “That’s too fussy!” Or “I’m terrible at planning, it will never work!” Trust me, meal planning is easy and it actually saves you a lot of time. It’s really just three main steps that you have to follow.  So are we ready to see how it’s done?

Fist start with a calendar. This can be done on a week by week calendar or a monthly, you choose. JUST MAKE SURE ITS UP TO DATE! Noting can derail a plan as when I don’t know of something that is happening that just made the meal I was making seem pointless. So make sure your calendar is up to date.

Once you have your calendar up to date, look for any dates that might be pressed for time or you are out of town or may have company coming over.  For example, some days I have to teach piano right after school, pick up both my children who stay for late practice, and then go to class.  This means that I have no time to cook and I need to have something ready to go in the 20 minutes we have to eat. on those days I either have a meal that takes no longer than 10-15 minutes to cook or have something going in the crock pot. So on your busy days find a meal that doesn’t take a lot of time and write it in that day.

A good rule of thumb is to keep the recipes familiar with adding one or two news ones as you have time to try something new. Ever tried getting a child to eat something new when you’re in a hurry? Never works out! Like a witness on the stand getting grilled by the prosecutor out for blood, you will be questioned by your off spring about everything about the new dish you have presented to them. So in order to save time, I wait until I have time to debate with my children to get them to eat.

Remember while planning is that there is nothing wrong with leftovers! Meat that was for dinner on Monday can be tossed in a skillet with some green chili and rolled into a burrito or put on a sandwich bun. BBQ sauce, El Pato, salsas, enchilada sauce can all be added to meat and heated up for something quick and new.

Once you have your meals written down, make out your shopping list.

And once you have your ingredients pick a day where you can do your meal prep. Veggies and fruit can be cut up and put into plastic containers to make cooking go faster. Some meats can be cooked ahead of time and frozen, just defrost and warm up. Even some casseroles can be made ahead and frozen to be warmed up in the oven that day.

So to recap:
  1. Write out the meals for the week
  2. Make your shopping list, look for sales or coupons that you could use
  3. Once you have everything, prep

Just remember meal planning is flexible. Something comes up and you miss that meal? It’s ok, work it into the following week so you don’t waste the ingredients.  You really cannot cook one more thing and want a pizza? Great, have pizza. Even better? Schedule a day for pizza. For us, this is usually on Fridays when I have little desire to cook. This is not meant to turn you into a all day everyday chief. It’s just to make “What’s for dinner” be a little easier to answer.

I have made a weekly meal planner that you can get here.