Grilled Pizza

What’s for dinner? (the reason I started meal-planning)

This was the question being asked at our house when I got home from work every night, usually late (6:30 or later.) Frazzled, I would run around the kitchen whipping open cupboard doors and digging through the freezer, in the hopes that a wonderful idea would present itself to me. It usually presented itself in the form of a freezer meal or boxed meal, something void of any real nutritional value and chock full of preservatives.

Measuring Cups & Spoons

Needless to say, my husband and I came to the conclusion that this had to stop. It was causing a lot of unwanted and unneeded stress to our home. So, my husband came up with the idea to start planning our meals. This was several years ago before you ever heard much about meal-planning. So I didn’t have very many resources to consult besides my recipe books! The plan we came up with was to plan out 2 weeks worth of meal ideas and schedule them out according to my work schedule ( easier meals on nights I worked late and more in-depth meals were saved for days I would be home earlier.)Then, based on the recipes I chose for my meal plan, I would put together my grocery list. (This was also the beginning of our bi-weekly grocery shopping trips.) I also needed to keep my grocery budget in mind to make sure that any additional items I needed for these meals would not exceed our budget. Another thing to keep in mind is to consult my pantry/freezer inventory sheet (I will write about this in a future post.) I definitely don’t want to blow my budget by buying items that I already have in the pantry.

Pan Fried Rainbow Trout with Carmelized Onions

Another step we took to making meal planning a little easier was to compile a list of our favorite and frequent meals. I categorized them by main ingredient (ground beef, chicken breast, etc.) So now when I sit down to make my meal plan, I’m not pulling my hair out trying to come up with ideas.

It is important that you consult your meal-plan daily to ensure that you are doing any necessary tasks ahead of time, such as thawing meat. It will not work out very well if I get home from work at 6:30 and the meat is frozen solid. Then it’s back to square one of rummaging through the freezer to see if there’s something easy.

Grilled Pizza

Any time that you are introducing a new routine into your life, it is very important to set yourself up for success. If I had just tried to start meal-planning from scratch without putting any other effort into it, I probably would’ve become overwhelmed and given up. But instead of just jumping into it blindly, my husband and I sat down, came up with some good ideas to make it achievable, took action on those ideas and then made it happen!

Keep in mind that nobody is perfect, from time to time we do alter our meal plan. Maybe we have a lot of leftovers in the fridge from the past few days, so we will have a leftover night. The meal planned for that night will just get put back on the list for the next 2 weeks of switched out for another evening that week. Be flexible and do what works best for you and your family!

Meatloaf Dinner

So here is my method of meal-planning in a list:

  • Make a list of your family’s favorite and frequent meals-categorize them the way that makes the most sense to you. I use main ingredient (usually by meat.)
  • Complete a pantry/freezer inventory so that you know what foods you have on hand.
  • Choose your recipes for 1-2 weeks and plan them out by day.
  • Write out your grocery list to accommodate the recipes that you’ve chosen.
  • Go get those groceries!
  • Then, sometimes the hardest step: Stick to your plan!!:)
  • Prepare ahead-If you know you need to thaw a roast for tomorrow’s dinner, make sure you think ahead and prepare. Set yourself up for the success or sticking to your plan!

New Years represents a fresh start and is the perfect time to put a new routine into place! I challenge you to try meal-planning (if you haven’t already). This method has been extremely beneficial in our home. It has brought peace and order to our evening routines!

Happy meal-planning!