Sunday, September 2, 2012

Meal Planning Tips

Where do you stand regarding the whole meal planning issue?
Do you find it easier to meal plan? Does it help your week feel more organised?
Do you wish you could meal plan but it just doesn't seem to happen?

I have meal planned for a few years now. Though it has always seemed to be in a different way!
I am amazed by the people who say they can meal plan for a month in advance!!!! That just simply blows my mind!
To be honest I struggle with planning a whole week at once!!!
And besides, I like my fresh fruit & veg too much!

Here's what working for me currently:

I have recently decided to shop 2 times a week instead of once.

Sounds silly, but it actually SAVES us money! And it also makes each shop much quicker. I was finding that by the middle of the week we needed fresh bread & more vegetables and other random odds and ends which somehow didn't make it on the list the first time. This always meant that even if I intended to get just 3 things, I would always come out with another trolley load! Come on admit it..... that happens to us all hey ;-)

This helps us also if we have last minute plans for the weekends, extra leftovers that we weren't expecting to have or if we decided we feel like something special.
It has really helped us to reduce waste & feel a lot more organised when it comes to our pantry and fridge. 
An overloaded fridge at the start of the week can be so frustrating. Shopping twice a week stops the fridge being so full that you can't get to the things at the back of the shelves.
So I shop on Sunday & Thursday. Each of those days I sit down and plan what we'll have til the next shopping day - taking into account, what we already have as supplies, what we felt like during the last couple of days and what leftovers we have that need to be used up.
I always leave Sunday nights as 'free' meals to be filled in later with whatever we have on hand.

Here's our meal plan board:

Its a contact chalk board that we purchased from Myer.
Works a treat & so easy to use. It sits where visitors cannot easily see it and doesn't then look 'messy' in the kitchen (yes my writing on here is not so neat and its often written in code!). 
Because I eat different meals to my husband (mostly) we have a separate column for dinner each & there is also a column for my daughters lunch (she has the same dinner as me). I like to give her a variety of lunch box items so she isn't always having a sandwich (post on that coming soon).
I have a column for Fuhrman's gombbs to remind me of all the healthful food I should be eating each day. 
Its also nice to be able to at a glance note if either of us will be out for the evening meal. I am often home rather late on my travel-to-work day, so I often use Wednesday as leftovers day - alternatively I am catching up with friends and have a meal out with them. 
This is also a great way to be able to note food that is in the fridge that needs to be used up asap. I can just write a quick word in the gombbs column to remind me. I guess its more like a reminder column than anything else!!!!
I am finding that I only really need to 'plan' our evening meals as breakfast is easy enough & I usually just have salad for lunch, or any leftovers that need to be used up. I used to plan the other meals though.
I haven't always had this marvellous board (don't I have a clever hubby! <3)
I used a printed spreadsheet for ages, that I just printed multiple times and then would fill in each week.
So don't think you need anything special to make meal-planning work.

I always make a shopping list - ALWAYS!

Yes, I literally sit down with a pen and paper and go through catalogues! It doesn't really take that long and it saves me time in the grocery store.
I always check out the weekly specials at the grocery stores to work out what items I wish to purchase from which stores. 
This is another reason I find shopping twice a week works out better.
I used to get so annoyed that half the things we needed were on special at one store and half at another store & I did not like having to decide which to shop at!!!
Problem solved - on the weeks where they have equally inviting specials, I can do one shop at either!

It makes "cactus" hour so much easier!

There is nothing worse than getting to meal starting time and having no idea what you should make. It takes forever to decide and then it always seems that you don't really have 'all' the ingredients you need!
And correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that always the time when children are the most grizzly too?!?!?  ;-)
I have always involved my daughter in my cooking since she was quite young. I found that when she was younger this really helped me cope with cactus hour. She would nibble on chopped veggies (chick peas have always been a huge favourite!) & get odds and ends out of the cupboard for me. It has well and truly paid off now! She is an amazing little helper in the kitchen & finally I can say that she really is more help than hindrance!!! There are several things that she can even cook herself like pasta, pancakes & cookies. Not bad for a 7 year old! I wonder how many more years til I don't even need to cook at all ;-) 
Only joking, I LOVE cooking, and its soooooooo much more enjoyable with a plan to stick to! Even if that means I just write a few ingredients on the board so that I can experiment with a new recipe!

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