Meal Planning

For me, Sunday means meal planning for the work week ahead. I’ve been good at it and I’ve been really bad at it during different phases of our marriage. As of late I’ve been back on the planning bus and while yes, it’s some upfront work, holy cow does it make the work week go easier!  I mentioned in an earlier post that nothing is more stressful or exhausting to me than to come home from a busy work day and having to use what little brain power left to figure out what to do for dinner. So bear with me here, I’m no organizational guru but I’m going to outline why I find meal planning so helpful and my little process. Also, let me point out…I’m a paper and pen kind of gal. I used a paper calendar and write our events down. There are tons of handy apps and gadgets and things, many which I have tried, but I keep coming back to old fashioned paper and pen.

What is a meal plan?

For us, it’s primarily planning our evening dinners for the week. Both my husband and I usually bring lunches from home to work that are leftovers or salads. My oldest daughter has hot lunch some days, lunch from home other days. All of that goes into consideration for our grocery list. But my primary focus here is dinner. Also as a note, we typically grocery shop once a week on the weekend.

Why meal plan?

I have noticed several advantages to us meal planning.

  • We save money because we go to the grocery store with a plan vs making it up as we shop and overbuying. Plus we’re not spending money eating out as much.
  • We’re less wasteful because we buy and use what we need. I’m embarrassed by the amount of food we toss because it goes bad when we do a poor job of planning.
  • We spend less time shopping, again because we have a list and a plan. However, I do invest more time in the planning part. So overall, the time aspect probably evens out.
  • We eat healthier. Rather than reaching for frozen dinners or heavily processed foods, we’re eating fresh and homemade meals.
  • I already mentioned this, but to me, the biggest advantage is the reduced stress at the end of the day.

How do I meal plan?

  • First I print out my grocery list template. It’s a simple form I created that divides my list up into sections – produce, meats, canned goods, dairy, household goods, and other. Then at the bottom I have listed the days of the week where I tentatively place meals or note if we have an event. For example, if our girls have swim lessons or my husband has a work dinner and there is no time for cooking, so I’ll notate that. We usually end up doing sandwiches or leftovers or something else quick.
  • Next, I jot out dinner ideas for each day and start looking up recipes. I use Pinterest a lot and some of my favorite websites are Skinnytaste and Well Plated. As I find recipes I write down the ingredients we will need under the appropriate category.
  • Lastly, I keep all of my recipes for the week together. If it’s a new recipe, I’ll print it and put it behind the list on my clipboard. It stays on the clipboard all week until I need it so that I know right where it is and can easily find it. If it’s a recipe I’ve already printed, I’ll just grab the print out from my book and place it on the clipboard too. The clipboard stays on the wall in the kitchen. It doesn’t really matter to me what meals we cook on what night, so I’ll keep the grocery list with the meals by day and select something each night based on the time we have and mood of the family.

Hopefully this was a little bit helpful! I would love hear your ideas and how you organize meal planning in your home! Comment or tag #the_mama_jeans on IG!

Much love mamas,

Jennifer

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