Jan 13, 2011

Planning Meals

I started this blog almost a year ago, with the intent of sharing some recipes that are delicious and easy. I feel like I haven't really met this mark. How has this blog been beneficial, aside from making my sister hungry once in a while?

It is the new year, so I suppose this is a resolution of sorts. Be more helpful.

I think the concept of "meal planning" is a good place to start. I'll level with you: I'm good at it. I am an organized person. I have a good memory, and a sense of creativity that is strictly reserved for food. I'm also modest.

My approach to meal planning is this: make foods that my husband and I enjoy eating, are somewhere on the "healthy food" continuum, and do it cheaply. Whatever we save on our budget line for food goes straight to school loans. Trust me, I'd much rather have my loans paid off than eat a steak. Unless someone else is buying. Then I'll take it medium rare.

So down to business. I plan meals on Thursday nights, and I grocery shop on Friday night after work, or on Saturday mornings. The flyer for the grocery store usually comes on Thursdays so I can scope out the deals, and by then I also have a good idea of what leftovers need to be eaten and how that factors into how much we buy.

I get my planner, flip it to the upcoming week, and decide on 4 dinners (Monday through Thursday). Breakfasts consist of oatmeal, waffles, english muffins, or easy things of that sort. Lunches are either sandwiches or leftovers. Snacks are things such as granola bars, fruit, yogurt, and occassionally pretzels, popcorn, or chips.

When planning my 4 meals, I open up my "meal ideas" list in Word and look through it to remind myself of what I make. I like to pick things that we 1. have ingredients for, and 2. haven't eaten too recently.

Why 4 meals? Here's how I see it. On Monday through Thursday nights, we have traditional sit-down-at-the-table meals. I intentionally make too much food for these meals, so we have leftovers to take for lunches. The weekend is less predictable, so I don't buy food that we may end up not using.

I'll leave you with an example. Tonight we made our last planned meal for the week, the Piggly Wiggly flyer came, and off I went. I asked the husband for meal suggestions, then used sales and the pantry to make it all work.
Monday: Chicken noodle soup
Tuesday: Mexican hashbrowns
Wednesday: Italian chicken and veggies
Thursday: Steak and veggies

To make these 4 meals, I only need to buy 3 ingredients: carrots, celery, and chorizo. It pays to plan ahead and keep the pantry stocked with items you use for a variety of dishes. Oh, and before you get all up-in-arms about us having steak after my cheap food rant: these steaks were given to us. Ha!

For next time...my favorite meal-planning shortcut.