I've been sitting down to write this post for a while. It's about meal planning, which is something I do every week. It's a hard one to write because I only know my method of meal planning, which may not work for everyone, but I have a few friends who have asked me how I do it: go shopping once a week, get everything we need, and make it last until the next grocery day. To me, it's become second nature, so this post has been edited and re-edited in hopes of making sense. Hopefully you'll find it helpful!
When I sit down to write my grocery list, it's often with an inventory of what we already have in our fridge and pantry. Our pantry staples are simple but helpful: pasta, flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and frozen chicken. I don't use these weekly, but I like to have them on hand to make meal preparation easier. This week we have a surplus of frozen chicken, as well as some leftovers, so I know those are going to be key players in my week's menu.
The next thing I look at while writing my grocery list and planning my menu is what we are doing throughout the week. For example, when we have tickets to a baseball game, I may want to ensure I plan for either a packed dinner of sandwiches or dinner out, instead of buying ingredients to fill gaps and make a full meal that night. I also flip through my Everyday Food magazines and cookbooks to see if anything stands out as something I would like to make. I don't factor leftovers into my grocery list unless I know for sure that a recipe is going to make enough food for two complete dinners. Otherwise, I run the risk of not buying enough.
Once I have all of that information available, I start planning my menu. This week it's easy: I have a package of bacon in my fridge that needs to be used up, along with frozen chicken and rice. The Boy asked me last week why I haven't made enchiladas in a while, so I know that will be on the menu, and I bought a package of ground beef over the weekend so we could have tacos or meatloaf. I know the leftovers we have will be perfect for dinner one night and if I am lucky, I'll get a packed lunch out of those, and after looking at the store circular, I have a good idea what our lunches are going to look like this week, too.
Then, I start writing, and this is what my menu (at least for this week), looks like:
-Leftover pulled pork
-Tacos with chips
-Barbeque baked chicken with mashed potatoes
-Turkey pepperoni rolls
-Grilled cheese sandwiches (with or without bacon) along with fruit or salad
-Turkey with gravy and corn
-Turkey sandwiches with fruit and salad
-Almond butter sandwiches with fruit
-Leftovers (pepperoni rolls and enchiladas).
Once the meals are planned out, I write the grocery list, double checking to ensure I have all the ingredients I need on the list and then checking to make sure that any ingredients i have written down are not already in the house. I add in an assortment of fruits, vegetables, snacks, and hot lunches for the weekends, which tend to be quick and simple. Once that is done, we go shopping! the meal plan is kept either on the fridge or in my notebook until the next week, when I start over. After doing this for five years, we've gotten it down to a pretty quick science, and our menu and grocery list typically come together in about fifteen minutes.
What about you - do you menu plan?