Meal planning ensures that we eat well, use the ingredients we have, and get a variety of foods in our diet. We use magnets to organize our meal plans.
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I meal plan for us for a week to ten days in advance. I start by comparing our schedule with an inventory of what is in the freezer (meats, frozen steam-able veggies, pre-made meals that I have cooked in bulk, and convenience foods (fish fillets, pierogies, french fries, etc.)).
I also have the non-perishable ingredients we typically use for our meals in our pantry and spice cabinet. This is a list of everything we have in the pantry that I made the other day. Nesting, maybe?
I used my 1" button machine to make magnets with the days of the week on them (these are the same as the magnets I made for E's calendar).
I cut paint samples and wrote our typical meals on them. We have about 30 - 40 in our regular rotation. I only write the main dish on the card, then I make a vegetable/side to go with it depending on what we have in the freezer, pantry, or as leftovers. I try a new recipe about once every two weeks which I write on a post-it until we decide if it is a keeper based on how much time it took to make and how much we liked it.
I didn't organize by color/meal type you easily could. I just wanted to use the paint samples so it would be colorful and pretty!
Here are some additional items about how we make this work for us:
- I ask my husband for input on what meals he's in the mood for when I'm planning. When the kids get older I will ask them, too. Everyone can pick at least one meal a week based on the choices available.
- I think about our schedule. If I have a night where I am meeting a friend for dinner or I have a late meeting, I will make something that my husband and E like but I'm not very fond of eating. I try to have dinner finished when he comes home even if I'm heading out since he gets home later than most people.
- We have leftovers once a week since there are only three of us. I plan this night after a few nights of cooking meals that are to serve several people.
- We have easy meals several times a week such as breakfast for dinner, crock pot recipes, etc. My husband also has a few go to dinners that he makes himself if I am out with E or if it's a heavy grief or toddler tantrum day so dinner didn't happen. We agree that the world will not end if dinner is not made and other things are sometimes more important.
- We go out to eat about once every week, either having dinner with friends, family, going to a restaurant, or getting take out. This happens more on the weekends, but it is a budget item that we prioritize for our family. We love our sushi and Groupons! .
- What might seem like two sides (quinoa salad and a steamed veggie) is a dinner in our house. I love, love, love that my husband is NOT a meat and potatoes guy because I can cook vegetarian several times a week which is healthier for us and saves money.
- I grocery shop once a week to every ten days. I get fresh produce (my husband also goes to the farmers' market once a week for produce) and our regular items when they are on sale.
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