Sunday, February 10, 2013

Meal Planning

I was talking to one of my friends the other day about meal planning.  One of the reasons she was wanting to begin meal planning is that it's one of the easiest ways to get a food budget in check.  If you have a  weekly plan in place before you go to the grocery, you can make a detailed list of what you need.  You also have less chance of overspending because "something sounds good" or having to make a mad dash to the store because you're half way through a recipe and realize you are out of something.  

Making a meal plan can seem intimidating, but it's really not.  It can really be pretty simple if you just stick to the basics.  You don't need fancy spreadsheets or books on the subject.  I make my menu on a blank piece of paper.  

To start, I just list each day of the week.  I then decide which meat/protein we'll have each day.  I try to rotate so that we don't eat the same meat/protein each day.  We'll have pork one day, chicken another, beef another.  Once you have your meat/proteins then you can move on and add sides and veggies.  This helps you to work some variety into your meals.  Also, don't discount 'meatless' days.  Since meat is the biggest expense, this can help the budget too.  You can follow this same process to include breakfasts and lunches as well.  I always start with dinners as they are the most expensive meals.

I build what my family lovingly calls 'guinea pig' days in.  These are days where we try a new recipe, not always the main dish, sometimes a creative side.  They have to be nice and at least try it as I won't make something I know they flat-out don't like.  We have a rating system too, "work it in the menu rotation", "once a month is ok", "not a favorite but I'll eat it" and finally "we tried it, that's enough".  It's a nice way for them to say whether they like it or not.

In my family, the only true leftovers are used in lunches the next day.  We do a lot with "planned overs".  Those meals where I plan to have extra meat that I will use later in the week.  For example, it we have roast chicken on Monday, I will take the leftover chicken and plan on having chicken & rice or chicken salad on Thursday.  Extra roast beef can be turned into beef Manhattans.  The possibilities are almost endless!


  1. I love your rating system! May have to borrow that. I use free printable online calendars to do our meal plans. It makes it easy to do multiple weeks and have it all right at a glance on the fridge. There is not a lot of room per square to put the details, but I only ever plan dinners.

  2. I love the rating system too and am going to use that! Is it a majority rules type situation?

  3. It is a majority rules! But if someone absolutely loves it, we will offer an alternative for the one who doesn't like it. It's all about being flexible!