Meal Planning 101

Since SJ was born a year ago, I’ve been dependent on meal planning.  I am on campus usually in the mornings and then head to the after school program until around 5 or 5:30.   When we get home, it’s been a long day and worrying about what to cook for dinner is the last thing I want to do.

That’s where meal planning has come in.  What I’ve been doing is planning the meals on Saturday morning and doing the shopping for the week.  But, over the Christmas break, I had a brainstorm. What if I planned for a month at a time?? This way I would only plan once, go ahead and buy all the meat and nonperishables.  I’ll still have to go to the store each week for produce, milk, etc. but those trips would be shorter and all the planning would be done.

SO….that’s exactly what I did.  I planned for the entire month of January.  Here’s how I did it….

I’m obsessed with trying new recipes.  Pinterest has been so helpful for this. 🙂  I also love using my crockpot, so that dinner is ready when we walk in the door.  I already had a big crockpot and my sweet bro-in-law got me a smaller one for Christmas, so I had two good tools at my fingertips for planning meals.

First thing I did was start with a calendar.  I wrote down what events I already knew we had for the month of January.  We usually always eat out on Fridays, so no need for a meal there.  My birthday is this month, so I planned for a few birthday celebration nights with family.

From there, I started looking at recipes. I knew the days that I had to plan for.  I took it one week at a time, trying to mix and match meats (chicken, pork, ground beef, etc) and types of food (Mexican, Italian, soups, etc) so we wouldn’t get bored with the same stuff over and over.   You’ll also notice that I didn’t plan for leftovers.  D usually takes his lunch to work when he’s not in court and SJ and I love to have leftovers for lunch.  I don’t plan on  any meals built around leftovers for this reason.

So then, I just started writing the recipes in by week.  I used my regular weekly planner to write in the recipes and the ingredients I would need by week.  After I had done this for all the weeks in January, I compiled them all into one big master list of ingredients: what I could by ahead of time and what I would need to buy each week, like produce and cheese, etc.

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I printed off all the recipes and put them in a binder by week, so that I could find it when I was ready to cook the meal.  A lot of them are crockpot or casseroles, but I did plan to actually cook dinner on Sunday nights when I’m home all day.  Most of our favorite TV shows come on Sunday nights (Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, some Food Network competition show) so we like to park it in front of the TV with dinner on Sunday nights. 🙂

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So….here’s the final product!

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We budget a certain amount each month for groceries.  A budget is a totally new thing for us, so I”m sure I’ll be blogging about that throughout the year.  I’m hoping that buying more in bulk, going to the store less, and wasting less will save me money and time.   I’m going to the store today, so I’m interested to see what my total is for all the buy ahead groceries. I’m hoping to hit some buy one get one frees! 🙂

Has anyone else tried meal planning for a month?

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2 thoughts on “Meal Planning 101

    • Thanks Delta! We’ll see if I can actually keep it going. I hope so. I’ve done the shopping for all the meat and non-perishables for the month and the produce for the first week and spent $300. That’s not bad at all. I’m really excited! 🙂

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