This is a photo of my vinyl dry-erase calendar. I write all our meals and events on here. This week we had two nighttime schedule changes, but I left them in this order and I will bump them in my mind. 🙂
So here’s how it works: one day a week I sit down with a stack of cookbooks, my computer or phone (for emailed recipes) and any new printed/clipped recipes, and I plan our meals. I write in a cheap steno notebook and tear out my shopping page, but it’s easy to flip back and forth. I try to alternate styles and proteins, but use up all the ingredients I buy. I make a master shopping list and try to accomplish all shopping at one store. If I’ve gone to the farmer’s market, I’ll write my produce at the top of the meal planning page so I know what I have to work with and can make sure to incorporate it all.
*Another tip: I will write the page numbers of recipes and a notation of which cookbook it is from if needed.
Planning saves a lot of money. If I have a recipe that will use fresh basil, for example, I will try to make another recipe later in the week that will use the rest of the basil. Also, I’m only shopping ONE time, which obviously saves time, but money as well. I feel like the more often you enter the store, the more likely you are to make last-minute/shortcut purchases, impulse buys and the like. I think we save around $100-200 a month just by not going to the store as often. That’s a lot of money AND convenience. The other side of the coin is that, if an ingredient is forgotten, it most likely will be omitted (oh well!) unless it’s a main component – which doesn’t happen often. Shopping smart means using everything you buy, buying only what you need, and not letting things go to waste. I work very hard to try and use all the fresh produce I buy (which is a lot!). It requires a lot of forethought – you need to survey what you have already and think about how things will keep. Typically, our end-of-week meals will rely on frozen meats, shelf stable items and the hardier produce. BUT it’s totally worth it! Before I forget to mention the best part: it’s so easy on your brain! I used to come home from work and struggle and agonize over what to make. Once I started this plan, I would know in the morning if any prep was required/possible, and then as soon as I walked in the door I could start cooking without having to worry and search the cupboards. That little bit of upfront time has saved a lot of stress. Josh also loves looking at the menu board before work and visualizing what he’ll have for dinner. 🙂
This week’s meals started on Monday and will end on Sunday now that things were bumped. I typically plan no more than 5 dinners assuming we might eat out or get leftovers — that way nothing goes to waste.
Here’s this meal plan:
Monday: tomato-cream pasta with chicken, salad, garlic rolls
Tuesday: Stuffed cabbage with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and a cranberry-walnut salad
Wednesday: Cilantro-serrano pesto penne with chicken, corn, cilantro salad
Thursday: BBQ beef brisket sandwiches with macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes
Friday: Greek night! Gyros, falafel, tzatziki sauce, hummus and veggies
You tell me: do you want me to post more weekly menus? Shopping lists? What is helpful?