But, I digress, back to meal planning for the month. I did plan the meals for the month of February and March, fearing a mutiny from the guys in my life, and I must admit, it feels good to be back in control of the world of dinner again.
My method for meal planning is simple, but it does take me a while.
The tools I use:
Once all the tools are gathered I open my calendar and make sure that I have listed the days and dates correctly in my spreadsheet. Don't laugh. I've messed up that step before and its thrown off a weeks worth of meals carefully planned around our schedules.
These are the things I consider when planning the meals:
Taking all this information I start plugging meals into my spread sheet. I will choose a slow cooker meal for the days that we have something to do in the evening so dinner is ready when we get home. I might choose make at home pizza for a quicker dinner option if one of us is working late. The meals that take longer to prepare, lasagna for instance, I'll schedule for a weekend. I tend to plug in salads for times when I know the boys will not be home for dinner (one will eat salad, the other not so much). I also (not always successfully) try to spread out the red meat consumption as well as our Italian, Chinese and Mexican style meals. I'm sure none of us would like to eat Mexican four out of seven days in a week.
Tip: I often go back to previous months and even to last year to see what types of meals I prepared to get inspiration.
After all the days are planned I create a "weekly" grocery list for each week. This list contains the fresh ingredients I know I'll need that week for our meals - meats, fruits, vegetables, breads, etc. Because each weekly list is on it's own piece of paper, I put the following week's list up on the refrigerator and everyone can add to it if there are items we run out of. This can work really well if everyone knows this is the plan.
Once the weekly grocery list is complete, I do the mammoth grocery list. This is our once a month, blow out, big, multiple store shopping trip that usually takes a good part of a Saturday or Sunday. This is when I buy all the paper products, staples, non perishable items. I also buy bulk meat at Costcto or Sam's and Michael separates it and seals it with our food saver air sucker outer system. When I do this shopping list I go through all the recipes/menus checking to see what ingredients I already have in the house.
Next I post the monthly menu on this handy board with a chalk pen. It's a great reference for the family and the best part is that sometimes dinner is already started when I get home!
Finally I put the menu plan into my phone along with the weekly grocery lists.
Menu planning can be tedious at the time you are working on it but it sure beats the midday, at work panic of "what are we going to have for dinner tonight?"