Meal Plan 9/27-10/3

Time for another meal plan. Seems like I have to do this every week. It’s amazing how much I dislike a task that makes the rest of the week so much easier, but there you have it.

Leftovers to use: I did a pretty good job using up leftovers last week, and we ate most of what we made, so very little needs used up this week. Meat in the fridge/freezer = 1 5lb package of chicken breasts, 2 pot roasts, 1 pkg tillapia.

Monday: We had pasta and shrimp. The shrimp had been in the freezer and needed using, and I always have tons of pasta and sauce because I buy it when it’s on sale.

Tuesday: Fish Tacos using the tillapia, salad

Wednesday: Pot Roast with onions and potatos, salad

Thursday: Crock Pot Chicken, rice, stir fry veggies

Friday: Stew w/left over pot roast, potatoes, barley

Saturday: Pulled chicken sandwiches, chips

Sunday: Chicken and rice casserole

The Power of the Meal Plan

Ah, meal planning. Something we all aspire to and yet rarely get around to doing. And it’s too bad, because for such a short time investment you reap huge benefits. Meal planing saves time, money, and a great deal of sanity. For those who have never meal planned before and may be a bit daunted by the prospect of coming up with a weeks worth of meals RIGHT NOW, I’ll break down my process for you. It’s not nearly as huge a beast to tackle as you might think.

First things first, take a quick look in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. If you can plan your meals around things you already have on hand then your shopping list is that much shorter, and you’ve already saved money.

In my fridge I have 1-2 meals worth of turkey (depends on what I decide to do with it), lots of eggs, bacon, cheese, carrots, celery, and homemade yogurt, among other things. In my freezer I notice a surplus of green beans, and a package of boneless skinless chicken thighs. We’ll definitely be seeing those on the meal plan this week. And I always keep a fairly well stocked pantry of dry goods such as rice, beans, flour, onions, potatoes, sugar, spices, etc.

Once you have determined which leftovers from the week before need used up, and what ingredients you have on hand already, it’s time to start thinking about the meals themselves. I typically try to do my meal planning on Sunday so that I’m ready for the week, but I was working Sunday night/Monday and so I’m doing it today. I also try to plan meals for early in the week that I have all the ingredients on hand for, so I have a little flexibility in my grocery shopping. Nothing kills a grocery budget like running to the store at the last minute for the one thing you need for dinner and coming home $50 later with a bunch of stuff you don’t really need.

Any time you can cook once and eat twice you should. Baked chicken thighs for dinner one night can become the basis for soup, stew, sandwiches or casserole later in the week. I can stretch that turkey for two meals if I do one soup and one casserole. I also try to plan one meatless (or at least less meat) meal based around beans and rice.

Now it’s time to start planning those menus. If you have something to use up but don’t know how, I like (was recipezaar) for finding new recipes. Just make a basic plan of what to serve and when. We’ll look at our recipes in a bit to decide our shopping lists. There are several tools you can use to organize your meal plans. Here are two that I’ve used that are working for me.
I found this nifty note pad at Target. It gives you space to write in your meal plans with your shopping list underneath. I like that it doesn’t take up much room, and is always visible on the fridge so I can add to the list as I discover things we need.

This is the menu section of my Home Management Binder. I don’t use my binder nearly as much as I wish I did, but I’m trying to make it a part of my daily life again. The pages are in page protectors, and you can write with a dry erase marker. I have two menu pages so I can start planning next week without having to erase the week that’s not quite over yet.

Here’s how my weeks meals are shaping up:

Monday (yesterday): We ordered wings. Yum!
Tuesday: Turkey Stew
Wednesday: Turkey and Rice Casserole
Thursday: Baked Chicken Thighs, Roasted Green Beans
Friday: Bean Soup with Bacon
Saturday: Dinner w/Grandparents
Sunday: Chicken Sandwiches, salad

I’m using up my turkey first since it’s been in the fridge for a few days. Also, I need to get the chicken thighs out of the freezer and into the fridge so they’ll be thawed for Thursday. I love meals that can be made all in one dish, so I haven’t listed a side dish for things that include plenty of vegetables. Both my husband and I are watching our weight, so we’re trying to stay away from starchy sides and focus more on veggies and salads.

Now is the time go go through your recipes and make sure you have all the ingredients you need and make out your shopping list. Looking at my list, the only thing I need to pick up is salad greens. This is mostly because I shop according to sales and keep my fridge, freezer and pantry well stocked with things we use often. It’s partly because I get in ruts and we tend to eat the same several things over and over. Now make up that shopping list, and sit back and relax knowing you’ve avoided the “What’s for dinner” panic for the rest of the week!

Menu Planning 12/21/2008

Menu planning is one of the areas of homemaking that I really struggle to keep up with, but it makes such a difference when I take the time to do it. Menu planning serves so many purposes. It saves a lot of money by utilizing what you already have on hand and reducing the amount of waste. It saves time spent trying to decide what to have for dinner and being prepared with things that need done ahead of time. It saves frustration of not having advanced steps ready (ever forget to soak the beans or pull the chicken out of the freezer to defrost?) and it makes scratch cooking so much easier.

I always plan my weeks meals around what I already have in the pantry. First I check the upstairs freezer for any leftovers that need used up. Right now I have pork roast, chicken breast, turkey, and pinto beans in the freezer already cooked and just needing thawed and thrown into a recipe. If there is nothing suitable in the kitchen freezer, I check the downstairs freezer. It has whole chickens, one turkey, a few potroast cuts of beef, a little ground beef, and several packages of boneless skinless chicken breasts. I also plan for leftovers to be rolled into other meals. If I roast a chicken at the begining of the week, I plan at least two other meals that week that use cooked chicken such as soup or cassarole. AllRecipes and RecipeZaar are great websites for finding recipes to use what you already have in the house. Durring my weekly grocery shop, I shop to stock the pantry and freezer, not for specific meals. If there are a few ingredients or spices that I need for something specific I’ll go ahead and pick those up, but I don’t buy a whole meals worth of ingredients in the week that I make that meal. This saves a lot of money because I try to plan meals that use spices I typically have on hand, or just buy small amounts of spices/ingredients if it’s something i don’t use often. Also, say I was planning a chicken meal that needs boneless, skinless chicken breasts. These are usually $4.50/lb making them a fairly expensive (to our family anyway) cut of meat. But several weeks ago they were on sale for $1.88/lb, and I got 6 packages. So now I already have chicken in the freezer and don’t need to pay full price. So I plan all of my shopping trips around what’s on sale, and I plan my menus around what’s in the freezer.

This weeks menu:
I have pork roast, cooked diced chicken breast, and pinto beans in the freezer that I pulled into the fridge to defrost.

Sunday: Pork roast with gravy, sweet potatoes, peas
Monday: Crockpot pork and beans, popcorn cauliflower, applesauce
Tuesday: Chicken noodle soup, bread, kale
Wednesday: Christmas Eve dinner with family
Thursday: Christmas Day dinner with family
Friday: BBQ chicke pizza
Saturday: we leave on vacation. Cancun here we come!!