Pretty much since the start of our marriage, I’ve done meal planning – the act of planning out your meals for a given time period (whether that’s a week or a month in advance). There’s been a couple of weeks that I didn’t meal plan and what a difference a plan makes! I feel rushed, unsure and I go to the grocery store alot more often (which I hate doing!)
Many of the blogs that I read publish their meal plans. I did, too, for a while til I started to feel silly. I mean, these women were planning meals for up to a dozen people! And they were planning breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Pretty much every night of the week. And then here’s me: just planning dinners, just for 2 people and just for 3-4 nights a week. I look so small in comparision!
So, today, I’ll just share my process. Later, I’ll share what I do specifically because there are just 2 of us. Just in case it helps you – whether you’re single, married without kids, married with babies who don’t eat your food or empty nesters.
The biggest challenge that I face is that a typical recipe has servings for at least 4, if not 6-8. For us, that’s at least 2 meals, if not 3 or 4. Which is great except I don’t really feel like eating Sloppy Joes 4 nights in a row! Boredom is a consideration in my plans
The other thing that I face is lack of freezer space. After all the answer to challenge #1 is “just make the recipe and freeze half of it”. And I do that sometimes. But there’s a limit to how much you can do that in one little freezer (it’s my dream to have a deep freeze when we move into our house). If I froze 3 meals, my freezer would be more than full! And it would basically mean that my week #2 menu will be my week #1 menu. Definitely simple, but see the boredom rule again.
This isn’t a challenge, but it’s a consideration. I work. Full time. But I still like to cook. We rarely do take-out (but we do eat out often on the weekends with friends). I just also like to eat dinner before 7:00 p.m. So the meals I make (at least during the week) are usually simple to make and thus, don’t take much time.
I keep my recipes in a 3-ring binder, even though I have other cookbooks. If a recipe becomes a “keeper”, it gets photocopied or typed up and put into the binder. One stop shopping on the meal ideas that we like. I have just 3 sections in the binder – appetizers/drinks/sides, then main dishes, then desserts. You could have more – this works for me. They’re put in page protectors so that when I cook, I just pull out that page. The beauty of it is that it’s protected from spills that way!
Each Saturday, I sit down and think about the following things:
- What ingredients do I have on hand that I’d like to use up?
- What haven’t we had in a while?
- What do we feel like eating?
- What’s going on this week?
- What’s on sale at the store this week?
I have a paper calendar that I’ve created where I’ve menu-planned for the month, but lately, I’ve found myself overriding it alot. “Nah, I don’t really feel like that after all” or “I’m going to make this instead because I got this chicken to use up.”
On a dry-erase board, I write down the days of the week and what the plan is for dinner that week. The nice thing is then that Jeff can see the menu and he automatically knows what’s for dinner on any given day. As I’m writing them out and picking recipes from my binder, I make my grocery list. I also keep a revolving list on the fridge that I can add to any time. If either of us notices that we’re out of soap or flour or whatnot, we write it on the list.
Then I go shopping. I do use coupons, but I’m not an extreme couponer by any stretch of the imagination.
Blogs I like for menu plans or recipe ideas:
Amy’s Finer Things