**UPDATE: More on Meal Planning found in this post: Meal Planning Saves Money & here: More on Meal Planning
So, I am one of those that hates to not have what I need for dinner in the house. I don't like going to the grocery stores more than I need to. I figure once a week is plenty. So after many nights preparing dinner only to realize that I was missing an ingredient, and repeatedly running to the store, I decided I needed a plan.
Furthermore, I don't like buying an ingredient that I only partially use, leaving the rest to go bad! But using it all up often means eating the same meal or a very similar dish, night after night.
And finally, being a small family with the ability to change plans at the last minute, I also hate when I buy the food for a meal or a few meals that I don't get around to making. Whether we went out to eat, met up with friends or got home too late to cook...I don't like seeing my produce get soft. And although it is not necessarily “bad”, I definitely don't want to eat it.
So my dilemma goes as follows:
I want a variety of meal selections with all of the ingredients needed for at least a week at a time. (hence the once a week grocery trip) But, with some flexibility.
So here is the plan I came up with...
1.I started with a list of meals. I divided it into categories such as: Mexican, Italian, Salads, Soups, Fast and Easy, Fun...etc.
2.Then, from this list, I pick my meals for the week. I try and pull from several different categories, so that there is variety each day...and each week. I start by picking 5 meals. I leave one day open for left overs and one day open for going out. (But I make sure to have 1 back up plan, like a meal that I would have all the ingredients on hand...maybe it is a freezer meal, canned soup, rice and beans, etc...so that if we don't end up with left overs or going out...I am still prepared.)
3.Now here is the trick, as I pick my meals I think of two things.
First, what is on sale this week and Second which meals have similar ingredients so that I get the most for my money and don't waste extra perishable ingredients
4.Then I place them on this sheet, and list the ingredients needed next to them.
A few other suggestions that might help:
1.I have two different Weekly Meal Planning sheets...I prefer Weekly Meal Plan A over Weekly Meal Plan B. This way when I shop at the store everything is in order by location. But it is just preference!
Weekly Meal Plan A: Weekly Meal Plan B:
2.To further my simplicity in this whole process, I have a binder that I keep all of my recipes in and I have a section for Meal planning with the Meal List, several copies of My Weekly Meal Plan sheets, and Grocery Sheets. This way I can do it all at once.
3.Kraftfoods.com- what I like about this site is you can enter in three different ingredients you have and it will come up with several recipes to try. (This is something I do when trying to use up extra ingredients I might have)
4.I also, like to find ways to freeze or save the extra ingredients. Found in this post: Meal Planning Saves Money & here: More on Meal Planning