Monday, 30 January 2012

5 Easy Steps to Meal Planning...

So, here at Echoes of Laughter, we are going to talk about some super fun home management stuff this week!
Hopefully, you will find some ideas that you make your life easier!
Today is about "Meal Planning".
Tomorrow, I will be sharing some ideas on "Saving Money On Groceries Without Couponing."
Wednesday's topic will be "Revolutionize Your Laundry."
On Thursday I will be sharing an organizational project you won't want to miss as it it something that all families should have.
Meal planning is so important for families.
It is the key to healthy meals, controlling the grocery budget and avoiding fast food. reduces the stress in your will feel so much better knowing  that you have a meal plan for each day!
No running to the grocery store on the way home from work to pick up something to make for dinner!
And I know lots of you out there already do meal planning, but since I had some readers ask about how I meal plan, I thought I would write a new post for 2012,

I usually plan our meals for the week on's the day that works best for me, but really meal planning  can be done on any day that works for your schedule.
 Some people plan meals for whole month at one time, but I plan a week at a's just the way I like to do it!
Do whatever works for you!

Here are the 5 easy steps I use to plan our meals.

1. Look at the Family Schedule.
Each week, before I begin meal planning, I look at our family calendar to see what's happening for the week.
 Is there a day supper should be early or a day where it should be an easy supper?
 I take this  into account when planning the meals for each day.
I  plan the time that each meal will be served so that when the kids or hubby ask, I can say dinner will be ready at a certain time.
Because of the children's schedule, for instance, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I serve dinner at 3 soon as they get home from school.
{You can read more about this here.}
2. Check the Fridge & Freezer.
Many people don't think of this step when planning meals, but it makes perfect sense to plan meals around what you already have.
The first thing you should check is what fresh vegetables and fruit are in the fridge.
 Plan to use those first so you are not wasting fresh stuff you already have!
For example, have some lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber? Make a salad as a part of the first meal.
Do you have potatoes, sweet potatoes, or squash? Roast them to go with a meal.
Is your freezer full of meat? Start there for making your meal plan!
In doing this, you save money on groceries by using what you already have and creating less waste.

3. Write Down the Meals.
After you have checked the inventory of the fridge and freezer, now it's time to write down the meals you have chosen to make/serve based on what you already have.
Just write it down on don't need anything fancy!
I use a simple meal planning pad that I found at Micheal's for $1.50 and I leave it on the fridge.
And I only plan meals for Monday to Friday.
I leave Saturday and Sunday open so we have some flexibility, and also because my husband likes to cook on the weekends.
When planning the meals, I like to make sure that we have a variety.
I plan the protein first, and then I add the sides and vegetables.
I keep these things in the freezer all the time:
For proteins: fish, chicken breasts, ground turkey,  beef, lean hamburger, and pork tenderloin.
For sides: frozen peas, frozen beans, frozen corn and frozen mixed vegetables.
I keep these things in the pantry all the time:
Canned tomatoes, canned beans {assorted}, different types of rice, potatoes, onions, carrots and sweet potatoes, assorted pastas and cartons of beef & chicken broth.
And go easy on yourself...don't plan complicated things or try new recipes on that for the weekend when you have more time!
Notice that a  lot of my meals are simple, kid-friendly, and can be on the table in 30-40 minutes.
For weeknight meals,  Below is a sample menu plan.
 I rotate the protein choices each night so we have a variety of meals and flavours throughout the week.

Here are examples of what we might have:
Soup Night
 Fish Night:
 Beef Night:
{Shown:Sloppy Joes}
 Pork or Chicken Night:
 Pasta or Vegetarian Night:
Rotating protein choices helps to relieve the boredom of similar meals served too often.
4.Plan the Grocery Shop & Prep Notes.
Plan your grocery list to pick up things you  need to complete the meals or for packing lunches.
{You can read my post on '5 Easy Steps for Packing School Lunches' here.}
And it's a great time to read the weekly sales flyers!
Take advantage of the sales to make your grocery budget go far!
Also, write down on your meal plan or in your planner little reminders of when you need to take things out of the freezer to thaw in time to make the meal.
For instance, if you are having chicken  on Wednesday, write down that you need to take chicken out of the freezer on Tuesday.
Also, are there things that can be done ahead of time to make the week easier? For example, if you are having rice on Tuesday, maybe the rice could be cooked on Sunday and stored in the fridge to make things easier come Tuesday.
Plan the grocery list to include lots of fresh fruits & vegetables that your family likes.
The best way to avoid junk food is to not put it in the grocery cart  at all!
I grocery shop evey 2 weeks.
We used to shop every week, but I found we wasted  lots of fresh fruits & vegetables this way by buying more before the previous week's produce was eaten.
Every 2 weeks gives us time to eat everything before buying more.
5. Involve the Family.
I usually prepare the meals, but sometimes if I am out, I let my daughter know that she needs to put something in the oven for me when she gets home from school, or I let Tyler know that he is helping make the salad that night.
I think it is so important to involve the children in the meal-making as much as possible so that they feel comfortable in the kitchen and will one day cook for themselves.
And my husband cooks on the weekends, so he chooses what he feels like cooking and I am quite happy to have a break!

One of my very favourite sites to visit for ideas for meal planning is my friend Laura's blog
On Mondays, Laura hosts a Menu Plan Monday link party where each week over 200 hundred woman link up their meal plans for the week.
This link party is so full of great information and inspiration....I highly recommend visiting it on Mondays!

Do you have any tips for planning meals?
What works for your family?
Here are other great meal suggestions:
Here are some other posts that might interest you:
 You can also check out these boards on Pinterest:
Thank you for visiting!

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