Thursday, January 26, 2012

Planning Meals One Month at a Time

Every 4-5 weeks I sit down with my meal planning calendar and plan dinners for our family for the next month.  Breakfasts consist of some variation of oatmeal, healthy cereal, toast, fruit, yogurt, eggs from our chickens, home fries, waffles or pancakes, and bacon or sausage from our hogs.  Lunches are usually leftovers from our dinners or our kids sometimes take maceroni and cheese, bean burritos, or cheese and crackers with a fruit leather to school.  They are not big sandwich eaters, which forces me to be creative when packing school lunches. 

I always bring my lunch to work.  After dinner on the evening, I pull out a few small lunch storage containers (glass or BPH-free plastic) and fill them with leftovers so that I have lunch packed for a few days.  If it is something the kids are likely to eat, I pack a few for them as well.  If not, their lunches get packed in the mornings.

I use this template to plan my meals:

I simply fill in the dates and start writing.  I plan for leftovers 2 days a week and cooking 5 days so we aren't wasting food.  I plan a few easier meals and a few that require a little more effort as well as some crock-pot meals.  Since we have leftover night a couple nights a week and we are using our meals for lunches, I make large portions.  Sometimes, I intentionally make an extra-large portion or 2 of whatever I'm making and freeze half for those extra-busy weeks.  Sundays nights I always make a soup so I can freeze a portion and also because it makes great lunches for the week.  Because my husband and I have an ongoing obligation on Wednesdays, my 15 year old babysits so the kids get maceroni and cheese with a fruit or veggie every Wednesday.  They don't mind! 

I also don't get specific with the veggie when I plan so that I can buy whatever is in season, available from local farms, or is available as organic when I get to the store.

Here is my menu for this month (starting on a Tuesday):
Tuesday- Leftover night
Wednesday- Maceroni and cheese with fruit or veggie
Thursday- Pork chops, baked potatos, veggie
Friday- Homemade vegetarian pizza with baby carrots
Saturday- Leftovers
Sunday- White bean soup
Monday- Nachos
Tuesday- Leftovers
Wednesday- Maceroni and cheese with fruit or veggie
Thursday- Steak, roast potatos, veggie
Friday- Lasagne, salad
Saturday- Leftovers
Sunday- Potato escarole soup
Monday- Chilli
Tuesday- Leftovers
Wednesday- Maceron and cheese with fruit or veggie
Thursday- Roast with carrots and potatos
Friday- Whole wheat spaghetti with veggie
Saturday- Leftovers
Sunday- Minestrone soup
Monday- Pinto beans and cornbread
Tuesday- Leftovers
Wednesday- Maceroni with fruit or veggie
Thursday- Crock pot barbequed ribs, mashed potatoes, and veggie
Friday- Ravioli with veggie

This month, I was in a huge hurry when I planned my meals, so I relied on old standards and didn't get too creative.  While I'm making my menu plan, I jot what I need for my monthly grocery store trip down on this template: which also jogs my memory about other items I might be running low on. 

Since we are busy with work, animals, scouts, 4-H, church and about a million other things, I don't make anything too elaborate.  Everything I cook is super-simple. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of my favorite simple and time-saving recipes.  I will also be sharing my progress towards a few household goals, including my goal to lower my grocery bill by $25 dollars per week.  Stay tuned!" class="pin-it-button" count-layout="horizontal">

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