Sunday, January 31, 2016

Meal Planning for the Month

I can't believe it has taken me so long to figure out that meal planning for the whole month is where it's at! I have never been a good meal planner but since October (with the exception of January...I just never got my stuff together to plan more than a week at a time) I have been planning a full month of dinners.  Here's how I got started.

I started by making a binder for all my printed out recipes. There were a lot. Then I looked through all of those and my recipe box and wrote down all the dinners that I knew our family likes. That sheet stays in the front of the recipe binder.  I organized them in these categories: Crock Pot, Soups, Pasta/Hot Dishes, Salads, Sandwiches, Meat, Grill. Sides, and Breakfasts.  We have more than enough to fill a calendar for a month.  I printed off some blank calendars I found here.

Sooooo, at the end of the month, I sit down with my binder and clipboard to plan the next month's meals. It seriously only takes about 15 -20 minutes. I know what nights of the week an easy meal is needed so I usually start there. Fridays are usually pizza nights. On the weekends we like to grill. See, it's filling in already! I try to think about my picky eater and make sure there are a few meals he really likes scattered throughout the month. Wherever I have a hole and can't think of something, I grab a Pioneer Woman cookbook and fill it in.  I also plan for one 'leftover' night a week.  That's it! Now I don't have to think about dinner for another month. Whew!

I don't let the calendar stress me out. Just because tacos are on the schedule for Wednesday doesn't mean I can't switch. Or if my husband surprises us with a dinner out on a day I'm supposed to be making meatball subs doesn't mean we can't go.  Going out is like a night off and I'm probably not going to pass that up!  When I'm planning the grocery list for the coming week I simply look at the week on the calendar and gather the recipes to determine what I need to pick up.  If we have supplies for a dinner we didn't get to last week, something will get bumped from the calendar.  Breakfast and lunch are pretty low key here. Eggs, cereal, pancakes, waffles, muffins...Sandwiches or finger foods, sometimes something to change it up.

That's it! I think about dinner for 20 minutes, one time a month. Then I have about 30 days where I never have to worry about what to make that night and that feels really good. Oh, and I'm keeping the meal plans when the month is over. I will use them for that month next year either as they are or make a couple of changes. Either way...I'll save even more time and who wouldn't love that?!

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