Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meal Planning Taken to the Extreme!

I am in the midst of that 2-3 week panic that begins when school is about to start and I realize that my relaxed, easy-going days of summer are ticking away. Soon I'll be back to keeping a tight schedule with work, Jaxon's new Montessori schedule, tutoring...along with my normal responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, laundry...and meal planning. Last year I began being more purposeful in my grocery shopping and I have saved a lot of money by doing so. I plan my meals each week and buy only what I need, and I try to cook from scratch so that I don't waste our money on frozen food.

Meal planning each week can be a daunting task, so I have done a few things to make it easier on myself. First, I made this neat little dry erase meal planner out of scrapbook paper, a picture frame, and some letter stickers. I use it each week. Hubby enjoys looking to see what's for dinner each night, as well.

Then I made myself a template of a grocery list organized into categories. You know how every grocery store is arranged a little differently? Well I just made my template go in order from left to right through the store, ending with frozen stuff. I just print a stack of them periodically and use one each week.

I usually only plan my meals one week in advance, but today I decided to do a month instead. I just found this printable calendar online, and I chose it because you can customize which day of the week comes first. I like mine to start with Monday because I grocery shop on Sunday evenings for the following week.

The kicker here is that I made weekly grocery lists on my template for each week in August, as I planned out the month's meals. These lists only include items for the dinner recipes. I will hang them on the refrigerator at the beginning of every week and we can add on other items, as well as lunch needs, throughout the week until my trip on Sunday.

All ready to get started! You can see that I have my recipe binder, meal plan calendar for August, and grocery list templates labeled with the Monday of each week to keep me organized.

After I finished August, I thought "Why not get a jump on the rest of the year?" I ended up planning all of August-November meals and making 17 corresponding grocery lists. It worked out great because I was able to look at my weeks sequentially and space out the meals that I make frequently. Plus I knew that if I bought certain perishable ingredients one week, I needed to plan meals to use them the next week. Here are all of my plans and lists.

Close-up of August

To organize them, I put each month in a clear sheet protector, with the meal calendar showing in the front and all of the weekly lists tucked behind them. I then put them into a cute binder (with a zipper pouch for my coupons in the front)!

I plan to do a few more months when I am home for Thanksgiving break to stay on top of it.

If you look closely at my meal calendars, you'll see that I typically do crock pot meals at least twice a week. They are SO EASY! I prepare them the night before, after Jaxon goes to bed. I store them in the fridge and then dump everything into a crock pot the next morning before work. I do the same with casseroles, enchiladas, foil bakes, etc. I just get everything ready the night before, store it in the fridge, and pop it in the oven after work the next day.

Another thing you'll notice is that I have a lot of arrows, indicating leftovers. I will usually make more than we need for a few nights each week and we'll eat the meal twice, cutting back on cost and preparation time.

If you want any of the recipes I've collected (from Crock Pot Girls, Pinterest, and various other websites), then leave a comment with your email address and I will be happy to send them to you!


Anonymous said...

You are amazing! This should take a lot of pressure off of you once the school year begins. I use my meal planner that you made me every week. I love it and Mom looks at it everyday! Mommy

Jacob Smith said...

Wow. I am impressed. Shell and I would love to look at your "secret quick recipes."


Anonymous said...

I'd love to see your recipes. Thanks so much for sharing and offering to send them out. School is about to start and it'd be great to add some things to my recipe book! :)

Shea said...

This is exactly what I have been looking for! Thank you so much for sharing. I'd love to see your

Thank you!