Monday, February 9, 2015

Meal Planning

The start of a new year brings inspiration, desire to change, and just a fresh breath of air to look at our lives and see what we can/need to work on.  For Matt and I, as a couple, it was our budgeting or lack there of.  For me personally, it was meal planning. 

Back what seems like forever ago....I meal planned like a champ.  I even wrote about my month of meals here for anyone that's interested.  I did this for a while and LOVED it.  Like any good thing that is working fabulously for me, I fell out of the habit. When I fall out of a habit I fall directly into the drive thru line at Chic Fil A (I love them with my whole heart).  

So here is what my fridge looks like and a little explanation for all the magnetic clips and what that junk is for!

I knew I needed to get myself in gear.  I have started meal planning a little different lately and so far it's been working better than ever.  We are using a modified envelope budgeting based on Jordan's method at  Instead of weekly budgeting as she does Matt and I broke our budget up into what we call "cycles."  We get paid once a month so doing 10 day cycles was easier for us to keep up with.  We simply divided our montly allotment for groceries by 3.  That does create an odd amount but that doesn't bother me. One other thing.... doing 10 day cycles means that I don't just grocery shop on the weekend.  Our cycles end at various times.  The new upcoming cycle that I just planned for starts on Wed.  That might stress some out but honestly it has worked well for me.  It gives me a little added pressure during the week but I don't have to spend my weekend shopping and prepping etc.  

That works out well for me because my kids go to Awana at my mother in laws church on Wed night so I'm free.  I sit down with my recipe box.  Sometimes when I see a recipe that seems easy, few ingredients that I want to try I'll jot it down on a card and drop it in my box. I sift through my box for whatever looks good and for inspiration. I ask Matt what days he has to supervise ballgames, and jot down any other events going on that would redirect supper whether it is our monthly supper club with friends, late meetings, ballgames, birthday parties, anything where I won't be cooking.  I then write down the days on a white notebook with the dates including the schedule in a different color.  

On nights that Matt works late I will make sure not to make his favorite thing that he will miss.  If he thinks he will eat when he gets home I'll make something that reheats well or is simple (I won't make pancakes because that's not great leftover).  I then ask Matt for any special requests and sit down and write out what I want to make.  I will take into account anything needing to be used in my freezer or ingredients needed to be used in my fridge.  After jotting down the menu I make my shopping list based on the recipes and what I will need.  

So here is a picture of my 10 day calendar sketched out.  I quickly jot down what all we have. 

One random tip for meal planning is make it easy!!!!

When I buy ground beef I try and buy extra or in bulk.  I then brown it when I'm cooking supper one night and then divide it into amounts used in most of my recipes and freeze in a freezer bag.  This makes any meal that requires ground beef SUPER easy.  After church this week I had planned on making taco salad.  When we come in from church everyone is already starving so I didn't want to spend a ton of time prepping and cooking lunch.  Before we left I took out a frozen bag of pre-browned ground beef, water and my packets of taco seasoning and put them in my croc pot.  I keep my croc pot on my counter since I use it almost daily.  I turned it on and by the time we got back from church my meat had thawed, was warm and had been simmering in the seasoning.  All I had to do when we got home was cut up a tomato and get out the things we eat on our taco salad.  Easy peasy!  

I shop at Aldi.  My list is arranged based on how the store is laid out.  Aldi is a little difficult when you initially start shopping there, but as soon as I learned what they had, and where it was in the store I was in love.  You do have to bring a quarter for your cart and then bag your own groceries, however it's worth it.  I can buy twice the groceries at Aldi than I can anywhere else.  I don't feel like I am accepting sub par groceries either.  I love all their stuff.  

Cereal for under $2 a box REGULAR price that tastes the EXACT same as name brand?  Yes please.  If you have seen the Houser's cereal stash you would understand that this alone is worth the Aldi trip for us.

When I initially sit down and meal plan I will pull the recipe cards that I need for the week and clip them on my fridge.  This keeps everything at my fingertips and helps me not to be digging through things later in the week when I'm trying to remember how to make something or what the exact measurements for something are.  

Back a while ago I ordered this cute magnetic shopping list.  I originally intended to use it for meal planning but there just wasn't enough space for me to write what I need.  Using the plain white notepad with no lines that I got at Walmart for SUPA CHEAP is my jam.  I didn't want to waste this cutie though so I use it to record things that I am totally out of during the week.  

I am absolutely notorious for getting ONLY what's on my shopping list.  I will know full well that we are out of an absolute essential (read hazelnut creamer and K cups) and walk right past them because I am laser focused on the list.  

I am also horrible about forgetting that we pack kid lunches every day.  Not sure how I forget but I do.  I will be so focused on supper stuff that I won't add bread, peanut butter, yogurt, etc. to the list and come home happy only to realize I have NOTHING to make a kid lunch with.  So this helps me to record those things.  When I sit down to draft my final list (and put it in store order) I will just quickly copy things from this list onto my actual full shopping list.  

I am 100 percent certain there are more efficient ways to meal plan. This is just how I do things.  I have utilized numerous different methods but I think this works best for me right now.  I keep everything at my finger tips on the fridge which is right where I am cooking.  If I need to add something to my list or refer to the recipe it's right there.  I do keep a chalk board on my wall in the kitchen with a menu on it as well.  It's mainly for looks and my kids read it to see what's for supper.  If you want to stress them out - don't follow the menu and adjust for whatever reason.  They can't deal.  If it's written on the chalk board, buddy it better be on the table that night!  Ha.  

I hope this helps you like it has me!  I will be also updating soon with a follow up post to this about freezer meals, what I love, what I hate and how to make it work without being a crazy person who spends their entire Saturday cooking freezer meals.  (I might just name the post that!)  

Happy Monday y'all.

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