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LittleSweetPeas 11-02-2007 08:58 AM

Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
It seems like it would be so obvious but I'm really struggling. So much food goes to waste in my house because my planning is really poor planning. Like I'll make something such as cheese enchiladas while the fresh veggies go to waste. Or I'll forget to take out the frozen chicken so we'll go get takeout.

I really just need to know how you do it and what things you're thinking about. I also would love to know how you're doubling up on recipes that are freezable. I really think I would save myself a lot of grief if I learned how to do something like make enchiladas but double the amount to have another meal for later.


My mother taught me absolutely nothing about taking care of a family or home. :lol I am take out queen which would be fine if I werent buying $150 worth of groceries bi-weekly that were getting thrown out while I was eating the take out....

allisonintx 11-02-2007 09:05 AM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
This is actually a specialty of mine.

Let's start at the beginning. What do you know how to make?

I made a list of all the recipes I could make w/o any recipe, directly out of my head. I thought it would be like 7 or 8 things, but it was more like 56.

I included variations on a theme like Rotini with red sauce and turkey pepperoni baked and Rotini with pesto and shrimp. Basically the same meal, but totally different taste.

When you have that list, LMK, and we'll move to the next step.

In the mean time, you can check out my blog and see how I put my food up on the calander.

crunchymum 11-02-2007 10:11 AM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
:popcorn because i STINK at this... like really really. :blush i'm going to check out your calender when i have a minute, allison... i really don't think i have a lot of meals in que that i don't need a recipe for, though...

allisonintx 11-02-2007 10:14 AM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
My confession is that most of my meals are not from scratch. They are "some assembly required"

I'll type them all out here when I get back from my errand, so that you can see *exactly* what I mean. I'm doing this as a 'class' for the ladies at church, so y'all can be my guinea pigs!

LittleSweetPeas 11-02-2007 10:17 AM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?

I'll be back when my list is done!

crunchymum 11-02-2007 10:21 AM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
oh, i have no illusions of making everything from scratch... i think i gave up that dream long ago, :lol .

The Tickle Momster 11-02-2007 10:28 AM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
I'll jump in cause I do some but not super efficiently. I have a list of 12 weeks of meals. Kind of like Saving Dinner ( I decide on something that sounds good for the week and find the week that has that recipe and the week is done. I do a week or 2 at a time.

I also have a posted breakfast and lunch menu. I need to change it up though, I'm bored with it.

milkmommy 11-02-2007 10:34 AM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
I do two week meal planning with each paycheck (though most food comes form FS)
step 1: Look in fridge and pantary and see what needs to be used up (or tossed) and what we already have make meas form the stuff that needs to be used and make a list of what I have (3 cans of veggies packages of rice mix ect)
step 2 look at the weekly adds for my prefered groccery store (comes in the mail or I can pick one up at the store) to see whats on sale and also see what I've been able to collect i coupons. Mke another list of good deals
step 3 we follow a pattern for the week 2 meals is a traditional meat sides type 2 is are veggie/vegan meals 2 are simpily convient and 1 is leftovers
lucn is always sandwiches soups or leftovers breakfast is cereal and bread type. so match what I have with the sales to create meals in this pattern
step 4: shop
step 5: assemble a list of the meals for the 2 weeks I just have a list and each night I choose one I cross it off the list. I put a special star besie ones that might use produce we just bought sometimes I dont but something till I need it.

This week chicken was BOGO free Tuna was on sale 20/$10 and were many canned veggies apples and oranges were 10lbs-$10 and a free box of a post cereal with every gallon of milk and dozen eggs bought...
Wana guess whats on our list this week :lol


schmamy 11-02-2007 12:30 PM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
I resisted meal planning for the longest time because I thought I would hate it. I finally started by necessity a few months ago when DH had to do the grocery shopping and more of the cooking while I was PG and on restricted activity. Now...I :heart it!!

I've only been married/cooking for about two years so I don't have a ton of stuff I could make out of my head--but that doesn't bother me. I got organized this summer and put all my tested-and-approved recipes into a three-ring binder that's my main go-to for recipes. Each section also has an index listing all the recipes as well as recipes in other cookbooks that I would otherwise forget about (for example, the pork/beef section index would say "Pork Pot Roast in Apple Cider (BHG cookbook p. 48)"). Then I keep a stack of other recipes I have printed off that I want to try. I love trying new recipes and don't repeat very many things very often, so only working off a list of what I know would NOT work for me--I like to experiment and I would get bored!

Each week I sit down with the grocery flyer, my binder and my recipe stack. Sometimes DH is around or I'll call him and ask if there's anything he's hungry for. Then I just decide on a week's worth of meals based on:
  • what's on sale at the grocery
  • what DH or I am hungry for
  • what new recipes I am wanting to try out
  • what we have on hand, especially things that need to be used up
  • what we have going on that week (nights when dinner needs to be quick, or when it'd be convenient to use the crockpot, or whatever)
  • whether I was overbudget the previous week at the grocery (so I'll try extra hard to make things with what we have on hand)
  • what meal(s) we had planned for the week before and didn't actually end up making

I do my grocery list and my meal plan simultaneously, checking to see what ingredients I need or how I can combine ingredients (like if I need sour cream for one recipe, I might choose another meal that uses sour cream).

Then I write the list on a whiteboard on the fridge, as well as a separate list of what needs to be thawed/prepped when, so I can make sure meat gets taken out of the freezer in time.

It is SOOOO helpful to know I have everything I need for dinner and to have the meat already thawed. Not to mention avoiding that whole 5:00 blank stare into the refrigerator, not knowing what to make, or knowing I'm hungry "RIGHT NOW" and everything we have on hand takes an hour or more to make, or things like that. Everything goes so much more smoothly--and it's even easier for DH to help if DS decides he needs to nurse right at dinnertime.

Our plan is generally just a loose guideline. More weeks than not, a couple of days get changed. DH might decide he's not really hungry so we don't eat much dinner at all...we might end up with a ton of leftovers, too much to eat for lunches (we always have leftovers for lunch) so we'll have "clean out the refrigerator night"...DH might decide he wants something different than planned...It's not rigid.

I'm not an expert. And I don't really even base everything on what's on sale at the store--I know some people do that to save money with GREAT success, but for us, that's just a starting point, not the main deciding factor. This week I bought ribs which were on sale but didn't want to put them on this week's plan because we just had them a couple of weeks ago--so I froze them and we can have them another week. But even just this little bit of planning has helped me be more efficient in the kitchen and feel more organized.

AFA freezing meals, I would love to, but we don't have the freezer space. I do other things to save time like:
--buy ground beef (OK, we do ground turkey at Aldi, it's waaaaay cheaper. I wouldn't use it for burgers, but when it's in things or seasoned a lot you don't notice a difference) (/tangent) 5-6 lbs at a time and brown it all at once, then freeze in 1-pound bags
--buy a whole fryer chicken and cook it in the crockpot, then cut up and freeze the cooked meat for recipes that call for cooked chicken
--when making spices from scratch (taco seasoning, a rub for roasted chicken, whatever) I make several batches at once and keep them in ziploc bags in the cupboard, so the next time I can just open a bag and it's as convenient as something pre-made from the store (but cheaper and probably healthier).

:phew That was a ridiculously long post. Hope some of it helps you! Allison can probably help you more; she plans for every meal (I only plan dinner) and cooks for more people (here, it's just DH and me).

**Oh, one other note. When it comes to leftovers, I just did something new this week that was helpful. We had TONS of leftovers on the fridge at the beginning of the I did an inventory and wrote a list on the whiteboard on the fridge, in order of oldest to newest (using the previous week's meal plan so I could remember when we had what). So when DH went to pack his lunch, he knew what was in there (if it's not in front he forgets about it) and what to use up first. Same when I was ready for lunch, I could pick something older since it would go bad sooner. Very helpful so we didn't forget about things that get pushed to the back of the fridge, or reach for the newest leftovers only to have something older spoil. :yes

klpmommy 11-02-2007 12:33 PM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?

SPKarenO 11-02-2007 12:36 PM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
I'm soooo....following along with you allison.

I'm going to go start my list now, but are we talking Dinners only, or should I enclude breakfast and lunch too?

allisonintx 11-02-2007 12:54 PM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
Well, I started with dinners, then found that it was very easy to do breakfasts and lunches.

purstrength 11-02-2007 09:44 PM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
I have some recipes from a freezer cooking book saved in my email. :smile

If anyone wants them, pm me your email and I'll send them to you! :yes

mom2boys 11-02-2007 10:11 PM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?
I have a form I made in excel that has three columns-one for meals, one for plans, and one for groceries/prep.
I use a recipe box my grandpa made for me (he made me two-one of the last things he made :heart) and I put everything on a recipe card-even simple stuff like, "tomato soup and grilled cheese" I use these to find what to make. I use the grocery store flyers as well as my pantry/freezer to decide on meals.
then I figure out what's going on during the week-church is on wednesday, and we eat there for supper, so that's one day all I need is free-will offering; no groceries. Same with sunday morning (breakfast is served between services) Then I figure out nights I'll be at work (I work 3-11 shift) or days/nights we have plans; i.e. cub scouts or something. That ensures I don't plan, say, meatloaf on a night we aren't even going to be home! I use my crock pot a lot and plan one day a week for kitchen prep, so I don't have to dice carrots three times in one week, kwim? That's where I use the prep section of my form. I write down everything the recipe calls for on the grocery section, then figure out what I've got enough of and what I need more of. I've spent too many hours in the kitchen just KNOWING I had enough parsley only to find out had I looked, I'd have seen there's really only a tablespoon or so in the jar. :lol
Then I plan simple dinners, like bologna sandwiches and fruit salad or hot dogs and chips. Then I plan suppers. Then I put them together so there's not a bunch of one kind of protein in a row. So we don't have beef three days and chicken two then a week of beans, kwim? I also plan for leftovers. I also plan for meals out-I find that if I don't plan for them, I tend to feel that I'm deprived of them and we actually spend more and take out more. If I know that friday night the pizza guy comes, then it makes cooking monday through thursday easier.
I keep things around for breakfast, like oatmeal, eggs, tortillas to make egg-cheese burritos, etc etc. I don't really plan a specific breakfast meal. I don't buy cold cereal, though. We have a big family and I simply can't afford the luxury!

I also bought a recipe software (it's really cheap and really useful) called accuchef. I'm in the process of putting in all my recipes. It will make meal plans and grocery lists for you. Can't wait to utilize that function! :rockon :lol
I've thought about keeping my menus for future reference, but...I haven't.

That's how I do it. I absolutely love to hear other people's methods, too!

btw, I'm a farm girl. My supper is the meal we eat in the evening and my dinner is the meal we eat around noon. Sorry if that's confusing! :lol

Learnin'2B 11-02-2007 10:14 PM

Re: Can someone teach me how to meal plan?

I'm very busy cutting and pasting this info into a word document to save!

I sooo need help in this area. I know I could do better with some instructions like this to follow. I've never been taught about this either.

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