Meal Planning–a new effort
A few months ago on It’s Frugal Being Green I ran into the whole concept of meal planning. Naturally, I completely blew it off.
But I kept running into it, and it got me thinking…maybe it was not such a bad idea?
Not the thought of deciding on Sunday afternoons on 7 days of lovely and well-rounded balanced meals for the whole family, the creating of a shopping list and preparing and having dinner on the table at the same time each night. I mean, that’s a great idea, actually–but it’s not something I could ever pull off, not with the full time job and the evening rehearsals and the ballet classes and the in-laws with health problems. Not to mention Monday night football. And the fact that my kids only eat about 5 foods.
But…having some kind of flexible, repetitive, easy-to-follow weekly meal plan has actually turned out to be a really good thing. And it’s saved a good bit of money on groceries too, because now it’s much easier to predict before we shop exactly what we’re going to need to buy. I choose maybe two “real” cooked meals to make each week; other nights we go on frozen (pre-cooked) chicken fingers, or homemade pizza cooked on naan bread, or pasta with sauce I made months ago in the crockpot and froze in portions. Once a week the “real” meal is a soup or stew or something made in the crockpot, that’ll give us at least one additional dinner for the grownups (since the kids don’t like anything good). What’s posted up on the fridge looks something like this:
- Tuesday—kids eat early (nuggets/quesadillas/ hot dogs) , Parents soup or Sunday leftovers
- Friday—chicken, veggies, bread (make leftovers)
- Saturday—Parents leftovers, kids naan pizza
- Sunday— parents rice dish or soup, rice for kids
At first I thought it would be really boring and too repetitive, but honestly it’s not bad. And I have absolutely no qualms about messing with it if I feel like it–honestly, I don’t think we’ve actually followed the plan for a whole week without any shifts. But generally Fridays and Sundays I’ll actually cook something, and most of the other days when we’re running around like idiots we rely on easy-to-get-on-the-table stuff. I’d love to get away from two nights of pasta a week, but for the moment this is what we can handle. It’s worth a shot, right? Friday might be roast chicken or fajitas or one of my chicken-with-sauce-in-crockpot concoctions; Sunday might be risotto or it might be chili with rice or Garbage Soup or who-knows-what. And like I say, I’ll often freely shift the plan–if on Friday I threw chicken into the crockpot with a jar of salsa, Saturday might shift to be chicken tacos or quesadillas or something like that…it depends on what’s there. But having the plan makes it much easier to have a plan to deviate from, rather than experiencing that moment of “OMG what to have for dinner” –and it has saved me from a lot of grocery store impulse buys.
(I should point out that the only hot dogs we get are the preservative free ones. Trader Joe’s has a very good nitrate/nitrite-free hot dog…)
But if you want to really learn about meal planning…go to It’s Frugal Being Green and follow some of her links…she’s way better at it than I am!