WFMW: meal planning

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
It's been a looooong time since I've participated in Works for Me Wednesday but I think I remember how to do it. It's just like riding a bike.

I've posted about meal planning before. I seem to fall off the wagon and then hop back on a little while later. Repeatedly. I'm currently on the wagon and it's working out well for us. Having relatively recently merged two houses and families together as well as added a third child, things are getting hectic. I think I'm getting the hang of working around our schedule though and planning according to whether my step-daughter is at her mom's or not, whether my boyfriend is off or working a day or night shift, and whether one or both of the older kids have anything going on (ie: swimming, dance, martial arts). Practice makes perfect, right?

I only plan out our supper meal. When I'm planning (which I do right in a blog entry, figuring it out as I go), I first type out the days of the week and then on each line, before the weekday, I temporarily type what is going on that day that will affect supper. Is it martial arts (MA), which requires supper to be over and us out the door by 6 p.m.? Swimming (a 5:30 out-the-door timeline)? A day shift (D), which means that my boyfriend won't be home until after 7 or 8 p.m. that night? On dayshift nights, I often just plan for my son and I and keep leftovers for my boyfriend. Seeing in black and white what is going on makes it easier to know where to use the slow cooker and where I have time for my involved meals. I may be off on maternity leave right now but it seems like I actually have less time during the day than when I was working. Could be that my day seems to be chopped up into 10-minute blocks much of the time and supper preparations, even if started in the morning, often take hours.

After I write down the day's activities, I slot in anything that I know I need to make. For example, if my son requested pizza one night, I see what night that best fits and type it in as a place marker. If I know chicken works best on Thursday night, I type that in. I then hit up my Pinterest Food board and the recipe boards of those I follow for the actual recipes to link to. I also take a look at previous the recipe index round-up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie as well as recipes I've linked to right here in my own previous MPM posts. If I know I have chicken and pork in the freezer, I look for recipes that use those meats. If I know that one of the grocery stores has a steal on ham, I plan a meal or two using ham. I try to choose recipes that use my freezer, fridge, and pantry first and require few extra ingredients. And I find that using a specific recipe, rather than an ambiguous "Thursday: chicken, rice, vegetables" makes it easier for me as well.

Once I get the week's meals planned out, I go back and take out the notes, deleting the swimming, dance, and shift references since I no longer need them. Once I've posted my blog entry, I refer to it a couple of times a day to see what I can do in advance to make things go faster, either for that night's supper or for a future night.

It's a system that continually evolves for me. It's not yet perfect and could stand to be quite a bit quicker but in time... It has definitely made things easier and has helped us to eat more cheaply and much more healthfully.

What works for you? Head over to We Are THAT Family and let us know.


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