Thursday, October 9, 2014

day 9: meal planning...

This post is a continuation of my ongoing series on 31 days to more order.  Please go here to read all the posts and topics.

What's for dinner?

Does that question throw you into a panic or do you simply have to look at your calendar or schedule to know what you've already got planned?  Is it something you think about for the first time at 4:30PM or do you know the night before?

In the past 3 days alone I have talked with four different friends about meal planning, their struggles about what their children will or won't eat and what to have for dinner tonight.  Since we have to know the answer to 'What's for dinner?' every day, it is something that we need to get a handle on.  That is where meal planning comes in. 


The best meal planning system is the one that you will use.  There are so many out there that all you need to do is figure out what works best for you, your family and your schedule.  Keeping in mind that this may change as your family changes.  Some popular ways to plan meals are;

1) Once a Month Cooking.  Which is exactly what the name implies, you spend one day cooking all your meals for the next month.  This is a great system if you have the time and energy to do it and if you have 30 meals that your family will eat.  I have one friend who loves this system and it really works for her.

2) Assigning a meal to each day of the week or month.  This entails creating a weekly or monthly meal calendar and determining specifically what you will make each day.  I love this system and use variations of it now.

3) Assign each day a food type.  Using this system you will decide that on Monday you will have chicken, Tuesday is beef, Wednesday is pasta and so on.  This allows you to always know what 'type' of food you will be preparing but not exactly what recipe.  This is great if you do a lot of coupon matching and follow the grocery store sales.

I have used many meal planning systems and have sort of evolved into using a hybrid system right now.   I like to spend some time on Sunday looking at my weekly calendar to determine what our week looks like.  I make a note of nights that Mark is out, I am out (woohoo!), nights that the kids have activities, if we have plans to have people over and if we are eating out any nights.  This is a great place to start because it will tell you how many meals you have to plan for, shop for and prepare that week.

I then plan my meals by knowing who I have to cook for.  So for example, Mark works every Thursday night and is not home for dinner.  Therefore, I usually make something totally kid friendly like pancakes or waffles and bacon. 

I also have about 10 meals that my kids will eat all or most of the dinner.  I would love to cook wonderfully exotic meals that take hours to prepare but I'm not in that season of life.  So I stick to meals that I know my children will eat.

I also have a pantry, fridge and freezer stocked with the makings of several go to meals that I can pull out and throw together at the last minute.  I will be sharing a few of those in tomorrows post.

I'd love to tell you that I was great at this and always knew what I was going to make for dinner, but I don't.  I sometimes go to the grocery store at the last minute looking for inspiration and spending more money than I should because I wasn't prepared.  But those days have become fewer and fewer since I got serious about meal planning.  I've found that getting a handle on meal planning can really save you time, money and stress.

How to you answer 'What's for dinner?'  How do you plan your meals?  Do you spend intentional time each week?  I encourage you to find a meal planning system that works for you and then use it.

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