Confession: I'm a girl that needs a plan.
I like to think that I'm flexible. I think I go with the flow fairly well. But, I like to at least START with a game plan... a road map... an agenda.
This is especially true in my kitchen.
I am completely, 100% INCAPABLE of grocery shopping without a list. I take that back. I am completely, 100% INCAPABLE of grocery shopping and staying on any sort of a budget without a list. Does that mean "extras" never make their way into my cart? I wish! But it means that all the must-haves DO make it into my cart... which means less "quick trips" to the grocery throughout the week... and therefore less "extras" conintuing to make it into my cart. (Can you see the vicious cycle?)
My old faithful in the kitchen? The weekly meal plan. Without it I'm a wreck... a disaster. I might as well be curled up in the corner crying come dinner-making time. Unlike my mother, and so many other great meal-makers I know, I'm incapable of "throwing together" a meal.
So, here's what I do. It's what works for me. (Coincidentally, I rarely, if ever, get asked "what's for dinner?" The Hubby knows where Old Faithful is kept, and can sneak a peek anytime he wishes. I think it's how he decides how much to each for lunch!)
The first thing I do is get out the calendar. Not only do I need to know what's going on throughout the week for the purposes of how much time I have to cook (ie. how complicated of a meal to make) but I also need to know how many means to plan for (ie. how long until my next trip to the grocery!) Sometimes I plan/buy for two weeks, othertimes it's just 3-4 days. (It depends on how much money I have left in the "grocery" envelope!)
The second thing I do is print off the weekly plan from mealtimemakeover.com (A friend of mine directed me to this Dave Ramsey endorsed site, and I LOVE IT!) I don't make every meal, every week, but it's certainly a good starting point!
Next I grab some scrap paper and start planning! It usually ends up looking like this: day of the week, what we have going on (in parenthesis), what the meal will be, and where I go for the recipe (in italics). (It's as basic as it can be!) I try and consider what I have going on that day, and how much time I have for preparing the meal... or if it needs to be a crockpot night. (I have no shame in using my crockpot 3-4 times/week!)
The Girl is also at an age where she loves to "help" in the kitchen, so I try and get a meal or two that she can help prepare, or at least a snack (ie. Pumpkin Chip Muffins.)
*Disclaimer- I am NOT a couponer. Do I clip them? You bet! But, mainly I just glance at what's on sale (via the Sunday ads) and plan our meals around that. MealtimeMakeover.com takes into consideration what's on sale at the store I've selected for them to make our meal list from. BONUS!*
So, this week looks like this:
M- Pan Pizza, Garlic Bread, Corn on the cob; MM
Tu- (Small Group) Baked French Toast; white binder
W- (AWANA- Stuffing challenge) Hamburger Skillet Supper; white binder
R- (Thanksgiving Feast at school- fruit) Honey Pecan Crusted Chicken, Chicken Rice, Glazed Carrots; MM
F- Ravioli Florentine, Italian Salad, Garlic Bread; MM
Sa- Southwest Batter Bake, Parmesean Zuccini; MM
Su- (Friends over after church) Crockpot Beef Stew, Biscuts and Honey; MM
M- Tired-of-Cooking Chicken Soup, Celery N' Peanut Butter; MM
Snacks for The Girl to assist with: Pumpkin Chip Muffins, No-Bake Energy Bites
As I've made the plan, I put post-it notes or some sort of marker in my cookbooks so there's no hunting! Once all of the meals are laid out, I make my grocery list. I start at Monday, comb through the recipe, double check what I already have in my pantry, and list away! Quick tip: Organize your grocery list by "areas" of the store. I try and group dairy, produce, canned stuff, baking aisle, etc. This makes grocery shopping SO much faster!
In a nutshell, my meal planning isn't as complicated as I feel like this blog post might make it seem! This whole process usually takes about 30 minutes of my Sunday night, and saves many, many painstaking moments of "It's 6pm!!! WHAT'S FOR DINNER?!?" throughout the week.