Sometime in the past few years I read a book that talked about planning out your dinners in advance. I believe the particular book I read was in regards to saving money and talked about planning for a month at a time. When I first read that I thought… “No way… that would never work for me!” And yet, I was willing to give it a try. I started with one week at a time. After a few weeks I thought, this is going pretty well, and jumped straight up to three weeks at a time. I’ve found this to be my happy place. I once tried four weeks, but the planning took too long to be quite honest!! I’m getting ready to make my dinner plan for the next three weeks so I thought I would share my process with you! Perhaps it will inspire you to give meal planning a try!
Above is a picture of what I start with. I have the last meal plan I worked out, as well as a hand written calendar for the next 3 weeks. This particular one has a few extra days on it as I’m staying cognizant of when we have guests coming in from out of town. Now it’s time to put down the dishes I’m going to fit into the next meal plan. I try not to duplicate recipes between lists (unless they are something we really love to eat). On a piece of scratch paper I put categories such as beef, poultry, pork, and meatless. As I add meals in, I notate how many meals they will make. For example, when I make spaghetti there is not enough left over for another meal. Thanksgiving Casserole on the other hand makes enough for at least two meals.
To start with I’m putting Thanksgiving Casserole down. It was on my list for last time and didn’t end up getting made so I still have most of the main ingredients for it. My husband requested buffalo chicken wings so that will be on the menu. With our out of town guests coming, I do try to skip the meals that we will probably have when they are here. Today my recipe box is not inspiring me, so I’m going to head over to my Pinterest site to see what recipes I have there. I love using Pinterest for saving recipes. I have quite a few on my personal site, but if you go to the recipes section of the Familiar Distractions Pinterest page you will see a few of my absolute favorite recipes! I’m kind of bored with everything I’m seeing which means I will do some internet surfing to find some new recipes. Since one of the main emphases of this blog is genealogy, I thought I would look up some Czech recipes to try out (in case you didn’t know, I’m 3/8 Czech). I found a website called Czech Cookbook which looks fabulous. I’ve pulled three recipes from it that look fun to try out. Maybe I will even blog about making them!
So here is my list of meals!
You could type these up on the computer instead but I’ve found that I enjoy writing them by hand instead. Now all that’s left to do is to check the ingredients I need versus what I have to make my shopping list for tomorrow. Additionally I will end up making some small lists for the upcoming weeks as I don’t buy fresh vegetables/fruits or dairy products more than a week in advance. The whole process does take some time (especially if you are bored with your existing recipes), but if I set the time aside now, I save a lot of time later. Between hemming and hawing over what to make in a given night and lots of little trips to the grocery store, I would have spent more time (and money) if I didn’t plan ahead. I will note, just because I have it planned does not mean I stick to it 100%. Sometimes I forget to defrost the meat. Sometimes I’m just worn out and don’t feel like cooking (which is why we always keep hamburgers on hand). If you look at my list from the previous week, you will see arrows and substitutions I made on the fly during those three weeks. Most of the time if I’m making a substitution I simply move meals around in the schedule. Do you plan your meals ahead of time? I’d love to hear what you do!