Meal Planning

This is one of my favorite “social media posters” because it is so very reflective of how I feel almost every week:

Amen, sister!!

Amen, sister!!

The saddest part about that feeling is that I actually really, really enjoy cooking!  Especially for Coach; he loves my cooking, and I get that 19th-century-good-little-housewife-glow when I see him overstuff himself because he liked dinner so much that he couldn’t stop.  It’s wonderful!!

When I started this blog in August of 2011, I had great intentions of posting every couple of days and including a weekly menu with recipes and photos of every single meal.  Twenty-six months and only 39 posts later, I am ready to concede that I will NEVER actually get that done.  Please accept my apologies…

I am also here to confess that if I force myself to do a little meal planning, my days run much smoother than when I try to shoot from the hip in my on-going struggle to feed my family EVERY night.

I have managed to create a system that works for me pretty well.  It is very similar to what I posted on here way back when my intentions were good, with a few tweaks here and there.

First, I print a full year of “blank” months from iCalendar (I only include national holidays, not any family or personal calendars on the printouts).

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Then, I label the columns as such: Sunday = Soup & Sandwiches, Monday = Crock Pot, Tuesday = Chicken, Wednesday = Pasta, Thursday = Pork, Friday = Beef, and Saturday = Anything Goes (which is denoted by a smiley face because I got tired of writing it over and over).  I do this to make sure that I am feeding my crew a variety of foods as opposed to red meat and potatoes 5 nights a week even if that would be their dream come true.

I put Crock Pot on Monday because I am not a great Monday Mom; as in, I need a day to warm up to the new week every time it comes around, so throwing a few items in a crock pot is way more likely to happen than me exerting tons of effort on a Monday.  Furthermore, you might notice that Pasta night will be switching from Wednesday to Thursday in 2014 because SonShine intends to be playing ball on Fridays from now on (as opposed to Thursdays), so his carb-loading will need to be moved back 24 hours 😉

The next thing I do is fill in ballgames, volunteer nights, etc…so that I know which nights we will most likely need to eat out while we are on the run.

Finally, I start filling in ideas under each column.  I find that it is easier to think up 4 crock pot recipes, then 4 chicken dishes, then 4 beef favorites, and so on than it is to randomly pick 30 meals out of the sky.  When you attempt this, I think you will be surprised how easily the squares fill up.  I usually have to go to the next month to exhaust all our favorites as well as new recipes that I want to try.  This gives me a head start on next month which is AWESOME!!

If you choose to try this planning method, arrange your labels to match food categories that your family loves, and put them on the nights that fit your own crazy chaos rather than mine.

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I began this system last January, filled in a portion of February, and lost focus until September…but October was a good month for me.  I actually filled in the whole month and stuck to it really well.  There were only 5 nights last month that I intended to cook at home, had a meal scheduled, and did not actually follow through.  For me, that is a major success!  I circled those 5 at the end of the month and immediately filled them in wherever I had the next open square for that food type.  With a blink of an eye, November is filled, and December is already half full.

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To complete December (and every month thereafter), I use 3 great resources:

1.  Previous months’ schedules and my cookbook/recipe collection – this ensures that I am revisiting meals that my family enjoyed and not “accidentally” forgetting them in the mix.  I also enjoy using the same recipes and cookbooks that have been passed around our families for generations.  These are just two of my cookbook stashes around the house…

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2.  www.OnceMonthMeals.com – my BFFK introduced me to this website a couple of months ago, and although I do not follow their shop/prep/cook once per month system, I do find it very, very helpful.  Each of their recipes is intended to feed your family twice, so I make it one night, using one portion for that same night and freezing the other portion for another night within the next 4-5 weeks.  I love that the one meal idea actually fills two squares on my calendar sheets.  You will see the second (frozen) night denoted with a star…that way I know that I do not need to buy/prep/cook it again.  I encourage you to explore OAMM and check out their menus.  Access to archives prior to 2011 (I think that’s the correct date, but forgive me if that is not exact) is completely free, and current memberships are available to enjoy all the newest menus and website features.

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3.  Tosca Reno’s Clean Eating philosophy and books – we are blessed that no one in our home is lactose intolerant, shows symptoms of celiac disease, or requires special dietary needs, but I still attempt to watch what we eat at a casual level.  I use canned soups, pasta out of a package, and I buy from the middle of the grocery store.  At the same time, I introduce recipes into our home that just happen to be clean, paleo, gluten free, dairy free, or whole foods.  I cook to nourish and please my family, and along the way, I hope to keep them healthy without becoming obsessive or neurotic.  We have been known to enjoy a nice clean meal of grilled chicken, steamed veggies, and fresh fruit followed by a big bowl of peach cobbler with Blue Bell Vanilla melting on top…and that’s just how we like it!!  Tosca Reno’s books have taught me a lot without creating that dreaded sense of failure in myself when I do not follow it 100%…take a look, and see if they speak to you, too.

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As I write in my meals on the calendar, I gather recipes or make a note of where to find them on the fly.  If I have a computer printout or recipe card for something that month, I just paper clip it to the back of my schedule for safe keeping:

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Tomorrow, I will update that old “This Week’s Menu” page to reflect what is actually working for me these [hectic, insane, rushing-around-like-a-chicken-with-my-head-cut-off] days, so please check back to see if my system might also make your days run a little smoother, or at least provide a few new ideas for feeding your family.  EVERY night…

Enjoy,

A.

One thought on “Meal Planning

  1. Pingback: Blame it on the Son[Shine] | Me & Coach

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