Monday, December 24, 2012

Meal Planning Saved My Life

Meal Planning Saved My Life

(or just saves me gobs of time)

Many ladies have asked me about my once a month meal planning. I promised to post my menu from last month on Face Book, but I’ve decided to blog about it instead. I hear all the time from other mamas about how they should be better at meal planning or how they could never plan a whole month at a time. It’s really not that difficult. It just takes a 2-3 hour commitment once a month, a good day planner, your collection of recipes, and some peace and quiet. I know that last part will be the hardest to come by :oD

Before I post my menu from last month let me give you a few tips and ideas to maximize your efforts. 

  1. I’m sure you all do like me. You print out a recipe you find on the net and then it disappears, gets thrown away, or ruined. Well, no more!  Get a 3” three ring binder to place all of your recipes in. Buy clear report sleeves to slide in your recipes. This keeps them clean and easily organized. You can also conveniently tear a page out of a magazine with a recipe on it, slide it in your sleeve, and try it out when you feel inspired. Organize your recipes in any way you like. Mine are in this order; breads, soups, main dishes, sides, desserts, drinks, and “to try later”. I also have a box of recipes on index cards.

  2.  Go through your recipes and find your favorites. Now is the time to plan for a small budget or upcoming holidays in mind.

  3.  Get a nice Day Timer. I use one from Walmart called Family Plus. It’s a perfect weekly/monthly all in one planner and will fit most needs for being organized.

  4.  Plan out holidays or special meals first. This allows you to get the hard stuff out of the way and gives you an idea of how to budget the rest of the month’s meals. For me I go straight for the holidays - and there are a lot in the Bible :D- and birthdays, again there are a lot when you have nine kids. After that I just start planning out the rest of the month saving Sabbath meals (Saturday) for planned freezer meals. This keeps my prep day more gratuitous, if you know what I mean. 

  5. As you pencil in your meals for the week, write down the grocery list directly at the top of your planner (if you use the one I suggested there is a place for this). This saves time and keeps some of the monotony at bay. I shop for all of my non-perishables and freezable foods once a month. This tremendously cuts down the time I spend during my weekly shopping trips. Not everyone can do that, but you will still have your weekly list already made out for you. It’s so nice not to have to worry about it on a weekly basis.

I’ve always wanted to do the whole Once a Month Cooking thing, but cooking 30 meals for 11 people sounds like a breakdown just waiting to happen. What I can do is double quite a few of my meals to freeze for another time in the month. It takes very little extra time to double your meal since you’re already chopping, peeling, sautéing, etc. anyway. For example; one of my meals was Fettuccini Primavera, Salad, and Garlic Knots. I doubled the veg part of the Primavera, bagged half in a freezer bag, and labeled it Fettuccini Primavera. It was then put in the freezer for whatever day we would have that meal later in the month when I would thaw it and prepare the rest of the meal. All that was left for me to do was boil pasta, throw a salad together, and make garlic knots (these can also be pre-made and frozen). The other nice thing about having pre-made meals in the freezer is when you don’t feel like having whatever is planned out that day you can grab one of your freezer meals instead. This works out nicely when you have a particularly taxing day or kids get sick.

 So, here it is: 
November Menu 

This will give you an idea of what I do and how it works. I’m not including recipes. THAT would be too much work ;) If you want you can just Google the recipe and find one that will work for your family.

I hope this blesses your home as it has blessed mine.

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