Making a Monthly Meal Plan
Have I mentioned before that I pretty much hate getting meals on the table? Meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning…all of it. Except the eating. I very much enjoy the eating part. I’ve tried lots of things to make this whole daily ordeal more enjoyable, or at least take up less of my life. So my latest project is one more attempt at streamlining the whole meal preparation process. The biggest change from anything I’ve tried so far? Planning for the whole month.
I started by making a list of all the meals I would consider quick and easy. When I actually sat down and wrote them all out I found I actually had a pretty good collection. For the most part they are recipes that I can make from memory, have a small list of ingredients, and come together fairly quickly. Some recipes are crock pot meals that take a while to cook, but only a few minutes to dump the ingredients in at the beginning of the day. I’m sure each family would have a different list, but ours includes things like tacos, spaghetti, parmesan tilapia, and roast beef.
Then I made a list of easy and quick side dishes. I’m really bad about making the main dish and then realizing we have no vegetables once I get it on the table, so I knew I needed to think about sides ahead of time. I only have a handful that I’m planning to rotate though each week, but they are super simple. Mostly various types of frozen vegetables with some roasted sweet potatoes or carrots thrown in for some beta carotene.
Once I made my lists I realized I could fill out a whole month’s calendar and only repeat most of the meals twice. This sounded like a fabulous idea, but I knew I would miss some of our favorite but not quite as quick and easy meals. So I made a list of favorite seasonal meals. My plan is to put one “seasonal favorite” in a week, but with a list of favorites already made it’s still not something I’ll need to think very hard about. Some favorites that I’m planning for this fall include my stuffed acorn squash and chicken and rice chowder.
From there I filled in the calendar! I based the plan around our typical schedule for the week, so on grocery shopping days I always plan on just picking up a rotisserie chicken for dinner. On days when we tend to have more going right before the dinner hour I plan on crockpots that I can prepare earlier in the day.
The last step was preparing a shopping list. Since I plan on repeating my “quick and easy” meals all year long, I knew I could go ahead and make a shopping list to refer to all year too. This took a bit of time, but I think I have a pretty thorough list now. I split it up into things that I can buy just once at the beginning of the month, and more perishable items that will need to be purchased on a weekly basis. My hope is that I can take one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month and get all the unpleasantness of that out of the way and keep all the rest of the trips short and sweet. Since I’ve only just started this system I have yet to find out if this is how it will actually work in reality.
Maybe in a few months time I can report back on how this system is working out. I’m hopeful that it will make at least some things easier and I’m already excited about the fact that the whole month’s meals are planned out.
Anyone have any fabulous tips for making meal planning and prep involve less time and stress? I’m all ears!
**This is going down in the books as Project 1 for my 31 Projects goal!