Sunday, September 13, 2015

The not so SCARY way to meal plan!

Do you ever get on Pinterest, get a nice meal planning worksheet and then sit down for your mind to go blank? Yeah. I'm one of those. I like the idea of planning but having ALL those spaces staring at me! Not my idea of fun. And then I go to day one, try to fill in breakfast by searching the fridge and freezer. Then I move to lunch, doing the same thing. Then on to dinner and I'm on a different train of thought (or train to crazy!) and have to stop and think about dinner requirements. By the time I'm done with the list, I feel exhausted and I can't remember what to write down on my grocery list!!

If you read my blog, you know I go to different places. I like to shop around for the best deals. So I like having a plan of attack before going to most of the stores. So I'm providing you with some free downloads today of my "un-scary" method of meal planning. I'm a avid list maker and this way helps me the most. First I make lists of WHAT I HAVE. In my freezer, my fridge and pantry. Then I start with breakfast and list different ideas of what I can make with (first) what I have and (second) what I need, all while having a grocery list next to me on another pad.

So here is the link for the meal planning lists. This one is a listing of your grocery inventory here.

Here is how I use them. First, I take out the Fridge list with pantry and freezer inventory lists attached. I make a list of all or most things in my pantry. I just put a number beside it if there is more than one item. I don't list spices, salts, cooking sprays or general things I always seem to have. On my grocery list, which is a separate list posted on my refrigerator, I list items if I DON'T have those on hand.

Second, I look back at my list of "grocery inventory", I note in my head now how much meat I have or breakfast items or boxes of crackers. Then my I formulate my plan! Now by keeping my lists handy and all those things in mind, I now can list my meals. Start with breakfast and brainstorm. How many do you meals do you have on hand? Cereal and Milk (check), Eggs, Bacon and homemade hash browns w/potatos on hand (check), left over lunch meat on hand with eggs and frozen bell peppers - viola an omelet (check). That's three down and more to go. If you also cook from scratch, like I try to do, then you might keep enough flour, milk and eggs on hand to make freezer biscuits, pancakes, waffles or muffins. Keep listing with this same process for your other meals. If you have small children at home or homeschool, you may need to add in a few snacks in your day. Think about your week or month, do you have time for making things by scratch or are you better to substitute some things with eggos, frozen biscuits, granola bars or frozen hashbrowns. Make it simple and keep it simple. If you don't have time to make 4 dozen biscuits on the weekend, then plan for something else. (This is a no judgement zone here!) Some days it's hard to get dinner on the table, so be mindful of your schedule as you list meals. Have a few freezer meals or 30 minute meals on hand.

Third, I also pull out my grocery ads and see what's currently on sale. Is chicken $1.99 per pound? Is ground beef on sale? What about bacon or lunch meat? If I have chicken in my freezer, I buy beef or pork or both. I use my sale flyers and my inventory to plan the rest of the meals. It's nice to have a steak dinner and all but if it's $12.99 per pound for Rib Eye cuts, then I'm not going to afford the rest of my groceries!

Do you eat out too much and want to start meal planning? Start by looking at your favorite places to eat out. Build a menu with meals just like they do. This is a great starting point. Another way is to ask each family member to suggest a meal.

I also use Google for recipe searches but I really love searching on Pinterest! It's amazing how many copycat things you can find for places like Panda Express or Olive Garden. In your search box, just try typing a few words. Try, for example, "Ways to use a Rotisserie chicken". You would be surprised how you can plan a whole week on just a few chickens! Just remember to pin or print the recipes you find so you don't forget come dinner time. As a suggestion, you can also stable these to your lists to help you plan for the week or month.

Keep your lists in a handy place for reference all week. After a few weeks, you will have a monthly meal plan!! And well....that brings me to another blog topic for another day! But right now, I hope these lists help you and your family do better at meal planning! Gotta Go and always come back Sew Hungry For More!