Starting a Family Meal Plan
There are hundreds and thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands, of tutorials on meal planning and I read about 20 or 30 of them. The basic idea is the same. Once a week sit down and decide what you are going to cook the next week. Then make a shopping list of items you are missing. And finally go shopping and get cooking. The advantage of meal planning is saving time by being able to do the prep ahead of time. Some things can even be prepared a few days before you need them. That way you are not peeling carrots three days in a row. These are my instructions on how to start a family meal plan.
My process is a bit different because I am starting the shopping list before making the meal plan based on it. The reason for this is saving money. Most grocery stores have weekly sales and I like to use them as much as possible.
Another difference is that I am cooking for three people each having different dietary needs. My husband eats regular food, our baby is 16 months and still has some restrictions even through he more or less eats what we eat and I am on a diet.
Most people function on a weekly schedule of five workdays followed by a two-day weekend. We live on a wacky four-day cycle. Day one it is just little Pea and me for lunch, day two lunch needs to be reheatable so that my husband can take it to work in the evening (I’m basically cooking for four), day three we need a light lunch and a more hearty dinner and day four is our weekend as we are all home.
As I just started meal planning this week it was a four step process. In the future I will skip the first step in part or completely by using the existing list or adding to it.
Step 1: Recipe List
Make a list of meals that the family enjoys and of recipes you would like to try. This is a list that takes time to compose and is never really complete. My first draft of the list had 10 meals on it and they were all obvious stuff like pizza, lasagna and fried chicken. Just keep the list handy and in a few days it will grow. Write meals down as you think of them or consult your cookbooks.
Step 2: Inventory List
Take inventory of your fridge, freezer and pantry. You don’t have to take a detailed inventory of the pantry and the kitchen cupboards. Go through everything so you have a basic idea of what is in stock. If you notice that a basic supply is running low or is out put it on the shopping list. If there is something with a short expiration date plan to use it this week. Take note of things you would like to use and that you should use. It helpful to have an inventory of the freezer written down and corrected as you take something out or put something in. That way you don’t have to open the freezer just to look around. It is not healthy for the freezer or the food in it.
Step 3: Shopping List
Investigate what supplies are on sale this week and make a list. I can tell you there is a lot of ice cream on sale at the moment and that is not good for my diet. It will probably get on the shopping list. You know, for the boys. I might have a spoonful or two just to test it. Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand. Grocery stores usually have monthly, weekly and daily sales. It would be foolish not to use them especially for the more expensive items and the items you regularly buy.
Step 4: Meal Plan
I am including a free printable meal plan available for download. Just click on the image above. 🙂
Before you decide which meal goes where be sure to check your calendar for any important appointments or events. You are obviously not going to cook on the day you are going to your friends or family for lunch/dinner or are planning to eat out. Also, you are not going to make an elaborate meal on a day you have a doctor’s appointment. That is a perfect day for one of the meals you have cooked and frozen from a couple of weeks ago. Speaking of frozen meals, if you are making something that freezes well plan to make a double or triple batch to freeze. Cross reference the three lists to decide on what you are going to make this week and add any missing ingredients to the shopping list.
I’m off to finish our meal plan for next week. It’s almost done but needs a little bit more work.