Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Meal Planning

In the past few months I have been doing a lot more meal planning. I have found that it makes my job much easier, no scrambling for something to make for dinner, you don't "run for pizza" as much, and you manage to save money as well. It doesn't take long to sit down, come up with a list of meals, and then set them to the days you think they will work the best.

What I have been doing is first, looking at what is on sale at the grocery store. I refuse to buy things like Hamburger Helper, rice sides, box potatoes, etc. . They are unhealthy, and don't taste as well either. I try to think of things that will freeze well also, that way I can just double the recipe or more, and freeze it for dinners later to make things even quicker. Once I see what is on sale, then I make a list of dinners that I can with those ingredients, and then make a list of things I know to be inexpensive, and that will go a long way, and also try to throw in one "treat" meal, something that may be a little more costly to make (not a lot) but that is a favorite. Say, like Sesame Chicken, Steaks, whatever a favorite may be at your house.

Then I put my list together, and make sure everything is on it. Go through the cupboards, etc and make sure that you have all ingredients you need to make the dish. The less you go to the store the less you spend. If you are out of something for the dish that doesn't really matter, then don't bother stopping at the store for it. You will most likely walk out with other things that you don't really need. Then, it does help (though I don't always do it) if you cut, sort, and bag into portions that you are going to use the ingredients for. Say you want to make Fajitas. If you buy chicken that is fresh or beef, cut it into the strips ahead of time, then bag and label it, and freeze it. I have been buying the colored peppers at Costco, because they are such a good price. So tonight I cut them into strips with the onions as well, bagged them in quart bags, and put them in the freezer. I bought a Chuck roast that was on sale, and cut that into strips for the meat, labeled it fajita meat, and froze it. (You can also go ahead and put your seasonings in at this time if you want to) then you can get everything out in the morning, thaw it, and cook it that evening, with minimal time needed, since you won't need to cut it. Wala, you have a quick meal, even quicker than pizza, and it's healthier to boot! :) I serve ours with rice, as the kids don't usually eat it with tortillas, so they just mix it with rice, cheese, and sour cream, and eat it that way.
I plan to make a Minnestrone soup recipe that my mother in law gave me a while back. It is amazing!! I am so glad she shared it with me. It freezes really well, and makes quite a bit. Broccoli soup freezes well, you can even make up your own breaded chicken strips ahead of time and freeze them, then thaw and bake when you want them! By the way, if you want any of these recipes, I'm happy to share, just let me know and I will post them asap. Lasagna is a great one to make and freeze! Personally I think it is cheaper to make 2 at one time, and then freeze the second one before you cook it. Get it out first thing the morning you want to eat it, and then bake it that evening, and you don't even have to prep it at all, and less dishes! I also make double my Cheese and Spinach Manicotti, Chili, Veggie soup ( keep in mind if you make your with potatoes that they do not freeze well, so I would leave the potatoes out if you plan to freeze it). I like to make ahead and freeze Cabbage Stoup, and many more as well!
After I get the meal plan, the shopping, etc done, I also make sure that I have put meals to the days for that week or two weeks, whatever you have chosen. Sometimes I have one or two extra meals planned, just in case I decide to change one, etc. . I have found that I am more likely to stick with my meal plan if I know what is going to be for dinner that day, even though you can flip flop them if you'd like. If I know ahead of time that we have evening plans (say like on Monday's Gabe has wrestling now) I will make that day something easy like tacos, a one dish casserole, or even a crock pot meal so that we can still sit down and have a family dinner without being rushed, and make it to wrestling on time.

That's my 2 cents for the day! :)

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