I put off meal planning for a long, long time. Looking back, I could kick myself. Not only have I saved money by meal planning but our squabbles over what to eat disappeared almost overnight.
I know now what kept me from actually setting this up was the preliminary work involved, but it turned out it wasn’t as tedious as I expected.
• Make a list of all your favorite meals. Include restaurant meals. Yes. Include them. You’ll see why.
• Get input from the family by asking them to give you a list of their favorite meals.
• Sort the list of meals by Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.
Now that you have your list sorted by meals there are secondary things to take into account. This is why I only plan meals a week ahead of time. Your mileage may vary if you’re more organized.
Once a week I look at what’s on sale, what’s in my freezer, what’s in my pantry, and what’s ready to pick in the garden. I take into account what activities we have planned for that week. I also look at the weather forecast for the week.
If I know we’ll be busy, I plan for quick meals, maybe even pre-made freezer meals so all I have to do is toss it in the oven.
If the weather is sunny and warm, there might be more sandwiches and salads. If it’s cool or rainy, I’ll plan for more soups and casseroles–comfort food.
What makes meal planning tricky is not the work involved, but the strategy. Like a military campaign, you’re looking at supplies, morale, weather, and events. But once you have a master list of favorite foods, you can place them in here and there, slipping in a few vegetarian meals, and one special restaurant style meal on occasion.
Speaking of restaurant meals…
One of the drawbacks about eating at home is that you eat at home. 🙂 What makes restaurant dining special? It’s usually a meal you wouldn’t make at home. It is for us anyway. I found that if I included a meal I wouldn’t typically make at home, it becomes extra special.
For instance, we love Mongolian Beef. It took several tries before I found a recipe that was similar to what we had at the restaurant. Greg comes running to the table when it’s on the menu. By the way, this is the recipe I use for Mongolian Beef. It is heavenly!
It’s all about mixing and matching between easy, healthy, favorite, and special. If I can include at least one of each every week, I get no complaints. Not that I accept complaints. The cook always has the final word. 🙂
Do you decide what’s on the menu or is it a free for all at your house?