For me, the holidays are officially over! I love spending time with my family, but I also love having a routine. I am a creature of habit, and I love making schedules and plans. How on earth could anyone expect me to function as an adult member of society without a game plan?! Making it up as a I go hasn’t benefited me much as an individual.
It turns out that writing a mere five blog posts isn’t enough for it to be habit to document my cooking like I’m exhuming Atlantis. Since making marshmallows & hot chocolate, I’ve made a lot of un-interesting dinners (i.e: “dump” slow cooker meals, chili) that simply haven’t been worth documenting. Then, the few times I’ve made something interesting (corn bread, and Belgian waffles most recently) I’ve been so focused on not ruining my recipe I forget to document!
I’ve also realized that I have forgotten to tell you the most important ingredient to my success in making everything I eat from scratch. Ready for this?
I meal plan.
Yes. I am one of those people. I plan my meals a month in advance. I account for holidays. I think about what stocks I can make from bones and use in the following meals. It’s a huge undertaking WITHOUT adding in making everything from scratch.
Meal planning makes me feel like an adult. It makes me feel like I really have my shit together. For me, there’s nothing worse in the world than coming home after a long day of work and playing the “what should I make for dinner?” game. Hell no. Not on my watch.
Meal planning also added some much needed structure to my life. Before I started meal planning, I had an unnecessary amount of anxiety attacks directly connected to “ohmygod. how am I going to feed Robert? HE’LL STARVE TO DEATH IF I CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT I’M DOING!” It sounds dramatic, and that’s because it was. It was dramatically terrible.
We were also broke (read, more broke than currently.). Going to the store would usually cost about $300USD per trip. It was exhausting and financially draining. We’d probably do one or two big shopping trips a month, but we’d have to keep going back to the store for fresh produce, and to get ingredients we needed for making whatever random recipes came to mind that day. Shopping for food that you don’t know you’ll make is next to impossible.
For me, the choice to do a meal plan was a no-brainer. I asked R one day what his thoughts were. He didn’t really have any (“Whatever makes you happy, my love.”). So I signed up for a meal plan for one month. It was pre-made, on a budget, and had all the attached recipes. It only cost me a few dollars, and that one month changed my life. It reduced my stress by about a million percent, saved us a crap ton of money, and no more of the “What should we have for dinner?” game! Everyone wins.
Once a month I do sacrifice an hour or two of my time to make the meal plan. It’s worth it. Here’s my step by step process
- Print out a calendar (it doesn’t even have to match the month. The one I use is just a big grid, really.)
- Ask R if there’s anything he wants special this month. (Usually beef tips, beef stew, steak, hamburgers, beef anything really.) I really do love R, and he sticks with me through thick and thin. I always try and make sure at least a few of his special recipes get on the plan.
- Check out the food blogs. Pintrest my soul away. Pull out some good recipes and print them.
- Drag out the archives. Between my internet finds, and recipes I’ve made before I..
- Plop it all onto my grid into a somewhat sensical fashion.
- Put it into a separate folder in the order you plan on making your dishes.
- Once you make the dishes, recycle the recipes you didn’t care for & put the ones you like into your archives.
Things I try to keep in mind when making my meal plan:
- Any holidays or parties coming up that we need to work around?
- What will I have to prepare ahead of time?
- Do I have at least one vegetarian meal per week? (I’ve been faltering on this one lately. I don’t think R has minded.)
- Do I have two meals next to each other that are oddly similar?
- Do I have two beef meals in one week? (Robert would love this. I do not.)
We now go shopping once a week (on Wednesdays, since we’re off work) and get all the needed goods for that week. At home I make a list of exactly what we’ll need, and inventory it against our freezer/fridge/pantry contents. We only buy exactly what we need. It saves us money, and it saves us so much damn time.
I make large meals at dinner, so we’re able to bring leftovers for lunch the next day. If it’s a particularly large batch, I’ll freeze some and we’ll pull it out next month for dinner. Can’t get much easier than that. Most meals I make are for a family of 4-6. We’re a family of 2 (+cat). Since our lunches are taken care of by leftovers, and breakfast is usually something quite simple (Eggs & asparagus is my favorite), our food budget is quite small. We generally spend less than $400 a month on food for EVERYTHING we eat, and buy organic whenever it’s available. Our weekly shopping trip usually comes up to about $70 to take care of everything no problem.
Guys, I know it sounds like a lot of work. The first month I really recommend just going with a pre-made plan. It made it a lot easier to stick with that way. So it’s actually the second month that’s the most daunting. Look through your cookbooks, think about what your normally make. Then throw it a bunch of new stuff! It’s so easy to end up in a food rut, making the same things over and over and over. A simple word of warning: When you throw a bunch of new recipes into your mix every month (as I usually do) they won’t all be winners. Take it as a grain of salt, and move on. Tomorrow will be better.
To repeat myself one last time:
Meal Planning changed my life. I think it could change yours too. Give it a shot. See what happens. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The original meal plan I used, and that changed my life, is a $150 Weeknight Dinner Meal plan from I am THAT Lady. You can view it for free, or you can buy it and get the printables (totally worth it.) I can’t find the one that I used specifically, but there’s a wealth of resources available.