I'm a planner--I blame my mother for this in the absolute best way possible. I remember the day she had a black book then brown book and now she's full on internet based. Everything was written in the calendar and if it wasn't written down, the event just simply did not exist.
Her ability to keep track of my sister's life, my life, my dad's life, and her own just seemed like second nature with that book. To me, you were a grown up if you had a planner and man, did I want to seem grown up! Mom's influence carried over into college where I went to school in this wonderful bubble that required you to have a planner--legitimately--and I lived by that thing. Every moment of my life was planned back then because there was so much to do. Homework time, work out times, grocery runs, meal times and more. There was not a moment to be wasted!
Between a busy schedule and a budget, I had to get smart about planning out meals. When was the best day to make something? When was the best day for leftovers? How can I not eat out multiple times a week? To top it off, I love cooking and baking so menu planning keeps me in check on the off (read: probable) chance that I will over cook and over purchase and have end up with food going bad.
I know folks who just exclaim, "I couldn't possible do that!" Well, you could--it's really a choice that takes practice and honestly, a little self discipline. Some people love it and some people don't. It works for me and my family mostly because it helps our ship run better. I try not to take forever on it, but some weeks are easier than others. Planning can be a breeze if you just set a timer and hit hard an fast, 10 minutes. Get in, get out and no one gets hurt.
Say you're not in the camp of loving menu planning, totally understand! What if I gave you a couple of tips to help make it easier--would you try it? Great! Let's give it a go:
1. Check your calendar--What's your busiest day, longest day? Take note and plan on leftovers that night. Boom. One night down. What's your shortest and easiest day? That's your meal making night.
For example, Sunday's and Monday's are easy for me to cook a meal--they're pretty low stress and I'm usually the most energized from a weekend of rest. Tuesday's and Wednesday's are long for my husband so we do leftovers from Monday and Tuesday.
2. Plot out the week--When I write down the days I'm doing leftovers (even if I don't know what they are yet), it makes it easier to see how many meals I'm making and what exactly I need to buy. Here's what a typical week looks like:
Sunday - New Meal
Monday - New Meal
Tuesday - Sunday Leftovers
Wednesday - Monday Leftovers
Thursday - New Meal
Friday - Thursday Leftovers
Saturday - New Meal (Smaller) --> like a pizza that I eat for lunch on Sunday or a small grilled meal or it's our eat out night.
3. Check your pantry and look at the ads--Plan your menu around what you got and what's on sale. I usually make three meals a week and plan a generic lunch I can take when I'm not hitting the leftovers. I have a running list of meals we like and I usually pull from there each week.
If I can use what I have and purchase just a few ingredients, I call that a win.
4. Insert the meals you want to make! Balance it out for you and your budget. I can't live on rice and pasta all week or eat only one meal all week like my husband suggests ("It'd save money!"). No one can live on one dinner for seven days and leftovers four nights in a row gets old.
I'm that weirdo that dreams about menus and salivates over the meals I can't wait to make. Like I said earlier, not every week is like that though. Sometimes it's a struggle to find something! That's where you're list of favorite meals comes in handy. Stick it on the fridge and use it for inspiration when needed!
I think what also helps, really helps actually, is having a menu planner on the fridge. Everyone knows what's for dinner for the week and you can clearly plan it all out ahead of time. My personal favorite is this Knock Knock pad.
It's $7 on Amazon right now, but there's a ton more you can search for online that have different layouts. In any case, I've run through several of these puppies in the last few years--it's a 60 page pad of paper meaning you can mess up a couple times a year and still have plenty of sheets left over!
Now that I'm all planned out, it's time to start shopping! Although I think Honey would prefer we just stay in an nap. Happy menu planning all!
What's your favorite meal to make during the week?