Meal Planning: Deciding “what’s for dinner” long before dinner time.
- Saves Time – grocery list making and shopping becomes much more efficient
- Saves Money – you only buy what you know you will eat
- Better food – because you planned ahead
- Less cupboard and fridge inventory – again you only buy what you know you will eat
- Must find time and commit to weekly planning session (20 min max, I promise!)
I’ve always taken responsibility for planning and cooking dinner in our house. Mostly because I enjoy working in the kitchen, and my husband’s cooking repertoire consists of grilled meat (no sides), pasta, and take out. For most of my adult life, meal planning consisted of me rummaging through the fridge and freezer when I got home from work to figure out what could be made. My grocery list had the same basics on it every week, and if I decided later to make something special, a special grocery run was required. Meals were served late and often eaten while watching prime time TV. This wasn’t that big of a deal before we had kids. But then we had kids…
When my first babe was little I would make him a little dinner, put him to bed, and then fix dinner for my husband and I. As my son became older and started eating table foods, it became really important that we all eat together as a family with no TV. To save time, I started trying to do the fridge rummaging in the morning and make a dinner plan before going to work. I could start the meal as soon as I got home (after hellos, nursing the babe, changing into comfy clothes, etc.). Grocery lists were made on the fly, still with the same usual basics. We got tired of eating the same things, but I never had ingredients to make anything new.
While on maternity leave with the second babe, I knew something was going to have to change. I come across several blog posts encouraging weekly and monthly meal planning. Inspired, I pulled together my own weekly “docket”. It includes the dinner menu, our weekly calendar at a glance, and a spot to build a grocery list. This docket has a spot front and center on my fridge. Here’s an example docket:
For this week, I have a meal that I made and froze previously and a slow cooker meal that I use leftovers from to build another meal. Extras from that meal go into the freezer for another time.
My experience: I LOVE IT!! This has saved so much time and after-work angst. My husband and I sit down on Sunday nights to plan the weekly menu, and on Monday morning during breakfast I make the grocery list. Two additional documents that have been useful as well are a “menu” (a list of the meals we regularly have, sorted into categories like “chicken” or “pasta”) and a freezer inventory of previously prepared and frozen meals.
Dinner time has seemed much simpler since I started the meal planning, and we’re eating better, more wholesome food too! Planning ahead has also allowed me to try out some new recipes and add the winners to our family menu. The week at a glance portion is helpful in wrapping my mind around each day. The grocery list builder can be added to any time, and is the basis for next week’s list. It is also a great place for my husband to check in on what we may need if he’s doing a quick run to the store.
Do you do meal planning? What has your experience been? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?