Welcome back to the new year and new resolutions. Last year I spoke about goals, but not really resolutions. Well life got in the way, we discovered we are expecting another little girl (Yup! Count ’em! That’s Four little girls running around our house), and I stuck to my goals/aspirations as best I could with out sacrificing my sanity. So all in all I would say 2016 wasn’t a bad year at all.
Did I accomplish each and every task I set out to do? Well no, did you not just read I have three girls and am pregnant with number four ha ha ha! But seriously, 2016 was the year I really learned how to prioritize. I also want to stay organized as we head into the newest chapter of our life. Oh and did I mention? Clint proposed! Yup, adding to all of our excitement and fun is wedding planning! With all of that said, I wanted to share with you a little life saver that keeps our house hold running fairly smoothly. It also means smaller grocery bills, not as many ‘last minute trips’ to the grocery store, and removes that for ever nagging question: “What’s For Dinner?”.
I’m talking to you about Meal Planning 101: The Basics. Nothing too difficult and nothing that will make you want to give up half way through. I will warn you, it took me about a month to really figure out what worked best for our family, and each family is different, so please have patience when you first start this. And remember: this should be fun. Not pain stakingly difficult.
What you will need:
- Note pad
- Free Fuchsia Freezer Meal Planning Menu Printable (Click to download the PDF)
- iPad/computer (optional)
- Favourite cook books (optional)
- Sticky notes/tabs
1. Back To The Basics
To start this off on the right foot, grab a your note book and create 5 headings: Beef, Chicken, Pork, Vegetables, and Pastas/Casseroles. Under each heading write out a typical meal that you make.
Under Beef I would add Tacos (our family loves them).
Under Vegetables I would add Maple Roasted Carrots.
When you’re done, beside each write “wn” or “wk”. WN = Weeknight and WK = Weekend. The reason for this is that you can already see the repertoire of recipes/meals you already use, and that work for your schedule/family.
Tacos – Weeknight (WN). I can make them in under 30 minutes, and it’s easy set up and clean up.
Chicken Wings – Weekend (WK). I typically make my own sauce, and take my time with these. Not ideal on a Wednesday night when the kids have swimming.
Is your meal list a little boring? Want to add a little inspiration to your week night meals? Now is the time to go through your cook books! Take a look and see what they have to offer! For Christmas my mom bought me the new Michael Smith cook book Real Food, Real Good. I love it. Honestly, this will come in very handy when I’m meal planning for my family. Looking to start your own collection? Head to a local book store and find some to buy! If you don’t want to commit to buying anything, then your local library definitely has many options. As you’re scanning these books, add a sticky note/tab to the page. Also write the title, cookbook, and page number on your list of meals under the appropriate heading. If you’re borrowing, try taking a picture of the recipe, and storing it on your computer.
In the new Michael Smith cook book, he has a chapter about “A Good Breakfast and A Few Snacks”. I would add these under WK (weekend) because I like to make granola, or prepare easy ‘make-ahead’ breakfasts on the weekend. That way I set myself up for success through out the week. Sometimes I have the energy to make a big batch of muffins on a Tuesday night, but that’s rare and isn’t a realistic goal.
Don’t have any cookbooks on hand? No problem! Print off a few recipes that you like and keep them stored in a binder in your kitchen. Head over to Pinterest and just by typing in a few key words, thousands of meal ideas will flood your screen. Save them all to new boards “30 minute meals” or “weeknight beef dishes”. It’s all about what works for you.
Ok, so here’s where it can get a little tricky. Grab your trusty Free Fuchsia Freezer Meal Planning Menu Printable. I like to start with dinners first because often I will make enough for lunches… Fill in all of the dinner slots using your meal ideas and the WN/WK legend.
Next, look at your dinner planned – are any of them going to have left overs? Add the things you want to take for your lunches. Need some lunch ideas? Head over to my Pinterest account where there is a board filled with delicious lunch ideas.
Ok so we have dinners and lunches planned… now all we have left is breakfast and snacks! Meal prep/ grocery planning is really going to help you on these ones. Do you prefer eating cereal everyday? write it down? Do you like to switch it up a bit? Then do that! I try to make one “breakfast dish” on the weekend so I can mix it up.
I love baked oatmeals during the winter months because I love starting the day off with a bowl full of warmth. A huge hit in our house has been the Cherry Apple Baked Oatmeal and the Baked Berry and Banana Oatmeal. In the warmer months, I try to stick with Lightly Sweetened Granola on top of yogurt, or topping off a bowl a of my Berry Good For You Smoothie Bowl.
By carving out a little time on the weekend to make one of these dishes I have essentially started my week off with success! I fill in some das with toast and peanut butter, and others with a slice of the above. It’s a quick fix in the morning with little to no prep work or cooking involved and I know I am starting my day off on the right foot!
Remember to set yourself up for success you must be realistic. Don’t plan on creating a new dish every night, repurpose left overs to save time, and most of all enjoy the time spent around the dinner table.
4. Spring Into Action
Now it’s time to take things to the next level. Using your menu, write down a list of ingredients and groceries you need for your shopping trip! A few things to keep in mind are:
- What do you already have in your freezer (ie you bought chicken in bulk last month, time to use it)?
- What’s in your pantry? Having a well stocked pantry can reduce the weekly spending at the grocery store. Not sure what to stock up on? You can find my list of what’s in my pantry/freezer/fridge here!Don’t worry, you don’t need to get everything at once. Pick a few items to add to your list, and build yourself a stocked pantry over time.
- Are you enjoying take-out one night? No judgment. I don’t always have the time to cook every night. Take that into account when planning your meals, and when budgeting for groceries.
- Running short on time to go to the grocery store? Why not try a local “online and pick up” grocery order? It’s a total life saver sometimes and can run you as little at $3.00 per order (just watch out for minimums, some places require a minimum purchase before you can use the service).
5. Take The Time
Now that you’re home, have all of your groceries, and are ready to tackle the week, carve out about 2 hours over the course of the weekend to help with a little meal prep. Wash & pre-cut vegetables for snacks, pre-portion out salads for lunches, or make a batch of muffins to help you out on busy mornings. By doing these little steps you will ensure that you save a little extra cash and time through out the week! I have even included on your Free Fuchsia Freezer Meal Planning Menu Printable a section that reads Meal Prep. It’s a reminder to plan ahead! Make that bath of granola, or pre-portion all of your snacks. Whatever it is you need to do to make mealtime (and life) that much easier!
What awesome tips can you share when you meal plan?