July 1, 2015

meal planning - the how

Yesterday, we talked all about why I like to meal plan, and today is all about the method behind my {organized} madness!

Here is how I do it:

- I make a menu plan for two weeks at a time.  Yes, sometimes things come up, but for the most part, I know what our schedule is going to look like for that length of time.  I've tried doing just a week at a time and I've tried doing an entire month at a time.  Two weeks is a good median for us.

- I keep an ongoing list of meals that sound good.  When I sit down to plan, I first look at the calendar to see what days I might have time to cook a more involved meal and what days I will need something quick and easy to pull together.  Then I look over my list of meals and fill in the days.  If I need any more ideas, I will browse through my pinterest board or go through my cookbooks.  I have a lot more than one cookbook now!

- Besides looking at our family calendar for any scheduled activities and commitments, I also look over Bobby's work schedule.  He is often at work during dinner, so on those nights I might plan something easier, or something that maybe I like a lot but isn't necessarily one of his favorites.

- Just as I make my menu plan for two weeks, I also grocery shop for two weeks at a time.  This one took me a while to figure out!  For some reason, I had in my mind that I just had to go to the grocery store once a week, no matter what.  But then we had one exceptionally busy week, and so I kept putting off the shopping due to lack of time. And what do you know - I realized that we could easily make it that long!  It does take a bit more planning up front, but eliminating that extra trip saves me so much time and money in the long run!

- My kitchen is pretty well stocked at all times.  I have used coupons, shopped sales, and learned my prices, and I will say - that part of it was probably the most time-consuming of all for me.  But now that I've built up our stockpile, it's just a matter of maintaining it, which is fairly easy.  I have a running list of items that we always keep on hand, so as any of those get low I simply add them to the grocery list. 

- For the two-week shopping trips to work, I had to really know how my family eats.  For example, I know that we go through about three gallons of milk in a two-week period.  If I only buy 2 gallons, we're going to run out, and if I buy 4 gallons, we'll likely have too much and it will go bad before we can drink it all.  Either way is not ideal, so, study your family and know what your eating habits are!  Sure, we run out of certain foods every once in a while, and no, it's not the end of the world.  But my goal is to always avoid any unnecessary needs or waste.

A few notes on how our family eats:

- While I am constantly looking for ways to feed my family healthy and nutritious foods, at our house, we eat fairly typical, normal food.  We live in the South - we like a good casserole every once in a while, and sometimes, we might even fry a little something.  I make no apologies for this!

- Bobby cannot eat anything with citrus or pork because it gives him migraines.  So, you won't see any bacon or lemon zest on our plates.  I've learned how to work around this, and we've found some pretty good substitutes for most things.

- Caleb is very selective about what he eats and is even brand-specific about some things - this is very common for kids on the spectrum.  (Read more about our boy here.)  Makayla eats just about anything.  So if I mention that Makayla loved a certain dish and I don't mention Caleb, it does not mean that I didn't feed him that night!  It's just that he almost never eats what the rest of us do, but has one of his preferred dinners instead.

- I joke with Bobby that he will eat anything as long as it has meat and bread, but really, it's not much of a joke!  He is a meat and bread kind of guy, and anything else is just extra.  So there's no vegetarian dishes for us, and almost every meal will have some kind of bread served with it.  Would it be a healthier option to skip the bread?  Of course.  But he works really hard, so if he wants bread, then I kind of feel like he deserves it!

Ok - major points to anyone who is still reading this!  My plan now is to start sharing our meal plans here on the blog.  Instead of sharing what we're going to be eating like a lot of others do, I thought I'd share what we did eat over the last two weeks.  That way, I can also share what worked for us, as well as what we liked, or didn't like, about some recipes.  I've been wanting to do this for a while, so we'll see how this goes!

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