Saturday, February 8, 2014

Eat in February: Meal Planning 101

We are almost 1 week into Eat in February! How are you doing on this weeks challenge? I hope you have found some inspiration in going through your cupboards and freezer! It always makes me happy to find something I didn't know I had. Now on the other hand it may have motivated you to keep better track of food coming in if you had to throw out a lot of expired items. Either way...You did it and you have made your first step to cutting down your families grocery budget!

Today we are going to dive head first into:
Meal Planning 101

You may ask what sets The Nifty Thrifty Lady's approach apart from the other 1000.... Blogs, books, and systems. Well, in all honestly nothing. I do not have a quick fix to planning meals but I do have a system that I have been using for 4 years that helps me 
  • Stay on a $150.00/month grocery budget
  • Not waste any food
  • Eat healthy
  • Not dread meal times
  • Entertain friends and family
That sounds like a good system right? Even better I am not telling you MY system is the best and the only one you should use! I am simply showing you how I plan and  mainly WHY it is important to plan. Let's get started.

Spend some quality time with your family and cook books

  • One night at dinner grab a notebook and pen and ask everyone to share their favorite meals/snacks. Jot them down so you can create a Family Staples List (next weeks challenge). Knowing what your family likes to eat and maybe doesn't like to eat will cut down on unnecessary food purchases and make meal planning faster.
  • After you have figured out what your family likes grab your favorite cook books (pinterest board or website) and get inspired! CONFESSION: I (may) hoard cookbooks! I love cooking and everyone knows. Friends and Family randomly pick me up a new one here or there and I have turned into a "problem". That aside. I like to pick one cookbook, mark the recipes I know my family would like or I could make for a special occasion and work through it. The recipes I like go in a binder and then I pass along the whole cookbook. 
  •  I try two new recipes a month. Why? Many new recipes have ingredients that I don't always have on hand. That means either leaving them out (which can sometimes be just fine!) or buying them.  Buying a bunch of new ingredients at once is a budgeting NO-NO! Stick to 2-4 new ingredients a month!

Create your meal plan
  • Inventory list's
  • Meal Planning layout
  • Family Staples
  • Favorite Recipes
  • Colored Pens/pencils
  • Family Calendar
I know your probably ready to jump ship with the supplies list but lets look at it a little better:
Inventory list: These are a quick way to reference what you have on hand without getting up every 5 seconds to look
Meal Planning Layout: I plan monthly and use a basic word calender. You can choose to plan monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly and with whatever layout you like. There are some great apps and pinterest is again flooded with free printables! As long as you are planning and 95% sticking to that plan that is all that matters.
Family Staples: We will be creating this next week. This list will be the meat of your planning
Favorite Recipes: It is so much easier to meal plan when you have your favorite recipes with you and are not searching hi and low for them!
Colored Pens/pencils: Yes I am old school and I color code my meal plan. You can do the same on many apps or you can choose a layout that breaks up breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Family Calendar: Knowing your families schedule plays a HUGE part in meal planning. If you have to pick up the kids, run home to change, and spend the evening at muliple practices you are NOT going to be cooking in the spare 15mins you have. BUT you can warm up leftovers from the larger meal you prepared the night before or dish out a bowl of soup from the crockpot add some fruit and bread and have dinner at home!

  1. Mark off any special events or appt. that may interrupt a meal time.
  2. Plan out all your breakfasts for the month
  3. Plan all of your lunches
  4. Plan all of your dinners including any freezer meals you would like to make to freeze
  5. Plan your Snacks for the month
 The Finished Product

  1. We use themes to help narrow down the thought processes and this helps me know how much meat I use in a month for stocking up.
  2. I color code so it is easier for me to focus on each meal at a time.
  3. I like to not only highlight the day we events but mark what the event is so I can quickly remind myself when planning a meal
  4. We like to have leftovers once a week this helps to not waster food. If we don't have any leftovers we usually have grilled cheese or homemade pizza.
  5. Planning my snacks out for the month is important. Sometime I get in a rut and just want to buy chips and soda (hmmm not really!) but you know what mean. I prepare all my weekly snacks on Monday's so this task is done and I can focus on more important things like this post ;)
Okay guys! It's your turn get your cookbooks, get your pretty pens, grab your family and start meal planning!
Don't forget to participate and show off how you are doing with Eat in Feb by using #eatinfeb or tagging @niftythriftylady! I seriously can't wait to see and hear what your meal planning adventures are going.

Until next time,