Do you find yourself scrambling to figure out what to make for dinner on a daily basis? Do you stand in front of the refrigerator, pantry or freezer hoping that something will materialize each time you open the door? I have done that in the past, and even though I do try to make a meal plan on a weekly basis, I am not always successful. There, my secret is out.
I find myself sitting down late on Saturday or early on Sunday morning to make a plan. This plan tends to be most successful when I inventory my refrigerator, freezer & pantry as I am writing my plan. I have found that writing the menu plan from my bed is not nearly as effective, as I can’t always remember what I have on hand.
Before I do anything else, I figure out what proteins I have in the house. I buy chicken, beef, bison, salmon & shrimp when it is on sale & use our extra freezer in the basement for storage. If we are low on meat, I’ll check the weekly ads for sales to get started on the menu plan. Next I look at our schedule for the week. What is going on? Are the evenings packed full of activity? If so, even the best laid plans (menu plan) won’t help if there isn’t time to prep & cook the meal. Once I have this part figured out, I can move onto planning the meals.
After the main dish part of the meal is figured out (based on what I have on hand, what is on sale & what is going on for the current week), I can plan the sides. I really try to focus on using what we have already so that I am not forced to run out & buy additional ingredients that may not be on sale that week. Potatoes (sweet & white), brown rice and quinoa all make great staples for sides to keep on hand.
Meal planning can be as simple or as extravagant as you make it. If you keep a well-stocked pantry with the basic staples, planning should be relatively simple. To keep from getting bored with the same meals over & over, I like to browse Pinterest in my spare time. I have pinboards set up for “Need to Make”, “Gluten-Free Recipes”, etc. Sometimes all I need is a little inspiration to go from ordinary to extraordinary.
There are services out there that will plan your meals for you. One of those services is emeals. My sister is the one who told me about emeals and how they offer options for those with special dietary needs. Not only do they plan the meals, but they give you a grocery list based on the store where you choose to do your grocery shopping (limited choices). The plans start as low as $5/month (based on length of subscription; shortest is 3 months at $7/month) and can be personalized to fit your needs. They even share the average weekly cost of the groceries based on the store/diet meal plan you choose. For example, the weekly cost for groceries on the gluten-free meal plan, if you shopped at Walmart would be between $82 and $95.
Here is my plan for this week and why I planned what I planned:
Monday – Shrimp fettucine Alfredo, steamed broccoli & salad. Shrimp & Alfredo sauce in stock due to sale last week.
Tuesday – Mexican pizzas, Mexican rice, corn and salad. Jon must have his Mexican fix and Tuesdays are busy nights; I go to yoga & kids have stuff going on.
Friday – Make your own pizza and salad. Busy night calls for frozen pizza crust or if I have time, I’ll make from a mix. Simple & available for every person to make when they are ready.
Saturday – Leftovers or breakfast for dinner. If we have leftovers, we eat those. If not, I usually have homemade waffles in the freezer or can whip up an omelet or frittata with fruit salad on the side.
Once you get into the habit of planning weekly meals, it becomes much easier.