Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Manic Mommy Monday (one day late) - Meal Planning Made Easy

When it comes to organizing my family, I would say that my strongest area is meal planning. I could not function during the week without a meal plan.

Some people plan by the month, but since our schedules are so subject to change, I plan ours by the week. Every Sunday (sometimes earlier in the week if I have time) I sit own with my day planner and plan lunch and dinner for the entire week. Then I make my shopping list directly from my menu, fill it in with other items we need (drinks, snacks, cleaning supplies, etc.) and I'm done.

I probably spend about an hour to an hour an a half a week planning it all out, but it saves countless hours of wondering what to cook or making extra trips to the grocery store. Here are a few tricks I've learned to make menu planning easier:

Double up and use leftovers.

Almost every time I cook a meal, I make enough to make two meals out of it. So if I make spaghetti on Thursday night, we'll eat it again on Saturday. This saves me time in the kitchen and money at the store by buying in bulk.

Use your slow cooker.

I am convinced that a slow cooker is a mom's best friend - especially for a working mom. I generally plan two slow cooker meals a week (and since I double the portions, that's four meals out of fourteen done!). If you haven't used a slow cooker a lot, start by checking out two of my favorite sites - A Year of Slow Cooking and Recipe Zaar.

Have a flexible plan for breakfast.

Some mornings I'm home and able to cook breakfast, but other days I'm off to work or school before anyone else is even awake. I keep a variety of breakfast food stocked - cereal, frozen waffles, sausage biscuits, yogurt, fruit, etc. I also like to use recipes that have to be refrigerated overnight, like stuffed French toast, which I've also posted a recipe for. Just pull it out of the fridge and pop it in the oven, and you have a quick, easy, and very yummy breakfast.

Keep a few "emergency meals" on hand.

No mater how well you plan, things don't always go according to plan. It doesn't have to be fancy - canned soup, chicken nuggets, frozen ravioli - but keep a couple of emergency meals on hand in case a ball game runs over or you forget to thaw meat for dinner.

It takes a little time and practice, but the time and money you save by meal planning is well worth it!


Debbie's L'Bri said...

Your planning with emergency meals is a wonderful idea.

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