I never thought I’d one day find myself writing up a blog post on meal planning!
This gal always cringed at the thought! Not that meal planning wasn’t a good idea, but most of tutorials I came across were intense, recommending that every homemaker schedule their meals a month in advance. And then write up a weekly/bi-weekly grocery list to accompany that plan.
Their advice? Pull out your cookbooks and get creative! Be inspired! Make your meals something to be proud of!
MY PROBLEM WITH MEAL PLANNING
First, planning meals four weeks in advance takes time. Brain power. Organization. The thought alone left me feeling so overwhelmed, I never had the nerve to begin.
Second, I don’t do weekly or bi-weekly shopping trips. We try to keep our grocery bill low and have a limited budget to work with. In the summer season when the garden is in full swing, I’ll go up to 4 months without stepping foot inside a store! Meal planning from cookbooks often won’t work…unless its a book on how to utilize the garden harvest!
Third, when I flip through my cookbooks, I’m going to choose the most appetizing meals, which are often the most expensive as well. Meal planning can help us save money, but it often has the opposite effect. Most of the time, we are drawn to the luscious arrays instead of humble, real foods.
For the longest time, I refused meal planning. Until this fall, that is.
THE FEELING WE ALL DREAD
As a homemakers, we all know the feeling. Four o’clock rolls ’round and we find ourselves there again, mentally scrambling in attempt to scrounge up dinner for a famished husband/family.
“We could do rice and meatballs. But we had that just last night”
“Maybe a roast! No, there isn’t time to thaw one out.”
“I have it! Chili! But wait…I don’t have any beans pre-soaked and I can’t possible cook them up in 2 hrs. The fam wasn’t exactly impressed the last time I attempted to feed them crunchy bean chili.”
I’m sure you know the routine, the awful feeling and the mad rush that ensues.
A SIMPLE MEAL PLAN
What if you didn’t have to flip through cookbooks, plan a month in advance, blow your grocery budget or scramble like a mad woman every time four o’clock came ’round?
What if you compiled common, everyday recipes you already make on a regular basis, and put them in a binder? Like a custom cookbook for your own kitchen?
And what if, every morning, you took 2 minutes to pull out that binder, pick your simple meal/s for the day and then took a few minutes to ensure that food would be ready for cooking when four o’clock rolls ’round?
HOW TO FORM A SIMPLE COMPILATION
When I realized simple meal planning would help relieve the rush often felt, I decided to step in. But it had to be simple. Here’s how I began and where you can start too!
Go ahead and print out these simple sheets.
Slowly, over the next several weeks record your recipes. The printable recipe sheets above have place for the name, ingredients, pre-prep (e.g. remove meat for thawing, scrub potatoes), directions and any notes you might want to add.
Once you’ve formed a simple collection you can continue adding to it, but most importantly, begin implementing these recipes. Pull out the sheets every morning and choose your meal/s for the day. Take 10 minutes to prepare. This could involve putting together a salad, setting out meat to thaw, scrubbing or dicing vegetables, grating cheese, soaking grains, etc.
I can’t tell you the immense freedom I’ve found from this system!
When practicing hospitality and having friends over for dinner, you won’t go through a mental scramble or wonder how that ‘new dish’ will turn out! Just turn to your collection of friendly old recipes and carry through as you normally would. No guessing. No stressing.
If you use this technique, recipes will be your own, based on what you can afford, foods you are comfortable preparing and better yet, meals your family enjoys! Wave good-bye to brain-dead four o’clock and the mad scramble surrounding dinner!
Where and when will you begin? Feel free to share any meal planning tips you have below!
Last and most importantly, be sure to read part 13: The Practice of Hospitality!