I planned meals for an entire month, printed the menu, and we are actually staying on the schedule. This is a super easy way of planning and grocery shopping that I got from Jillienne (click here for the link to her post). In a nut shell, every night has a theme and a pre-set side item. Then in each category, make a list of 4-6 different entrees that go with that theme. Throw the whole thing onto an excel spreadsheet, and then at the bottom of the page add a monthly shopping list. Planning the meal list took less than 10 minutes. Compiling the shopping list and checking what I have on hand took about 45 minutes. So in less than 1 hour I have a month worth of meals planned, and posted on a spreadsheet for everyone to see.
I broke down the shopping list by how items are stored or found in the grocery store so I can stock up on items that I need several times during the month. The shopping list has one column for weekly items, one column for meats, one column for shelf stable pantry items, and one for produce and frozen veggies, and one for dairy. After I print off my menu/shopping list I sit and check off which items are on hand, and I know which items I need to pick up for this week or for the rest of the month. This way I can check to see what is on sale and try to get the right amounts when they are on sale.
In planning the meals I could see at a glance which meals would have left-overs for me to use in a different meal later in the week so everything is used efficiently. For example, on the weeks we have a roast chicken on Sunday, we boil the left over anyway to make broth and use the remaining meat for a casserole or soup later on in the week. Also, I planned meals according to how much prep time is available on each weeknight. Evenings that are typically more rushed because of school and work schedules have super easy prep meals, and days where we have more time, we have more in depth meals.
I did this up 3 weeks ago, and it has made dinner time so incredibly easy, I could just kiss Jillienne for the idea. Even the kids love the plan. They like to know what will be for dinner ahead of time, and they can easily see when their favorite meal is coming up on the schedule. Scott and I don't have to stare into the pantry wondering what to make for dinner anymore, and since I can see at a glance what is coming up the next day I can get meats pulled out of the freezer the night before.
Dinner time got a whole lot smoother here at the funny farm. This is working so well that I now have planned out 6 weeks, and keep an ongoing shopping list of items I can stock up on and know they will be used in the right amount of time to eliminate waste. So, if you plan on stopping by for dinner, here you go:
Mondays: Chinese Food (I am learning so it is not great, but Julia gets happy when she sees it so it is totally worth my effort)
Wednesdays: Soups in the crock pot
Thursdays: Italian / Pastas
Saturdays and Sundays: Homestyle (roast chicken, meatloaf, meatballs, cooking the grill, etc)
Till next time,