Wednesday, March 5, 2014

H2C: Meal Planning

This post is part of a series called: How to Cook Supper When it's Already Time to Eat  (H2C - cheesy, I know, but it was better than H2CWIAT2E). 

I hate, hate, hate driving home knowing I have no plan for supper. I don't even drive past a gas station, much less a restaurant, so fast food isn't an option. And we're tightwads, so there's not usually a pizza in the freezer, though that would be smart...

So, once a week, I sit down with a grocery ad flier, shopping list, recipes, our calendar and a notecard. First, I flip through the grocery ads and put items that are on sale on my shopping list. I try to keep ingredients stocked by buying multiples of things we use often while they’re on sale. If the sale ads inspire a meal for the week, even better. 

The next thing I look at are my recipes. In addition to Pinterest ideas, I have cookbooks and a binder full of ideas I’ve torn from magazines. Anything I try and we like gets written on a recipe card and added to the recipe box. The boys have invented an elaborate scoring method for new meals. It's called "thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs sideways, one thumb up/one thumb slightly up, both thumbs up with an exaggerated happy face, etc." Their assessment of spaghetti squash replacing noodles in our normal spaghetti recipe? Let's just say it didn't rank up there with sopapilla ice cream...

Most of our meals are planned from the tried-and-true box, but I try to sneak a new idea in about once a week to keep things interesting. I also try to keep in mind if we have anything about to spoil that needs to be used up quickly. 

After I’ve found five or six meals I’d like to make that week, I pull out the recipe cards (or  magazine page) and stash them in the front of the recipe box so they’re easy to find. Then, I look at our calendar and see what nights I need quick-and-easy and what nights I can spend a little more time chopping and dicing. I plan a slow cooker meal or leftovers on nights when I know there will be no time to cook. 

Then, I write up a menu on an index card. If the recipe came from Pinterest or a cookbook, I write the page number or location on the card so it’s easy to find. If I need to prep something a day ahead of time (like Crock-pot meals), I make a note on the card so I don’t forget. I clip this menu to a cute mini clipboard in my pantry. 

I actually stole this post idea from my sister. She has had two of the cutest menu boards ever! See her first menu board and read about how she plans meals for two here. Since that post, her glass menu board broke, and she's replaced it with this one from Ikea:
My sister-in-law does her meal planning the high-tech way. She posts her weekly meal plan on her blog, linking each recipe to its source. Then, she makes notes about certain recipes that go over well or flop. Check out her latest "Meal Deal" here.

With a plan in place, half the suppertime battle is over. Now I just have to execute...

For 7 more tips, follow the links at How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat.

No comments: