Every Sunday or Monday, I make a point of posting the week’s meals that I will be making for my family. This new way of thinking has not only helped me stay organized when it comes to cooking, but has saved us a great load of money since we don’t have to rely on what’s in the fridge “at the moment,” if it’s thawed enough to be cooked and if not, what take-out place we are going to call.
Lately, it has served an even better purpose. With me being so sick and tired during the first trimester, having some type of plan helped a bit. Although, we were caught off-guard a few times when cravings creeped up and couldn’t be avoided.
Well, I thought about it and I think I am going to take my meal planning a little bit further and challenge myself. I want to make a meal plan for the whole year. I know that I can’t do a whole year at one sitting(definitely not enough stockpiled proteins), but I decided to start off with planning for a whole month. Here is how I’ve done it:
1. I looked at what I had already. Easy enough, right? This is what I do every week for meal plan monday, but I took it too a larger scale. I kept thinking up meals with the things that were already on-hand on that day, and just kept going. I built in a leftover day and, of course, pizza day for every week. Just by looking at what I had on that day, I made up around 18 meals!
2. As new items came in, I immediately turned them into meals. When I finally got to shop last week, I made sure that I not only took account of what I needed to add to my inventory, I decided right then and there what kind of meal those items would be used for. For example, I bought 3 pounds of ground beef, so I knew I wanted to use each pound for a meal. Spaghetti one night, chili another night, and freezer meatloaf for another night. If I break these up into weeks, that gives me 3 beef-centered meal for each week up to 3 weeks. I also know that each of those meals will produce leftovers, so that guarantees that leftover night will actually happen.
3. I keep the running list with me at all times. This one was a great thing to decide on because wherever I was, whatever store, as soon as I was waiting in the checkout line, I could be planning the meal for the items I was about to purchase. I found some great turkey shanks on clearance at one store but didn’t think of what I wanted to do with them. By the time I checked the other clearanced meats and day old bread, I had thought about what I had at home and what I could use to make the shanks. Braised turkey shanks seemed the easiest since I have plenty of onions, fresh and frozen, on hand at home and some frozen chopped celery and carrots. I keep my master list right on my phone(I have a task list section on it) and I just keep adding to it right then. Once I put up my meal plans on here, I erase the meals from the master list. This also means that if I see I have a big amount of meals on the master list, I don’t have to be so aggressive at buying up the deals. If I need to take a week off from stockpiling, I can physically see that it won’t effect our meals one bit.
4. Be a good prep cook. I have been doing this but if I am going to think on a larger scale, I’ll have to be more diligent about it. Let’s take the 3 pounds of ground beef. Since I had decided what I was going to use them for, when I got home, I immediately browned off 2 pounds of the meat. One pound was browned off with a small chopped onion for the chili, and the other was just browned with a bit of pepper for the spaghetti. The last pound was turned into a meatloaf and frozen. I placed the browned meat, once it cooled, into freezer baggies and marked them. Now, once those meals come around, I won’t have to wait for anything to thaw and a meal can quickly be made. The same goes for almost any fruits or veggies I buy now. They are cleaned, separated, chopped or whatever. If they aren’t going to be used that week, they are placed in baggies and frozen. I essentially make up meal kits that I can just pull out the week they will be made.
5. I’m going to display each week’s meals on the fridge. I’ve never done this before, but now that I look back, I see that this would be beneficial to our household. I had been trying to be the good little homemaker and surprising hubby with what we have for dinner every night. Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s not. If he’s asking constantly what’s for dinner and I “don’t want to ruin the surprise,” it gets a little tense. By posting the weekly meals for him to see, he can stop bothering me (lol) and anticipate what we are having all week. Also, if he knows that sometime during that week he will be working at at job site with a microwave, he tell me if I need to pack a leftovers lunch for him on those days. Also, down the road, I can keep doing this and he can even put together some of the meals for us if I am sick or need to get some extra rest. I’m hoping this will happen once I get into the 3rd trimester and can’t move around too much, or after the new baby is born and I need to focus on taking care of it.
Why am I doing this? Well, mostly for state of mind, but I want to be able to have some type of plan laid out and routine going before we get another being in our household. That will already shake things up a bit, and we(well, sonny boy and I) are creatures of routine. If I can put together something that will ease my mind about one of the two things that I worry about most(keeping the house clean is the other one), I know that it will help to keep us sailing smooth. Plus, I suspect that by my 8th month, I won’t want to shop, seeing as that will be June and it will be HOT. If I can start this up now, by then, I can hopefully have 2 or 3 months of meals planned and won’t have to worry about conquering the heat to make sure we “have enough.”
On a lighter note, I am pretty excited about this. I love a good challenge, and I see that if this one works out, I’ll get to relax even more than I thought I would by the end of this pregnancy. Good things all around!