September 5, 2013

Meal Plans: Putting It All Together

Are you overloaded with meal planning information now? Here's a break down of my process with some examples. It's not as bad as it seems. Really.

I prefer to plan for a month at a time. It's takes some prep when I get home but I like to limit my shopping. You might like a week plan or two week plan. Do what works for you.

On scrap paper I list the dates I am planning down the side in a column.
I note any activities that will affect my meal prep.
I make a list of the meat and meatless meals I have on hand
I decide what supper meals can be made from the meat and other food on hand.
I assign a supper for each day from the food on hand, starting with the easy ones. Fridays are always slowcooker meals. I try and make something bigger like a roast on Sundays. I also look over a list of meal ideas I keep for inspiration.
I add leftover suppers that can be made from the above plans.
I check the sales (flyers) so I know what meat might be on sale and then fill in any days without a supper plan.
At this point I have a supper for each day but I might do some shuffling so we don't have a hamburger type meal two nights in a row, or chicken three times in one week and not in the next. I do this a bit as I'm planning but there is always an adjustment or two.
Once I have the suppers planned out, I move the information into the menu planner I use.

Next, I add notes where needed - notes are anything to keep me prepared and to stop waste. Reminders to freeze a portion of supper for a lunch next week, to take out meat for supper tomorrow, to prepare something that is needed for another meal later (DH likes meatball sandwiches so I will make myself a note to make double with supper and freeze the extra for lunches later. Then a note the night before those lunches so I can remember to put them in the fridge to thaw overnight).

As I add in my notes, I also fill in some of the lunch column from leftovers.  For example, when I cook a ham, I can write in ham sandwiches for the two lunches following that meal. Or later in the month if I note to freeze it and then to use later. There's a little back and forth between the planning and the notes.

Lunches are finished on the menu from a list of ideas and then I start on breakfast plans. I plan the same kind of rotation each week so we get at least one or two fresh made breakfasts mixed in with everyone for themselves type mornings.

Finally I'll add snacks for midday and after supper.

It's not only breakfasts that I rotate either. I have a basic plan to help rotate meals with minimal thought. This is nothing more than breaking the meals down into groups and rotating the groups through the week. Baking is also included in this.

My breakfast rotation is Brunch on Sunday, Grains on Monday, followed by Basics, Breads, Leftovers and Basics, Basics again on Friday and a Continental style breakfast for Saturday.

My lunch rotation is Brunch for Sunday, Pasta for Monday, Buns/Breads on Tuesday, followed by Toasts, Hard Tack, Homemade Fast Food and Saturday everyone scavenges for themselves.

For suppers, I have a rotation for side dishes more than meals. This reminds me to include little things like warmed buns, pickles, sliced veggies or a small salad before the meal. Things I don't always do but will if I have a reminder (sometimes).

Download the file below for a condensed rundown of the process, my lists for menu possibilities, a blank menu to use and a notes page, and an example of a monthly menu with notes.

The Menu Possibilities are my reminder lists. This is not inclusive of everything we eat, just the most common go to meals in our house. I still schedule other things on the list or will scrap something planned to try a new recipe. The Snack page also includes a list of reminders for myself about prep work that needs to be done after grocery day. This prep work helps me to stay on track and to make each meal as easy as possible.

I'll go into prep work in a little more detail tomorrow with my shopping information.

Here is a complete file with reminders, forms and examples to keep for reference.
Meal Planning
Right click and choose "save as" to download to your own computer.

See the whole series:
Menus and Meals
The Pantry
Locally Grown and Special Deals
Let's Plan Supper!
Breakfast and Lunch
Snackin and Munchin
Meal Plans: Putting It All Together (free printables)
Shopping and Prepping

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