If you’re a longtime reader of my blog it should come as no surprise that I am a planning junkie. Earlier this week, I was talking to one of my good friends about her weekly meal planning. She admitted to not really having one; she takes the approach of buying staples and then planning day to day. The type-A in me cringes at the thought of that, though that’s not to say that my way is necessarily the right way for everyone. It’s right for me. And it might be right for you, which is why I’m sharing. For me, meal planning is done in eight easy steps. Here they are:
1. Start a list – Every Thursday I start with a fresh sheet of note paper and list the days of the week, from Friday to Thursday.
2. Consult the calendar – From there, I check my schedule for the week ahead. If I have late afternoon appointments or activities scheduled, I make a mental note that dinner for that night will need to be quick and easy.
3. Plug in tried and true favorites – Below the days of the week I’ve written on my list, I write a random selection of go-to meals. I have certain guidelines that I try to stay within, including: at least three days of meatless meals, at least two days of Mexican (a family favorite), at least one grilled meal during summer months, etc.
4. Fill the gaps – Each week, I plan to cook one or two new-to-us recipes. This step accounts for the lengthiest part of my meal planning because I have a tendency to get sucked into Pinterest and my favorite foodie blogs; it can be a might bit distracting. The good news, though, is that there is no shortage of options out there for the cuisine curious like me.
5. Assign meals to a specific day – With my list of chosen meals in place, I begin assigning each meal to a specific day. If a recipe looks particularly complicated, I make sure to assign it to a weekend night when I have more time to play around in the kitchen. This is also when I recall the schedule for the week ahead and attempt to plug quick and easy meals into over-scheduled evenings.
6. Specify ingredients – For the most part, I can take a quick glance at our tried and true meal favorites and come up with a list of ingredients for those meals off the top of my head. But for new-to-us meals, I carefully read through the ingredient list and make a note of what I need to pick up at the store. I do this on the reverse side of my list.
7. Snap a picture – My techie husband is the genius behind this step. I had a bad habit of, ahem, misplacing my list en route from store to store (we grocery shop at three or four places). To remedy this, Jeff insisted that I take a picture of my list so that in the likely event I lost it, my list was readily accessible. Works like a charm, though I’m not about to give him the satisfaction of being right. Again.
8. Post the menu – After grocery shopping (and assuming the list is still in my possession) I post the list-turned-menu to the side of the fridge. Jeff checks it each night during his nightly trash run and if the next evening’s meal requires meat from the freezer, he sticks it in the fridge to thaw overnight. Beyond that, a certain food-centric little miss checks the menu every morning to see what’s for dinner that night.