Once my energy kicked in again in my second trimester, I got back on the meal planning bandwagon but last week I realized the system I was using wasn't working.
I was sitting down on Sunday afternoons with a pile of cookbooks, Pinterest, and a dry erase calendar.
I wrote out our activity schedule for the week, then planned meals around it based on how long we would be home between activities.
The problem with this method for me, was I wasn't inspired on Sunday afternoons to plan. I am inspired at random times and if I didn't have my handy dry erase board with me, I wouldn't know what the plan was for that week or remember to save and use the recipe I just pinned.
To fix my problem, I decided to start using Google Calendar to plan meals. I am able to plug recipes in anytime I'm on a computer and see what else is on the schedule. This way I can keep the recipes I pinned organized and plan meals far in advance if I find a recipe I know wouldn't work with my grocery shopping for that week.
Using Google Calendar, I am emailed a reminder of what's for dinner the following evening. I am a Costco shopper, so I only grocery shop once a week, but if recipe has a unique ingredient I don't need in bulk, I will run to a local grocer on my lunch break for the item I need.
I plan meals before I shop for the week and try to use recipes with like ingredients. I don't want all of our food to taste the same, but I do want to utilize produce while it's fresh since we buy in bulk. For example, if I'm buying a large quantity of fresh spinach I will sneak spinach into a few recipes throughout the week to utilize all of the ingredient while it's fresh.
I keep my shopping on a rotation, so the only items I pick up every week are plain yogurt (for Princess), pineapple (my pregnancy addiction) and a fresh veggie. Here are the other items we buy on rotation that keep our pantry, fridge and freezer stocked:
- chicken thighs (w/ skin & bone)
- boneless/skinless chicken breasts
- ground meat (we like to keep beef & turkey on hand all the time, lamb and veal when it's on sale)
- frozen shrimp
- frozen tilapia filets
- pork chops/loin
- frozen broccoli
- frozen green beans
- a fresh, in-season fruit
- sourdough bread
- chicken stock
- various forms of canned tomatoes (paste, crushed, diced, etc.)
- dried pasta (I only buy this when I find it 10 for $10 - probably no more than twice a year)
- cheese (depending on what is on sale)
- various spices and dried herbs
- rolled oats
- apple sauce
- dried fruit/nuts mix
- veggie straws or other on-sale healthy snack item
Because we have a deep freezer, I am able to really stock up on anything and everything. This way, I always know what I have on hand and can easily meal plan by finding recipes that include these staples.
I cook four-five nights per week (we have one date night per week and one or two leftovers nights) and we each bring three or four lunches to work per week. I also like to bake something for Bill to eat for breakfast for the work week like muffins, egg cups or oatmeal bites.
I work full time, so the nights I have a prenatal class at the gym I plan a slow cooker meal or use that as a leftover night. I try to balance recipes between things I am comfortable making and know well and trying a new recipe a few times a week to keep things interesting. What did anyone do before Pinterest?
Hubs does offer to cook (very often!) but I've become a little recipe-obsessed and haven't shared the kitchen in a while. He is an outstanding cook and always makes really tasty meals for us!!
Later this year I'll blog about our garden plan and right now I'm crunching numbers to see if it would be worth it for us to join a veggie CSA for the spring/summer/fall. I'm always on the hunt for ways to save MORE money!!
I know this was a long one, but thanks for sticking with me - I have a passion for planning and a lot of people have asked me how I "do" meal planning. It's so simple if you're organized and motivated!!
How do you meal plan?