Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Meal Plan so that you aren't caught at the last minute

Does dinner come up unexpectedly every night?  It has seemed that way for me for years!  I know that my husband and I spent many nights looking at each other when it got to dinnertime and decided we will just order pizza or eat a box of cheese its instead of cooking.  The horrible idea that there is nothing in the house has been with families since the beginning of time.  My mother and mother in law have said that they would come home from spending $200 at the grocery store and the kids (us) would complain that there wasn't anything to eat.  This simple truth hasn't changed since we were kids so we have to do something about it.

There is not a lot of choice when you decide that you aren't going to eat out every night and now you have kids that you have to be a good example for :)  You need to cook dinner!  The great fact is you get something yummy that you get faster and you don't have to wait for.  The bad news is that you now have more dishes to wash :(  As my husband points out, anytime I try a new dish, there are more dishes!!

1.  Take three sheets of paper- one for pantry goods, one for freezer goods, and one for refrigerator goods.  Take inventory of what you have in all of the areas of your house and write down everything.  This is a great time to throw away anything that is expired and donate anything you don't think you are going to eat.  Anyway, if you know that you have a package of spaghetti, box of mac and cheese and a bag of rice then you will be having them for dinner next week :)

2.  Get a calendar to only use for meal planning.  I get a free one through different internet sites like Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Turkey Hill and Oriental Trading.  I highly recommend not paying for calendars because there are plenty free out there but if you can't get on this year there are tons of sites that have weekly or monthly calendars to write meal plans or that wonderful piece of paper tool used in the first step.  I recommend either putting it on the fridge or using a notebook so that the page isn't lost after you put all the work into your menu.

3.  Now we need to write a list of the things that you can make (if you feel you can't cook, let me know and I will gladly help)

4.  Look for new recipes.  Ask friends and family members for their easy family recipes.  Try the library for lots of choices of different books from slower cooker recipes to Italian masterpieces.  Hint:  This is a weeknight dinner so don't pick the fancy chefs books yet because those recipes take much more time and expensive ingredients.  The best idea is to try a few books from the library.  I suggest The $5 Dinner Mom Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook: 200 Recipes for Quick, Delicious, and Nourishing Meals That Are Easy on the Budget and a Snap to Prepare by Erin Chase and The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook: 200 Recipes for Quick, Delicious, and Nourishing Meals That Are Easy on the Budget and a Snap to Prepare by Erin Chase  to start with.  If you like them, add them to your Christmas list like I did.  Then go online to different recipe cites like http://allrecipes.com/, http://www.recipelion.com/, and others that allow you to look by ingredients.  Then some that are by product that you might have in the house like http://www.campbellskitchen.com/?fbid=6dkec24XXfL and http://www.pillsbury.com/.

5.  Decide what you are going to have for the following week (or current week) based on what is in the house and make a list of a few things that you need at the store.  The idea is that after you start to stockpile, you will be a week or so ahead of the game so that you won't be running to the store paying top dollar for items.

The great thing is that you can take out frozen meats the night before to defrost in the fridge so that you don't have to get to dinner time and not have food.  Then you can work on stocking the freezer, pantry, and make ahead meals.  During the coming weeks, hopefully you will get some ideas from my meal plans and things that will work for your family.

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