How to Meal Plan
People ask me how I plan and prepare meals for my family and crazy life. One answer is, “very carefully”. Another answer is “years of practice”. There is truth as well as humor in those answers, but it does go beyond that. Let me give you some insight on how to meal plan.
The first and most important part of meal planning for my family is being armed with knowledge: knowing who likes what, knowing the activities schedule, knowing the travel schedule, and knowing what special day or events are coming up.
Armed with that knowledge I can make an outline or rough draft of the meal calendar. Once that is done I check my inventory to see what I have in the freezer, refrigerator, cupboards, and pantry. From there I check the grocery ads at 3 local grocery stores. Caution: don’t trip over a dollar to save a dime. If there is only one thing on sale at one store do not waste the gas money to drive there if it isn’t going to ultimately save you more than you would spend on the gas! That doesn’t even factor in the cost of your time. Remember, time is money. After all, you wouldn’t be wondering how to meal plan if you had all of the time in the world.
Once I have checked the ads I fill in my calendar based on all of the factors. Let me give you an example based on this week and how I created the meal plan.
Sunday: Brunch Menu
- Mushroom Gravy
- Pastrami Hash
- Fried Eggs
I had cremini mushrooms in the refrigerator that had been purchased on sale the week prior for a recipe, but I didn’t use all of them so they needed to be used at the beginning of this week. The Hubs had made his own pastrami in October and I had put some in the freezer. I took it out late last week when I was cleaning out the freezer and checking the inventory. I keep potatoes and onions on hand as well as eggs and all of the ingredients for biscuits.
Monday: Daughter 4 school activity
- Freezer to Slow Cooker Philly Cheesesteak
- Sautéed peppers and onions
- Homemade Oven Fries
- Pickle Plate; pickled peppers, hot pickles, etc.
This is a freezer to slow cooker or crockpot meal that I will throw in to cook before work. Having been to Philly and had an official cheesesteak I know that at Pat’s and Gino’s they offer fries. Because I always have potatoes on hand I make a batch of fries in the oven. D3 doesn’t like the sautéed vegetables so I make some for The Hubs to ad. Those are what I have on my Italian roll along with my cheese since I don’t eat red meat. I also serve some pickled vegetables like peppers and pickles.
Tuesday: Mardi Gras
Concession stand duties at school
- Pancakes for Breakfast
- Red Beans and Rice (meatless)
- Corn bread from scratch
The ingredients for these recipes are all staples in my home. This is more or less 2 meals of ‘pantry recipes’.
Wednesday: Valentine’s Day
Parent Teacher Conferences
- Macaroni and Cheese
- +add ins
- Crumbled Bacon
This is one of my favorite things to make and to eat. It’s easy enough that I can make it on a day when I have something to do after work (conferences), but pleasing enough to show how much I love The Hubs and myself.
Thursday: No activities!
- Freezer to Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken on Buns
- Cole Slaw
- Baked Beans
This is a freezer to slow cooker meal that I will pop in to cook all day. The beans are pre-assembled to heat and serve. The coleslaw (I cheat on this) is pre-shredded slaw mix with homemade slaw dressing. Open a bag or can of corn and heat up – I have both on hand.
Friday: No School
- Pork Chops with Potatoes and Stuffing
- Green Beans
- Homemade yeast rolls
The girls are out of school and I am off work so that allows me to make a meal that I can take my time with. I have the pork chops in the freezer and will pull them out Thursday night. It is a one skillet meal, so it saves on dirty dishes, but I’ll make up for that with homemade rolls.
Saturday: D3 gone during the day at speech tournament
- Tacos (ground beef)
- Refried Beans
- Seasoned Rice
- Fixings : grated cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, diced green onion, jalapeño, salsa
Not knowing when D3 will be home this can be made ahead and heated when she gets home. I will pull the ground beef out of the freezer Friday before going to bed. The beans will be fried from pinto beans I cooked from dried. The rice can be made in about 20 minutes. The fixings can be prepped any time during the day and refrigerated. Easy.
As with life, this is subject to change but even change is easier to navigate with a map. Tell me if you are already or a meal planner and what your process is. Collectively we can help others learn how to meal plan. It is invaluable in my life.