November’s Third Thursday: It’s What’s for Dinner November 18, 2010Posted by Toy Lady in Eating Down the Fridge, Freezer Meals, Information, random stuff, Third Thursday.
Tags: How-to, menu planning is fun!, Third Thursday
Welcome to November’s Third Thursday!
First, I think I need to clarify – when I say “it’s what for dinner,” that is not to say we’re talking about beef. In fact, this month, we’re not going to be talking about a particular recipe, either, or even (gasp) food. Specifically.
Not unless you want another soup . . . because honestly, right now, that’s about all I’ve got.
No, what we’re going to talk about this month is meal planning.
Oh great, yet another blog post about meal planning.
I’ve been thinking about doing a post on this for a while, but there always seemed to either be another great soup, or I’d run out of time, or, well, something. After all, who am I to tell our tens of readers that they should do something?
Then I read Michael Ruhlman’s recent blog on weekly meal planning – and I realized that I’d better get on the ball! So here goes.
Dude. You should do this. Besides ultimately you saving scads of money, it will help save your sanity (or what’s left of it)!
Everyone does it differently, and if you don’t do it at all, well, I can see how the very idea would get overwhelming – where to start?
Well, here’s what I do.
First, I start with a running grocery list – right in the kitchen. It’s a dry erase board with magnets mounted on the back, and as we run low on things, they get written on the list.
Opened the last can of coffee? We write it on the list. Last pound of butter? It goes on the list. Running low on rice? List.
You get the idea.
Then, we check our grocery store’s sale ads – our sales run Sunday through Saturday, which is great, because we can get the shopping done first thing Sunday morning (usually by 8:00). We generally only buy items on sale – and when they’re on sale we stock up.
Occasionally, our supermarket has the big cans of ground coffee on sale for $4.99, which is an excellent price – so we’ll often buy 2 or 3 cans at that price; one can lasts us about a month, so odds are, by the next time we need it, it will have gone on sale again.
I try to keep track of what’s in the freezer and what should be used sooner rather than later. While I haven’t done as well with this as maybe I could have, I’ve started kind of pre-scheduling proteins. For instance, if I buy, say, 8 chicken breasts, with two being a meal for the two of us, that’s four meals – actually, 6 meals, because I trim them myself, so we have four meals of chicken breasts, one of chicken tenders, and the last is usually chicken chunks or nuggets of some sort. Most of that gets packaged and frozen for later – we usually keep two breasts out to enjoy freshly pan-roasted. (I cannot imagine life without a freezer!)
I keep a running three-month calendar – each month is divided into 4 weeks (or 5, as appropriate), so, keeping with the example of chicken, that will get penciled in for each of 6 of the coming weeks. I usually update the calendar every month – right now, I’m finishing up November-December-January — in a couple of weeks, I’ll start December-January-February.
Finally, I’ve created a weekly template with space for Monday through Friday, plus the weekend. We don’t generally plan for weekends (a little spontaneity isn’t completely over-rated!), but sometimes, we’ll decide to prepare something time-consuming – a roast, say, or a turkey, and we need a little more than “after work” to do it.
I’ve also left space for notes for something that we might want to do for a future week – often, we’ll be going through recipes and come across two chicken recipes, say, that sound really good, and since we’re can only eat one at a time, I like to make a note so we don’t forget about the second one!
I’m going to link to my templates – you’re welcome to them, if you’re interested: Meal Planning Templates It’s really not as complicated as it sounds – you just need to get into a rhythm!
So tell me, do you plan your meals ahead of time? How does it work for you? What tips or tricks do you use?
And, of course, if you’d like to play along with our Third Thursday challenge, leave a comment with a link to (or description of) your Third Thursday project – tell us what you’re up to! For loose guidelines, or if you want to check out some past Thursdays, they’re right here!