We’re notoriously bad meal planners. Mainly that’s because Stacy is the organized, list-making, super-micro-managing-control-freak that does all that kind of stuff. But Matt’s the one that’s home, making dinner. So he wings it. He shops once or twice a week for our standard favorites or whatever looks good, and then wings it. Admittedly, we’ve wasted more food than we ever should have because we forget or get confused what to do with something.
If you’ve found yourself in our shoes, and are ready to take your planning to the next level, Tara’s here to help. She runs The Foodie And The Family, manages more kids than we do, and still manages to make meal planning work. Considering she’s obviously got this thing whipped, we
begged asked her to share some of her secrets to success.
I’m Tara, a stay at home Mom to 5 kids and every week I post our menu. Stacy asked if I would be willing to write a post about meal planning for them.
Meal planning is an essential part of my ability to have the 7 of us eat Paleo but I realize that, if you’ve never planned a menu before, it can be extremely overwhelming. Whether your reasons for wanting to start meal planning is to save time, save money, not find yourself scrambling for supper ideas at 5:30pm, or to make sure you are eating better, here are a few easy steps to help you get started:
- Take Stock: Go through your fridge and freezers. There might be a couple of pounds of ground beef or a pack of chicken breasts lurking in there, desperately wanting to be eaten. Maybe there are some vegetables that will stay good for only a couple more days. The less you have to buy, the more you save; both short term and long term (no throwing out food that’s gone bad).
- Check the Calendar: See what your week looks like; if you have a couple of busy evenings, you can plan for fast meals (instead of fast food). These nights are also great for slow cookers; set it in the morning and turn it to warm so everyone can eat whenever they are home.
- Find some recipes: There are a zillion recipe websites online..maybe even a trazillion. Anything you can think of, there’s a recipe for. My favorites are Paleo Parents, Civilized Caveman Cooking, The Food Lovers’ Primal Palate, Fast Paleo, Chowstalker, Nom Nom Paleo, and Pinterest. Yes, Pinterest! I have an entire board devoted to Primal/Paleo recipes plus a board for recipes I want to Primal-ize. Pin or bookmark the recipes as you see them so that you can choose which recipes you want to make. [PaleoParents also have MANY Pintrest boards, too!]
- Schedule it in: Based on your previous calendar check, schedule in your recipes. Play around with the scheduling if you don’t want to have ground beef 3 days in a row. Don’t forget about those busy days!
- Pair it up: Figure out your sides and write them in as well. We pick 2 vegetables to go with each of our main dishes. I schedule in sides for breakfast and lunch as well so that we aren’t having just pancakes for breakfast.
- Finalize: Once you know when you are going to be making everything, finalize your menu. I have a document I use for my menu every week and I include snacks that I plan to make the kids for the week along with any baking that needs to be done for their school lunches.
- Make Your Grocery List: Now that you know what you’re having, you can make your grocery list. Go through each recipe to make sure you have all necessary ingredients written down. My list is separate as follows: fruit, vegetables, meats, canned/dry, baking, dairy, frozen, miscellaneous. Having it all separated makes our shopping trip a million times easier and we can split up to grab everything.
- Post it: Put your menu someplace obvious so that everyone in the family can see it. We post ours on the fridge and my husband takes out the meat for supper before he leaves for work. It’s saved us a lot of time/stress when we forget to take out the meat…no more ‘still frozen’ at 5pm for us!
Hope that helps, all you planners out there! For more from Tara, go to her blog at The Foodie and the Family