Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday Tips: how to plan meals for a month

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This week's Tuesday Tips is courtesy of my good friend Jodi. She has been using monthly meal planning (you heard me right) for two years, much to the awe of all our friends. After much prodding, she agreed to do a class and teach all of us novices how to plan your meals and shopping by month. 

1. Think realistically about how dinners you eat at home a week. Don't overestimate. We decided 4 dinners a week was good, since we eat out between 1-2 and we eat leftovers the other nights. 
2. Then think about your favorite recipes and any new ones you have been wanting to try. I needed 16 recipes since we were planning for 4 weeks x 4 meals a week. 
3. Dowload this form and fill out the weeks on the left-hand side. You can also use the shopping list tab to separate your shopping list among your stores.
4. Then add the names of your meals in the next column, putting as many meals as you decided for each week. Think about grouping your meals together with common fresh ingredients, but still spreading out the types of themes and meats (not all chicken meals or all Mexican meals in one week). 
5. Looking at your recipes, use the "Monthly Shopping Items" to list items you can buy at your monthly shopping trips (and it is okay to do monthly trips to multiple store. I plan on doing a monthly trip to BJ's Wholesale Club and Trader Joe's). Put all your meats, shredded bags of cheese (can be frozen), breads, canned goods, rice, pasta, chips, pizza dough/biscuits. Then use the "Weekly Shopping Items" to list items fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, sour cream and fresh bread.
6. Then you make shopping lists for your monthly items, splitting it out between the stores you use. You can also add the regular items you use for breakfast and lunches to your monthly or weekly shopping lists.
7. And now you are ready to shop! My friend Jodi buys meat in bulk packages and then splits it up into the amount she needs for different meals and freezes it in those quantities. She doesn't cut up veggies that day when she does her weekly shopping, but I know others that do all their weekly prep work on Sunday to cut down on dinner time throughout the week. 
I am posting a screen shot of my 4 weeks of meals right here and will be happy to send recipes to anyone who likes what they see :-) You will notice I have at least one crockpot meal a week. I work from home on Mondays and Fridays and I find it super easy to throw those into the crockpot during nap time on one of those days. My favorite crockpot book is Make It Fast, Cook It Slow. If you like to crockpot, get this book now. Amazing recipes and for those that need it, they are all gluten-free.

So who is in for trying the monthly meal plan over the summer? Let me know what you think! I hope it will save us a lot of money, time and wasted food. Oh yeah, and I like to look at spreadsheets so that is a plus also.

Always plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.
~Richard Cushing


Kelli Joyner said...

What a great idea, and I love spreadsheets too! Can you please email me your spreadsheet so I can manipulate it? Also, those recipes do look great! I'll see if I can find them online before bugging you for them. My email is kwjoyner@gmail.com. Thx!

Jackie Koll said...

I could never wrap my mind around the planning for a month concept (don't ask me why - I guess I over complicate things!) I think I might start working toward this using your plan. It would be so nice to have this done!