Meal Planning

I have found that meal planning is a sanity saver, a money saver and a time saver.  Sometimes it's the last thing I want to do, but I know if I just spend a few minutes plowing through it, I will save myself so much trouble in the long run.  There is nothing more annoying and stressful than trying to figure out what to feed a bunch of hungry kids minutes before dinner time, or realizing that you are missing an essential ingredient to a meal you already started.

I have a very simple, not at all fancy method.  Here's how I do it:

1. A weekly menu is filled out right before my weekly grocery shop, and posted on the fridge. I sometimes switch around days, and consider what nights are busy and what nights we can all sit down and enjoy the same meal at the same time, and make adjustments for that.  I might keep a separate column (you can see that on the left) where I list some extras I'd like to make...for example, bagels, after school snacks and desserts.  The evening before I will check the list to see what I am "supposed" to be making the next day.  That way, when I get up in the morning, I have an idea of what meal preparation will be needed.

2. I keep a sheet of paper on my cupboard door for my grocery list.  I tack this up right after I am finished my last grocery shop and it stays there till my next.   During the week I can jot down any ingredient or item we run out of.  The kids know if they need a school supply or something else that they need to add it the list.  This helps me drastically cut down on errands.

3. When I'm making my weekly menu, I tear down that grocery list and write down what I need for the recipes I will be making. I usually shop at just one store and have memorized where everything is, so I write it down according to the store layout...which make me able to high-tail it through the store.

4. When it comes to cooking, I try to prepare the entire dinner meal in the morning, when I have the most energy and it's relatively quiet. I will stick it in the fridge to heat up later.  Of course this doesn't work for all recipes, but I will try to get as much chopping, marinating, assembly done to save me the hassle of doing all this after the kids get home from school.