Friday, December 5, 2008

Meal Preparation - Part 1 - Menu planning

Because of the craziness of packing, stripping wallpaper and painting I've noticed a common problem - What's for dinner?

When life is normal I've found that the most time and money saving thing I do for our family is plan our meals. I'm usually pretty organized with meal planning but this has fallen to the wayside these last few weeks and I'm determined to get back on track. I thought I'd do my first mini-series on Meal Preparation and Food Stockpiling. If you have any specific questions please leave a comment and I'll try to address them.

Meal Preparation - Part 1 - Menu planning

This is a pretty easy place to start but it is crucial! When I didn't plan my meals I would just go to the store meander through each aisle and just throw whatever looked yummy. This wasn't the best plan for our wallet so I had to make a change. The way I do meal planning is simple. I keep it simple so that I don't get overwhelmed and quit.

There are many ways to do this, some people like to look at the weekly flyer and plan their meals based on what's on sale, some just sit down with their cookbooks and pick what they want to eat that week, I plan based on what I have on hand and I try to roll one meal over to the next day (more about this later). I've found that this saves us a lot of money and time, and for me TIME IS MONEY!!


Always take a quick look in your fridge, cabinets and freezer to see what meals you might have that are already prepared for that week. Jot down all the meals that you have already prepared in the freezer. I try to plan around 2 meals using items that I already have. For example I usually have plenty of crushed tomatoes, cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, beans, rice and frozen chicken around. With these ingredients I could make a few different dinners: Etoufee, chicken and rice casserole or chicken enchiladas. I would only have to pick up a few items to make these meals and it wouldn't add much to our grocery bill.

Another good tip when planning your meals is to buy meat in bulk or whole. For example a whole chicken can be roasted and enjoyed with potatoes and veggies, then the leftover meat can be made into soup or a casserole the next day. The same goes for roasts and meats like sausage. I try to make more than I need for that first meal so I have enough for the next day. For example this week I cooked up some Italian sausages. Day 1: Spaghetti with sausage- Day 2: Homemade sausage and onion pizza. I even chopped a little into an omelet for breakfast!

On to the Planning

I usually plan my menus one week at a time. To get started grab a notebook, scrap paper or your computer - you may want to grab your cookbooks or recipes box too.

First write down the meals that you can make from items you already have. Jot down a few more meals that you'd like to have . Like I said above there are many ways to do this and you can pick the way that works for you. I do check the sales ads in the paper before I plan my meals. If there is a great deal on whole chickens I'll plan my meals around that. I also take in to consideration the different seasonal veggies that are available

Flip the paper over. Write down the ingredients that you need to make those meals. Remember to plan your lunches and snacks. Go to your pantry, cross off all the items that you already have. What is left is your grocery list (aside from your staples, milk, bread etc.) Now jump in the car (don't forget your coupons!!) and head to the grocery store. Stay tuned for Part 2 - Starting a stockpile.

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