Monday, April 16, 2012

Part 1: How To Make A Weekly Meal Plan

The most important step in being more organized, relaxed and joyful at meal times is having a plan. If making a weekly meal plan seems overwhelming to you, don't fear! I've done my best to break it down into a few easy to follow steps to help get you started. Just like any other skill, the more you do it, the easier it will become! Let's get started!

1. Look at the Calendar: This is where you must begin, especially if you have a nutso schedule. Map out the days you'll eat dinner at home and the days you'll eat dinner elsewhere. On the nights that you will eat dinner elsewhere (community  group, dinner with friends, date night etc.) determine if you will contribute something to the meal and if so write that in. Also note the days where you will be pressed for time, this will help you know what type of meal to choose for that specific day. If you know in advance that you'll only have 45 minutes for dinner, you can plan to make a quick meal that evening or plan to throw something in the crock pot that morning.

2. Pick the Meals: Now that you know which days you need to plan for, pick your meals! This is actually planning out what you will have for dinner. It's important to be detailed as doing so will help you create your grocery list and not forget anything! There are a number of things to keep in mind when you are choosing your meals:
a. How long does this meal take to prepare? (don't forget prep time ie: chopping, marinating etc.)
b. Who am I making this meal for (husband & kids, kids-only, dinner guests etc.)  and what allergies or preferences do they have?
c. What is my budget? This is very important. To be a wise steward of your resources it is important to know your budget and plan meals that fit into it. 
d. What is in season and on sale? Most grocery stores have their weekly ads online. Before I make my meal plan I go online to see what's on sale and include those items in my meals. (ie: if whole chickens are on sale for .77/lb then we'll probably be having a lot of chicken!)
e. Does this meal produce leftovers? This is a good question to keep in mind as you pick your meals. If you pack lunch for yourself and/or your husband then leftovers are a major bonus because they make "what to bring for lunch" a no-brainer!

3. Don't Forget Lunch: I don't know why but for the longest time I never planned anything for lunch. If there were leftovers, great but if not - panic! I have found that lunch must not be overlooked. If you eat at home for dinner and your dinners produce leftovers then you're pretty much set. If leftovers are not a favorite in your home or you won't have any leftovers to take for yourself/send with your husband then you need to plan something else. Two suggestions:
a. Make a "school-boy" lunch: buy sandwich fixings, apples, pretzels, carrot sticks and other lunch items.
b. Make a meal at the start of the week and eat it all week long for lunch. If you or the lunch-eaters you are packing for are not big sandwich fans, consider making a big batch of chili or enchiladas at the start of the week. Package up your meal into tupperwares and you've got something to grab everyday.

4. Plan Breakfast and Snacks: When you are making a meal plan, it's important not to leave any meals out! Breakfast at my house can be "fend for yourself" but in order for my family to fend for themselves, they need options! Either plan a few options for your family (cereal & milk, yogurt, bagels & cream cheese etc.) or make a daily breakfast schedule (similar to dinner.) If you plan to make a big breakfast on the weekends, make sure to notate that on your menu planner. Finally we arrive at snacks. It's safe to assume that our husbands and children will often come home from work or school and want a snack. Plan out a couple snacks you will have on hand to give them (granola bars, crackers, string cheese, carrots & hummus, nuts etc.)

5. Relax and Have Fun: No need to let all this meal planning stress you out! Remember you are doing this to make your life easier! It may be a little slow to start. You will most likely fail a few times. You might forget something at the store. You may realize you forgot your wallet once you've got everything in your cart. It's okay. Your identity cannot be found in being an excellent wife/mother/household manager but only in being a daughter of the King! 

Get started making your meal plan! I'll be back soon for part 2: Making a Grocery List and Sticking to it! 

brown butter and hazelnut asparagus! add it to your meal plan!

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