Here is the loooong awaited low down on how I plan my meals 30 days in advance!!!! Yes, there is a method behind this pretty little head.
I want to discuss with you, why I do this planning, how easy it is, and how it can save you money. Everyone likes to save a little dough. (Can I get an A-MEN?!)
I’m also going to share with you my list of meals this month, from which a ton of them can be found on Pinterest. So let’s get started!
The first thing I do is grab all of my monthly calendars. (Church, family, social, work, kids school, etc) I then clean off my current calendar, and rewrite the new month all while filling in our daily tasks. This will help so that you can see where you actually need a quick meal (low maintenance), slow cooker meals, or if you have enough time to actually enjoy the cooking process. (With some wine of course, I suggest a good Riesling.)
The next thing I typically do is bask in the idea that my calendar is clean, and fresh! Ahhhhhhh…
As you can see there are color codes, which is the only way I can visualize our day’s agenda without going cross-eyed. Blue is work, green is kids/social, and black is the menu. It can look a little crazy at first but, trust me; it makes everything much easier to read in a dash.
Next I decide how many slow cooker meals I need for days that I know I won’t be home in time to cook a meal. Then there are the quick meals. Quick meals are painless meals that usually follow a day where I can plan on having left-overs to contribute (roasted chicken = easy shredded chicken for buffalo sandwiches) OR a meal is so simple and quick. (For example, tacos) Lastly, I decide which days I can actually take my time and enjoy being in the kitchen.
I literally count the days. This month, I needed 15 “Involved” meals, and 11 slow cooker meals. I know what you’re thinking… that doesn’t add up to 28? Yes, I know. I am taking account for the last week on the calendar (March 1-7th), as well as the fact that I’m “off duty on Sundays” meaning… I don’t cook. Wednesdays our church has a meal/bible study this month, so I’m off the hook for dinners.
Once I have figured out how many of each I need, here comes the fun part!! Picking your recipes! I usually just focus on my main dishes, and then plan the sides the day of.
I basically go window shopping on Pinterest for my recipes, and then add in a few of our favorite staples here and there. That way we don’t get tired of eating the same meals every month. It makes it more interesting to try something new. I would say about 4 out of 5 meals I make in a week are new recipes for us. I guess you could say we are adventurous? And what’s the worst that could happen? You don’t LOVE it, so you NEVER cook it again? Easy as pie!
Here is a list of some recipes I picked for this month…
Slow Cooker/ Easy Meals
Whole Roasted Chicken
Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
Time Involved Meals (60 minutes or less)
Ham Pot Pie
Jalapeno Mango Shrimp
Beef Stir Fry
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Alright! Now that we are all drooling, let me explain how and why I place things where I do. I always plan on left-overs for work lunches the next day, so bigger meals; I make sure they land on a Mon-Thursday.
I start by placing my slow cooker meals on days where I am the busiest. And then I fill in my meals that would balance out meats, for example; you don’t want “chicken” every night for a week. Bleh! After I have my slow cooker meals and any weekday fill-ins, I make sure that I put my easy meals that don’t necessarily leave left-overs on Fridays and Saturdays.
I also make sure to place meals that I can play off of next to each other, for example; my whole roasted chicken will be the day BEFORE my buffalo chicken sandwiches. That way I can utilize those leftovers. So I placed them on a Thurs/Friday.
I promise after you get used to doing this it all falls into place and NO JOKE, you can plan this all out within an hour or so in total.
Here is how: Time will be saved because not only do you not need to worry about, “What am I going to make for dinner today?” (At 5:30pm), but you ALREADY have your grocery list halfway done!
I always take my list of recipes and list out what groceries I will need based on what I don’t already have. **I have a huge stock of fresh/canned items from the previous summer’s Farmers Markets. (That is a whole other blog for another nap-time)**
I then finish my list with anything else we might need for breakfast, lunches, snacks, etc… TA DA! Your list is done… BAM!
Money? Money is saved because you aren’t going to be making 100 trips to the store in a month’s time. You guessed it; YOU can now do your grocery shopping MONTHLY! I don’t know about you, but for me, if I walk in the store for bread and butter, I come out with items I never knew I “needed”? That in itself is Bad News Bears.
Yes, you may need to stop once in a while to get more milk or eggs. But as long as you stick to that list, you’ll be amazed at what you can save.
Myself, I send my husband to the store on his way home from work. I KNOW he will strictly get what I asked and won’t have the temptation to spend $ on scented wax that is on sale.
How do I keep everything fresh? Well as I said before, I have a lot of stock in canned/fresh foods to go through the winter seasons, but I keep everything I don’t need for that specific week in my deep freezer. Butter, Bread, Fruit, Veggies, Meat… These are all things you can place in the deep freezer. **Again, for another blog another time** I just go “grocery shopping” weekly in my basement. That way I’m not holding up space in my kitchen fridge/freezer.
So it may seem like a lot of information, but trust me the process gets much easier, and less time-consuming as you keep up with it. I hope that you find these tips as helpful as what I have. It really has saved us some vital family time and cash, as well as kept our taste-buds awake. CHEERS!