Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Order: My own 30 day meal plan workout.

Whew! I had no idea that planning 30 days of meals would be such a work out. I am tired - but relieved to have finally finished the planning and executing of our next months meals. I can see why it might be difficult to get started and why it took me so long to actually put this plan in action. I've realized that I am not that great of an organizer - who would have known (as I laugh out loud!) For those of you who have or are currently using this type of plan - I totally commend your dedication.

I also came to the understanding that my "out of my head" recipes, the ones I can just cook on the sly - are very few. If I've tried a new recipe I usually forget about it and stick with the things I'm used to cooking, i.e. precooked,spaghetti, meatloaf, chicken and rice etc... I see why we ate out so much -my menu was just no fun! I am an absolute beginner - here's how I started:

Planning the menu
First, I printed a calender and had a notebook on hand. I took my favorite recipe book, the Rachel Ray cook book, and one that my sister sent me from her ward. A friend from Utah also sent me a link that puts recipes together in one place all from her friends and community, here's the link. I actually chose about 5 recipes from their site - thanks Monica!

Your Schedule vs. your meal plan
I marked the days on my calendar where I knew we wouldn't be home, Craig was traveling, busy days etc... and marked them as "leftover" days. I tried to keep them to at least once a week, just to give me a break from cooking. On the days that Craig would be traveling, I marked it as Subway or McDonald's - two of the girls favorite place to eat for at least one of the days he's away.

Concentrating on the problem area
Throwing a salad together, making rolls, or desserts are a piece of cake for me - it's the main dishes that really throw me off. As I filled in my meal plan, I dated a notebook with the beginning of the week's date and marked the the things I would need for that week, all the way to the end of the month. I then transferred the items onto a list separated by section of the grocery store to help me shop quicker in a more organized way. Concentrating on the main dish, I simply added my own side dishes to each meal - unless it specifically called for one.

Additional items
After all the meals were planned and ingredients were added to the shopping list, the next thing planned was the amount of fruit boxes, fruit snacks, cereal boxes, and other things needed to fill in the rest of our family's eating needs. Lunches, side dishes, breakfasts, and treats I considered in my 30 day grocery list. In the end, I wanted my shopping to be reduced and adding all of these things hopefully will enable me to visit the grocery store once a week for milk and other perishable, non-frozen items.

The shopping
OK, here's where I failed miserably! After three different grocery stores in one day, I still have a few items I need to get to make my list complete. I've complained about the food choices and shopping experience here before, so I just hope that your grocery experience is better than mine. Time was not on my side, as I had to leave two stores before getting all I needed to get to appointments. This I need to plan better next time. The great news is that I'm finished! I'll pick the few items left up in the states next week! In addition, adding all the things the girls needed for their lunches, snacks, and breakfasts allowed me to take just one trip instead of what I was doing - 2-3 times a week! Yikes. I spent $280 on my entire months groceries! I often walk out of the store for just one week at $200! It sounds steep, but here $280 for a month is really cheap!

The smell and taste of success
My first 30 day meal was Rachel Rays famous Pretzel Chicken. It was so good that we've marked this as a keeper and will eat it frequently. I'm really excited to try new recipes and follow this plan - it was a lot of work, but I'm happy to say that I am happy I set this goal and will let you know how the month goes.

What is your biggest concern when starting a meal plan?
If you already plan your meals, what advice could you give to us beginners?

Next Wednesday: My 60 minute closet makeovers.


Melinda said...

I am so impressed that you have made a huge meal planner! Wow, that is awesome. I tend to do my meal plannin every two weeks. It has worked for me and I can come up with the meals. I need to look into that preztel chicken. I have her cook book.

Kelly said...

I'm so impressed! I hate coming up with ideas, but if you only did it once a month, it wouldn't seem like such a constant battle. Thanks for the inspiration!

Christy said...

That is so wonderful! I'm a big fan of the Pretzel Chicken, too. Yum-O.

Nicole said...

Yum! The pretzel chicken looks great; or at least something I would make for the family(being vegetarian myself). Do you mind posting some of your favorites? Haven't tried planning for a month; weekly due to the constant activities. Way to go!

Mandi said...

Michelle - you amaze me again!!! Planning a whole month - I really should do that too, it would make things alot easier as I work full time.

I tend to just do one week at a time and I do my shopping on Saturday or Sunday and get the whole weeks worth in one go. As Scott works shift work we have standard dinners when he is working because he doesnt like pasta (yep weirdo) so the girls and I always have pasta when he is working.

The best thing I did as the kids got older was to ask them to tell me what they wanted because someone was always complaining - so they wrote down what they wanted and there we had it the menu plan was done!!!

My eldest Aimee is a Vegan so it has been interesting to have to work her requirements into the plan. Its actually made her eat foods she would never have even tried before. I think she actually eats better now than she did before, but being Vegan is hard, for me not her - no milk, no cheese, no meat whatsoever, not even fish.

One of my favorite pastas to make (which I can give to Aimee before the final ingredient) is Mushroom and Spinich pasta. So simple......

You put a little butter (or replace with olive oil for Vegans) in a frypan and sautee a little crushed garlic then add chopped mushrooms and cook until brown. Add heaps and heaps of spinich to the top and pour a little water over it (this will help the spinich cook down) then add sea salt and cracked pepper. Once this has cooked down a little (not too much because the spinich needs a little structure) add cream and cook until the sauce thickens. Then I dump a whole bag of cooked pasta into the frypan and toss - add grated cheese and its fabulous!!! Takes about 15 minutes all up (that includes the cooking time for the pasta) and the kids love it!!!

Take a single serve of the garlic, mushrooms and spinich out and place into a bowl to toss with the pasta if you want a Vegan friendly version!!!

Ok I have gone on too long - take care - and well done!!!


Mandi said...

Hey girl, I just read your post on my blog. So I thought it best to reply here. I am going to hospital next Tuesday so they can investigate whats going on. It made me laugh, what you wrote about my doctor - I should post a photo of him - hes 50 years old, balding and has really crooked teeth, but he is so wonderful!!!! So handsome would not be the word I would use, he just is very very supportive of me and I always walk away feeling so much better.
Will keep you posted on how I get on next week - take care, luv

crystal said...

Oh, Michelle! Another FAB Wednesday post!!! I skimmed it b/c it's late (almost 1am), and I know I'll get overwhelmed if I try to soak it all in at this late hour.

I'm a great goal the morning, when I'm fresh :)

You are so dedicated to getting life under control; you inspire me!

michelle said...

I think this is wonderful!!! I am going to come back, and read what your have done when the kiddos go to school this morning. I am working on my 14 day menu. I would love the pretzel chicken recipe? That looks yummy! :)

Rachel Bagley Wurtz said...

30 days is impressive! I take it one week at a time, but then fill in a blank monthly calendar with what was made on what day or when we went out. It's a nice reference for future meal planning and puts a red flag up when there are too many OUT TO EATs written in! :)

Emmanuelle said...

What a great idea to do a meal plan. I should try to do it also.

Barb said...

With a month of meals ready and waiting, you'll have lots of time for all kinds of projects!

Natasha said...

I have never done a whole month at a time so I am seriously impressed. I usually make a grocery list and menu plan for the week every weekend, but that's as far as I go. This post is inspiration!!

Laura said...

Wow! Impressive! You should post some of your favorite menus and or recipes. I've had major menu planning on my list of things to do for awhile now. I'm still flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to dinnertime.

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

For me, it's not the planning part, it is the buying part I have trouble with.... seems we can never quite afford to eat the fun things that we would like to have and so we are stuck with the easy cheap things to make...that is why I hate dinner time and the age old question, "what's for dinner?"