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.
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.
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.