Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Meal Planning Tip--Healthy & Homemade Dinners in a hurry!

Would you agree as women (and men I am sure) one of the hardest jobs of the day is getting a warm, healthy, home cooked meal on the table at a reasonable hour. Life with kids, jobs, hobbies, homework, church service, community service, volunteering in school, house cleaning, social life, grocery shopping, budgeting, etc. (you get the idea) is crazy busy! it is no wonder that dreaded 6:00 hour sneaks up on us so quickly. As crazy as dinner time is at our house, I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I get dinner served at a decent time of night. We are not perfect at it, but I do give it my whole hearted effort during the week. Weekends were made to give mom's a break, and thus, the invention of the frozen pizza, Prego & Noodles, and Grandma's house for Sunday dinner.

Now, for some, dinner on the table may not be much of an accomplishment, but for me it really brings great satisfaction. Yes, I should probably make running a marathon my new goal, but for now...dinner and cooking is more fun. Plus, the sense of 'home' that comes with a warm dinner, the family sitting around the table, and a quiet (haha!) few moments together is worth all the effort it takes.

So..if you are like me and you want dinner time around the table to be an option, you need to plan ahead. I wanted to share this really easy & quick tip that my sister Diana taught me and it is working lovely (four months strong). I always tried to plan my meals for a 2 week period, but for some reason after several days I lost track or forgot which meals I wanted to make. Here is an easy tip to remember what meals to cook and which meals you have the ingredients on hand for. Here is what I do:

Thursday morning I login to Deals to Meals (of course I use this!!) and glance over the weekly deals from the stores. I see which ones really excite me and make a quick grocery list of those items I need to add to my food storage that week and click on those basics for the next two weeks (bread, milk, eggs, apples, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, tortillas, etc.) I then glance through the last 2 weeks of meal planners on Deals to Meals and see which recipes scream out to me as being oh, so delicious. There are always at least 10 (of the 14) that I will be craving by the time I am done glancing over the recipes. I then add a few traditional favorites (tacos, enchiladas, lasagna, etc.) to my list of meals I want to make for the next 2 weeks (I try and plan for 14-20 meals).

As I am glancing through the recipes I jot down (on my grocery list) those few unusual items I may not already have in my food storage, freezer or fridge (ex: fresh ginger, hoisin sauce, cilantro, bell peppers, etc.) As I am going through the recipes I do a quick search on the Deals page for those particular items I may need. If nothing comes up, that tells me Walmart will have the lowest price on those items. Before I leave to do my shopping, I make a quick list of the meals I have decided to make for the next two weeks (see above picture).

Once I am back from shopping the fun begins. I then know I am prepared with ALL of the ingredients (which I bought on sale thanks to Deals to Meals) I need for my 14-20 meals. I keep the list of meals on my fridge so as the dinner hour approaches I can quickly glance and see which meals I have time to prepare and which ones sound good for that night. Knowing I have all of the ingredients for each one of those meals makes dinner preparation a breeze. Those meals that are crock pot meals I know I can throw the ingredients together in the morning and have warm and ready on those extra busy nights.

Now, for my favorite part of this chart on my fridge....crossing off the meal. I don't know what it is about crossing things off, filling in check boxes, or erasing something off of your to-do list, but it brings such joy to my heart. It is fun to see the meals get crossed off my list and feel happy that I have accomplished something that month. Another bonus...as I cross off my meals I realize I haven't had to go to the grocery store in over a week. This equals money in my pocket which I also love!! If you are having a hard time getting dinner on the table, give this handy-dandy meal chart idea a try and see if it works for you!

**If you have meal planning tips that work for you, share them with the rest of us!


Kirsten said...

I was wondering if you could put together a quick blog post about the good prices for all these holiday foods that are out. I see all the sales of things we need for Thanksgiving and I'm not sure what the best price is for the basics like flour, sugar, evap milk, etc. Just wanted to know if you could give me an idea of what a good price is for those so I know what to look for! Thanks, love your blog!

Shandra said...

If you are a subscriber to our newsletter I will be sending out one this week with a few holiday good deals on it. The best thing though is to become a member of Deals to Meals and then we tell you where ALL of the best deals are from each local grocery store. Those red/great deals each week are those that are LESS than Costco, Walmart and Sam's Club. We do all of the comparison pricing for you. Remember..everyone is welcome to try our service for 2 weeks FREE without any obligations or contracts. I only want you using our service if you save more than the $1.17 a week (that should be on one item :)

Have fun shopping!

Anonymous said...

Quite? Or quiet?

Hilary said...

I tend to have most things that i use frequently on hand (now that I've been doing this food storage thing for a while). So every few weeks I go through my recipe binder and make a GIANT list of recipes that sound good, and that i Have most of the ingredients for on hand. I jot anything else I'm missing for them next to them. Then, I put it on a white board in my kitchen. I agree, I do love crossing off stuff. :D

Here's one of my lists:

Anonymous said...

Are you planning 14-20 meals for the month or for 2 weeks?

Shandra said...

The 14 meals will do anywhere from 2-3 weeks, depending how often your family eats a home cooked meal. Now..some of my meals were 'dump and go' meals like taco soup or tomato soup and cheese sandwiches (quicker meals). I also always include at least one breakfast meal on my dinner menu. So, they don't all have to be time consuming, 'gourmet' meals. Just do what your family is used to eating, incoporate a few new recipes from the meal planner and go from there. Have fun!

Tracy said...

Something that has worked for me is assigning each day of the week a category. That way we have variety.

For example
Monday: Homestyle meals like stroganoff, Shephards pie, pot pie
Tuesday: Italian or Asian like stir fry or pastas
Wednesday: Breakfast like eggs, french toast or something more extravagant I wouldn't make in the morning, or cold cereal!
Thursday: Mexican
Friday: Pizza either frozen, homemade, delivery, take and bake
Saturday: Soup/Salad/Sandwich

I have really liked this system and it has gotten easier as I have used it for the past few months.

KSL News Story--Coupons vs. Deal Shopping

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

Studio 5

Deals to Meals KSL TV News Story

Three Easy Steps to Food Storage