Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Meal planning 101

One of the biggest money saving strategies we have here at maison Milkybeer is to plan our meals a week at a time. Now, I was raised in a household where meal planning was the norm. My mom always had the menu posted on the fridge each week for all to see (in fact, she still does). If you go to my brother's house, you'll probably find their weekly menu posted on the fridge too. Growing up, I honestly thought everyone planned their meals a week in advance. I've since learned this is not the case, and that, indeed, many people think I'm a wee bit crazy for doing it.

To those naysayers, I say puh-shaw!

If you're interested in giving it a try, here's how I go about it each week...We usually do our grocery shopping for the week on Sundays, so that morning, I sit down at the kitchen table armed with the meal planning necessities:
  • my favourite recipe book (most of which I've posted at Milkybeer Cooks)
  • a weekly planner/grocery list notepad (something like this)
  • the family calendar
Throughout the week, we write down anything we run out of so usually there are a few items on the list before I even begin. To begin planning, I make note of any events that week that will have us out of the house for dinners. Then, I peruse the cupboards and fridge to see what we already have on hand (this cuts down on accidental repeat purchases).

Meals are based around the main protein, with the aim of having at least two meat-free meals each week. Once I select the protein, I pick out a recipe that will take advantage of ingredients we have on hand. The recipe name goes on the meal side of the notepad and any missing ingredients go onto the grocery list side.

Next, I plan the veggies. Because we only shop once per week, there is a bit of strategy required. We tend to eat fresh vegetables early in the week, and hardier (or frozen) veg toward the end. We do try to take advantage of the local Farmer's Market and stock up on fresh, local options whenever possible. I always aim to use up what we already have on hand for the first meal of the week, but usually there isn't much left since we just buy what we need, so any required veggies are noted on the grocery list side of the notepad.

The starch is usually the easiest to plan since we typically just cycle through pasta, rice, cous cous, or potatoes or we forgo the starch portion altogether. These are all things we keep on hand in large quantities in the pantry so they don't make a frequent appearance on the grocery list.

If I know the meal will yield more than we need in a single meal, I just write in "leftovers" for the following day or make a mental note that TDSH or I will have leftovers for lunch the next day.

When an item goes on the grocery list, I sometimes make note of the quantity we need in order to avoid over buying and waste. I'd love to say this means we never throw away food, but that would be a lie. Sometimes, we just don't eat as much as I think we're going to.

Some people resist the notion of planning their meal because they don't know what they'll feel like eating on any given day. I see their point, but just because tacos is written on the planner for Wednesdays, doesn't mean you can only eat tacos on that day. We often switch things up from day to day. The beauty in planning for an entire week, is that you now have all the ingredients for up to seven different meals on hand! Which one you choose to eat is up to you.

If you've been reluctant to start planning your own meals, perhaps these cute little printable menu planning templates from Ollibird will inspire you. I'm itching to print one off and frame it for our kitchen.


  1. Or you go right overboard and create a separate Google Calendar for 'Menu Plan' :) Can't imagine anyone who would actually do this though....

  2. your mom would be proud@:)

  3. love the templates - thanks! one's on my fridge now. it's very loosely filled in, in pencil, and i don't have an accompanying list. but it was too cute to resist. ;-)

  4. are even dorkier than I am.

    Bonnie...indeed she is!

    Miranda...knew you'd love those templates. Even if you don't keep it up, at least it looks cute!

  5. Kim- It goes to show that your children learn by example.I am sure all the grandchildren will follow the same tradition.Your nephew tells his Mom to check the list on the fridge to see what they are having for dinner.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...