welcome to the core of our meal planning journey!
At this point, your meal planning board should be built and your pantry and freezer should be cleaned out.
Not quite there yet? Thats OK! You can ease into cooking every night of the week by still holding on to those old stand bys of frozen nuggets & fries!
The ConceptHere is the concept, or the way to make this plan work for you.
- One day each week (Friday, Saturday or Sunday works best), sit down and go through your meal cards and select a meal for each day of the coming week.
- Write out a grocery list of the things you need, all conveniently shown on the back of the card, being sure to check the pantry and freezer for ingredients you already have on hand
- Add to your grocery list things you will need for lunch or breakfast. Its helpful to add things to the list during the week before as you run out.
- Go shopping and buy ONLY what is on your list (and no bringing a pen to change your list!)
- Go over the recipes if you are not that familiar with them to get an idea of what you need to do each day.
- Each day, make the meal set out on your planner, and sit down with the whole family to enjoy.
How to Pick Each Day's MealReally, this one is up to you. There are probably 100s of ways you could choose what to eat for the up and coming week, and no way is wrong.
There are some things you should consider:
- Family schedule - don't pick a labour-intensive recipe for soccer night
- Work schedule - is hubby likely to work late? Are you? If you know in advance that someone will be home late, either pick a quick and easy meal, like a sandwich or pick a crock pot meal
- Special events - don't plan liver and onions for little Johnny's birthday night, he hates it! Pick one of his favorites (or let him pick) or use a delivery, takeout or eat out card to celebrate
- Guests - don't make a family dinner of 4 chicken breasts if your mother-in-law is showing up, possibly in time for dinner on Friday night. Pick something easy, like a soup, chili or casserole, that can be stretched to feed more people
- The weather - don't pick a BBQ meal for the middle of a blizzard (unless you have an indoor grill) and don't make meat pies that take hours to bake in the middle of a heat wave. In general, we like to eat a lot more soups, stews and casseroles when its cold, and sandwiches, barbeque and vegetarian meals when its hot
- Pick 7 random cards. So what if you end up with Mexican every night this week?
- Have designated nights (Monday is chicken, Tuesday is Pasta...)
- Let the kids pick, but be ready to end up at the end of all your meal cards, with a week of meals that they think are gross!! This can be a good choice if each child has an extra-curricular activity one night each week - let them pick what they want to eat before it or after, depending what time
- Sort your meal cards into fast, medium, slow and pre-made meals, and apply those based on the family schedule
- Let hubby do it. I DO NOT recommend this option. I would end up with every food I hate in the same week and I would want to murder him.
- Pick based on what you feel like.
- Pick based on what is on sale (particularly in the meat and cheese department) and what you have coupons for. If there's an awesome sale on cheese, this is a great week to do the mac and cheese!
How to ShopAgain, shop any way you like.
Typically, I might go to the grocery store 2-3 times per week, and pick up the meat and fresh vegetables for the next 2-3 nights, rather than buying it all on a Sunday and then hoping it all keeps until the following Saturday. I also save freezer space for other things like ice cream and bulk frozen meals (like the Tourtiere recipe, I make 6-12 at a time) and for meat that I find on sale and portion out myself.
Remember that the grocery store makes the lowest profit on the things on the outside of the store - the produce, fresh meats, dairy case and basic baked goods like breads. Try to venture only down the aisles that you know you need something from, and when you get there, make sure you look all the way, top to bottom of the shelves, because the stuff they want you to buy - its at eye level. (and the stuff they want you to buy for your kids... yep, its at their eye level). Often you can find a cheaper and equivalent option to the brand name premium product you are looking at, just by looking up a few shelves or down a few shelves.
The Meal CardsEach meal card has the meal name and ingredient list posted on it. See below.
For the most part, the fresh items you need to buy are on the left and the pantry items you likely have around are on the right, but are there for you to double check your stock. Likewise, you might have some of the items to buy already, and then you don't need to add them to the shopping list.
Each card also has the corresponding number of the recipe card you will need. This will help you, or your helpers or cooks for the day, to find the right recipe and prepare the dish successfully.
The Recipe CardsThe recipe cards are standard recipe cards, with the ingredients and procedures on them.
Some cards will have two recipes, one for the main and one for one of the sides. There is only one recipe card for each meal, so if there is something you are not sure how to prepare and it isn't on the recipe card, we have assumed you have your own recipe already for something like that, and its pretty easy.
An example would be rice pilaf. No recipe is included, since most people have a similar pilaf recipe: cook rice in broth with some frozen vegetables according to the rice package directions, fluff with a fork when complete.
Alright, clear as mud?
Here is the link to go get the pdf of the menu and feel free to email us at the Frugal Mamas if you have any issues or would like a blank template (Word 2010)