Thursday, December 29, 2016

Planning Meals Multiple Weeks at a Time

It sounds crazy, but honestly... it's my favorite "lazy" way of planning meals ahead.  ;-)

I am an avid list maker.  Lists are my thing.  I truly adore making lists.  Every. single. day.  

But for some reason, I'm not a big fan of sitting down to plan out meals and grocery lists.  If I don't have a plan, we are far more likely to eat out at a restaurant or get fast food, so I prefer to create a multi-week plan, recently that has been a 10-week meal plan. Once the 10 week period is up, I repeat with a few minor changes for new recipes or special occasions coming up.

Easy peasy.

Unfortunately, the first set of meal plans and grocery lists will take a considerable amount of time, so if you do this, set aside a couple of hours for your first set of lists.

In the past, I've done 8-week plans, 6-week plans, and more often than not my plans have been 4-week plans.  Last year, though, I found that the 10-week plan works well for during the school year when life is super busy.

Where to Begin: 

  1. I suggest you first create a master menu if you haven't already.  This is a list of about 40-50 dinner meals that you and your family enjoy.  In the future, you'll just choose from this master list when you are making your plans.   It also helps to have a master menu of breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, but don't stress over it too much. You can add those things in over time. 
  2. Feel like being an overachiever? Put a list of all ingredients needed next to each meal. Making your grocery lists will be a breeze! (This is something I have yet to do.)
  3. Choose 6-7 meals for each week.  Every once in a while, plan for a family dinner at a restaurant or a date night with your spouse.
  4. I like to keep my meal plan and grocery list on the same page.   No extra time is spent going back and forth from page to page to figure out what ingredients are needed for the different meals. 
Additional Tips: 
  • I don't write in the dates until I have already printed out the list.  Keeping the document dateless makes it easier to recycle the list later on. 
  • I limit each week's selection to 2-3 meat meals, 2-3 meatless meals, one salad-only meal, and I try to always include vegetables with each meal.
  • I take into account nights where we are going to need to eat quickly (Wednesdays are Awana nights), so I plan very quick and easy meals for those nights.
  • I only plan on using two different types of meats each week.  I'm very stingy with meat since it's not cheap.  ;) 
  • I try to cook meat one night a week and use it for multiple meals throughout the week. 
  • Don't forget to include groceries needed for ALL meals for the week in the grocery list:  breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner. 
  • I write down lunch, breakfast, and snack plans at the bottom of the page as a reminder of what we have on hand.  Otherwise, I forget what we have and we end up eating a hodgepodge of random things that I find in the pantry for lunches and breakfasts.  
  • Write yourself helpful notes with reminders that will help you prepare for the meal the next day, such as getting an appliance out of storage or taking meat out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge overnight.
You can type up your meal plans & grocery lists and keep them in Google Docs (as I do) or just write them out in a notebook. Whatever floats your boat.  ;)

Below is an example of one of my weekly lists.

I print out the pages and keep them in a binder or folder in the kitchen. The current week's plans are hung up with a small Command Fridge Clip on my pantry door in the kitchen.   I'll bring the printed list with me to the grocery store or I look at my list through the Google Drive app on my phone.

Let me know if you have given this a try and what has worked for you.

Happy Meal Planning!

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