May 14, 2014

How to Create a Meal Plan || Part One

This is part one of a three part series on how to create a 
{weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly} meal plan. 

How to create a Meal Plan. A must read! The Graffitied Gardenia

Have you ever gone grocery shopping the beginning of the month bought a whole cart full of stuff, checked out and it's a shocking $150, then you get home and don't even know what you bought or what you're going to have for dinner. Then later in the week, you run out of toilet paper run into Target for JUST ONE THING, check out $75 later...oh, did you even remember the toilet paper? Now it's Friday you're stressing at work wondering what to make for dinner, search Pinterest and find something that sounds oh so delicious, just need to stop at the grocery store to pick up a few items, $50 later you have everything for dinner. Now it's the following week, you realize you've already spent $275 on...what really? You spend 15 minutes looking in your fridge, freezer, and fridge again; they are packed, but you still have nothing to make, you throw out the moldy.......something, while you're looking.  Then wonder why you never finished those delicious leftovers you made last Friday night and now they are bad too, throw that away. In the zone, you spend another 20 minutes cleaning out the fridge throwing out half a garbage can worth of stuff. This is so annoying! Let's just order pizza, but we don't have any money until payday...whatever just charge it. Oh, and don't forget a side of wings and bread sticks! 

Sound familiar? 

Let me break it down for you. 

  • You've spent $275 at the grocery store and don't know what to make for dinner.
  • You charged pizza, wings, and bread sticks let's say it's $35, you only pay the minimum on your credit card each month (that already has a balance of $7,000), so in what five, ten, fifteen, twenty years you'll finally pay off that pizza purchase. 
  • In a week and a half you've gone to the grocery store three times. 
  • You spend more time worrying about what's for dinner that actually enjoying dinner. 

I want to help you, this is a vicious cycle of super annoying. I was like this and something needed to change. I have been working on my "system" for a few years now. I've changed it, revamped, tried this and that, ready books, read blogs, pulling bits and pieces from everywhere to make the system that works for me. I have come to a glorious place of meal planning peace. Now I'm addicted I love meal planning! Awesome for you! 


I've broken it down into three sections, so you can take it all in:
  • Meal Planning Basics ~ this post 
  • Creating Your Meal Plan and Shopping List ~ Part Two Here 
  • Grocery Shopping, including my real list, budget, and timed shopping trips ~ Part Three Here

This is going to be a BUNCH of information - don't freak out! 
Stay with me...

>> The Basics >>

1. Do what works for your family

2. Set a food budget

3. Organize

4. Make a staple shopping list

5. Make a skeleton meal plan

6. Fill in your skeleton plan with recipes - part two

7. Make a shopping list - part two

8. Grocery Store - part three 

9. Put away food, organize - part three 

10. Post your weekly plan


>> The Basics Detailed >>

Again, this is my meal planning system. Feel free to pick it apart and use or don't use whatever you like. You have to do what works best for your family, this is what works best for ours. It's a trial and error process until you find out what fits. I did a run down of my system a couple years ago on the blog and since moving to another state, different work schedule, and having only one car; I've changed how I meal plan. I will be listing my steps, then a few alternate ideas for you. This might seem like a lot until you see the end results and realize having a plan saves you time and money. 

1. Do what works for your family! 
  • Does it work better to shop weekly or every other week 
  • Does it work better to prep all dinners on one day 
  • What grocery store is closest to your house 
  • What's more important saving money, saving time, or both 
  • What do you like to eat

2. What is your food budget? 
  • If you don't have or know what your budget is then no wonder you are stressed out. I can't even imagine not having a budget anymore, it makes me anxious just to think about. Before people have a budget - they think it's limiting, too much work, stressful, or depressing. But I can tell you for myself and my husband, we have never felt more free. Having a budget and knowing you don't have to worry about if things are getting paid is FREEDOM. Living within your means is FREEDOM. (I'll talk more about regular budgets in another post, I'm very passionate about budgeting. I know first hand what a difference it can make.) 
  • You need to plan recipes that work within your budget. We are a family of 2 adults, our monthly food budget is $300 (+ $80 a month for date night, $20 a week). This also includes any household items needed (shampoo, toilet paper, cleaning stuff, foil), some people separate it out but I think it's easier to lump it together. WARNING: I will talk about money and use really numbers, I'm not sure why so many people freak out when talking about money. I can't help you or share with you if I'm not willing to be totally transparent with how we live. 
  • If you've never made a budge before, Dave Ramsey in Financial Peace University suggests 5% - 15% of your monthly take home income. 
  • If you are in debt (give or take a house debt, all situations are different), I recommend the smallest food budget that you can handle and put the rest of the money toward getting out of debt, especially if you have credit card debt. Want to get out of debt? I like Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University & And Then We Saved ~ both have awesome information and ideas. 

3. Organize. 
  • Organize your fridge, pantry, cupboards, freezer. 
  • Organizing will save you time and money. 
  • Decide what works best for you to meal plan - pencil and paper, excel spreadsheet, a program. I used to use a excel spreadsheet to do everything then a friend told me about Plan to Eat, I love it! 

>> Plan to Eat >>

  • Plan to Eat is a website that stores all your recipes (you either enter manually, copy and paste, or using an add recipe button). 
  • There is a calendar and you drag and drop your recipes into the desired day you'd like to make the recipe. 
  • Since your recipe is linked to the date with amount of ingredients, the site also creates a shopping list for you. 
  • You can share recipes with other Plan to Eat people or email to friends. You can store recipes you want to make in your queue so you don't forget. 
  • You can save menus and label them, I save my menus a month at a time then the next year I drag and drop the whole month into the calendar and edit it from there. 
  • One of my favorite things is you can add your own pictures to your recipes, it makes me feel like I'm Pioneer Woman. 
  • You can create a staple shopping list for items you always want to have on hand, then add them to your shopping list. 
  • iPhone/iPad and Android friendly, I use my iPhone to check off items from my shopping list each week. 
The service is $39 a year, worth every penny. I'm am not sponsored by Plan to Eat in anyway, I just love the product. But if you did sign up with this link, I would get a $4 referral credit. It has nothing to do with me, it's their system, you could get the same thing if you had someone sign up with your unique code. Look at it like you're buying me a Starbucks for introducing you to my favorite meal planning site! 

4. Make a staple shopping list. 
  • These are things you want to always have on hand. Soap, toilet paper, cereal, chocolate chips (I think every house should always have supplies to make chocolate chip cookies), ect. 

>> My Staple List >>

This is my staple list for reference. I've done a price comparison of majority of these items, that will be in a different post. (Yes, I'm a super nerd like that.) Do you also like my Bath and Body Works list for seasons? I love sensory memory and the sense of smell is unbelievable. I have my scents for the bathroom hand soap to bring in the season. We can go to the next level of crazy if you like...I have a "fun" perfume, I wear it on select occasions when I know I'm going to do something really fun or creative. It's amazing how good it works! As soon as I put it on - I feel excited, inspired, and creative! 

5. Make a skeleton meal plan. 
  • This is a generic outline of what you want your weeks to look like. Chicken, vegetable, breakfast, snack, ect. This will help you organize your week, two week, or month period before thinking about recipes. 

>> My Skeleton Plan >>

MONDAY: Vegetarian, this is a new thing for us. But once a week I think it's good to try and it's opened up a whole new recipe search for me.

TUESDAY: Chicken.

WEDNESDAY: Simple, breakfast for dinner, soup, grilled cheese, quesadilla, mac and cheese. This is very budget friendly as well, helps to spread the food budget throughout the month. 

THURSDAY: Leftover night - This is a must for eliminating food wastes, we have very little food wastes. I'd say almost none. I have a shelf in our fridge dedicated to leftovers, on leftover night everything comes out and you create your own meal....oh it's as weird and delicious as it sounds! Pretty sure one night I had a pancake, piece of bacon, some refried beans, and pineapple.

FRIDAY: Date night! We have a weekly $20 budget for date night. Friday night comes and we have a twenty dollar bill and then we decide what we want to do. It's really fun to have this time together. We also can't over spend because it's cash! We've been doing this for a few years now. It's also great to see how creative we are with making the twenty last, any leftover money we get to spend on the weekend.

SATURDAY: No plan, this is what I was talking about for do what works for your family. I found that doing a no plan day was perfect. If anything got messed up during the week and switched, I'll move that dinner here. Or if we have way to much leftovers we'll finish them here. Or we'll just make a frozen pizza (on my staple list).

SUNDAY: Beef or Pork, I rotate each week.

SWEET: I love baking, so I usually plan one sweet a week. 

BREAKFAST: We have oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, or fresh fruit. 

LUNCH: We have leftovers or peanut butter and jelly. 

  • When you make a skeleton plan you see the big picture of what you need to do. It sounds like a lot for me to do a monthly meal plan, but if you notice I'm really only planning a meal 3-4 nights a week. 

10. Post your weekly plan.
  • Post your weekly meal plan so you know what is happening next - piece of paper on the fridge, on your phone calendar, chalkboard, whatever works for you. 
  • I have a chalkboard sticker that is in my kitchen on my pantry door, I write my weekly plan on it; if you've followed my weekly meal plans, those pictures are of my door. 
  • This is good for two reasons - one, you don't need to think about what your making that night, just look. Two, you can prep anything for the next night. When I'm cooking for tonight's dinner, I'll look to see what we're having the next night and put anything that needs to defrost in the fridge. Most items will defrost nicely (and safely) overnight in the fridge. 

That's it for this post, good job hanging in there! Come back Friday when I post about creating your meal plan.

If you try any of this, I'd love to hear from you! Post in comment section.

{you are beautiful and wonderfully made}

No comments:

Post a Comment

Love to hear from you...