Guest post from Kristi of Klover House
I have talked with so many moms over the past few months, and I can’t believe how often I’ve heard them voicing frustration when it comes to meal planning.
I used to be in that camp, too! With my planners, and whiteboards, and calendars, and cookbooks, and lists everywhere… I found myself throwing away food way too often, erasing and rewriting my plan over and over again, and abandoning my plans month after month. It left me so frustrated.
We were wasting money, and I was stressing out daily.
Friends, no more.
I am no longer frustrated, stressed or wasteful. This method has saved my sanity and my budget. I am so happy to share it with all of you.
To follow my process, simply…
1. Evaluate what you already have.
I quickly take a peek at three separate areas: the pantry, the refrigerator/freezer, and my baking supply cupboard, that holds our baking powder, soda, corn starch, honey, extracts, coffees, teas, etc.
I go shopping every two weeks. I used to go once a month, but with more children came more trips to the store. I have found that going every pay day makes the best sense for our family.
I use what we still have on hand to inspire and drive the next list of meals. For example, if I have Red Hot, chicken, buns, and leftover fruit salad from the previous day, I’ll plan for buffalo chicken sandwiches and fruit salad on “grocery day”, so I’m able to plan ahead even when the inventory seems impossibly low. Sometimes, we’ll just simply use that day as our “Order Pizza” day to avoid the scramble after a long day of shopping with my four little ones.
2. Draft your two-columned list.
On the lefthand side, I have the day/date. On the righthand side, I have my list of 18-22 meals usually.
I shop every two weeks, typically, so having a few extra options on my list gives me the flexibility to change my mind or roll meals over to the next list. (I save all of my previous lists as inspiration, and I also rely on Pinterest, other bloggers’ recommendations, my favorite cookbook, and a catalog of long standing family-favorite recipes.)
My list always looks like this:
3. Prepare to grocery shop.
Using my list of possible meals as a guide, I create my grocery list based off of what I already have and what I still need.
I create my list using meals that are versatile and that can compliment one another in the event that there are leftovers. For example, if pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes is an item and fajitas is an item, I will plan to use my leftover tenderloin as my fajita meat that week.
By using leftovers effectively and creatively, my family doesn’t get bored with what I am serving them, and I am almost never wasting food. If I make spaghetti and meatballs, I’ll leave a large portion of meatballs plain to be thrown into wedding soup or stuffed peppers that week.
By planning meals in this way, you are saving time, money, and sanity. Trust me.
4. Keep it consistent and basic.
I keep my list simple. I don’t go into great detail for multiple reasons.
I’ll write chicken and mushrooms. It may end up being a pasta dish paired with roasted cherry tomatoes and a garlic lemon butter sauce, or it could become a marsala dish served over mashed potatoes.
I consistently stock up on fruits and vegetables (many frozen), and I will make a more detailed decision on the dish the day before or the morning of, depending on what I have left and its state of freshness.
I love this system, because it is so easy to take a quick glance and create a plan for each day. If I open my refrigerator and see that the strawberries won’t last much longer, I’ll choose that night for a chicken and strawberry salad with poppyseed dressing. I may even have my husband grill a double batch of chicken and plan to use it later in the week.
Work and plan smarter, not harder.
5. Keep track of meals prepared using the simple number system.
If chicken parmesan is #7, and I am making it on August 12th, I simply write #7 next to August 12th, and I cross it off the list on the righthand side. I know that I am taking a meal to a family on August 5th, and stuffed chicken breasts seems like a good choice for that, so I will make it for us as well.
By coordinating our inventory, likes, budget, and plans, I can easily make a realistic meal plan that spans each two-week timeframe.
6. Include “the usuals” and the special events.
We have a pizza night, an eat out night, and a date night scheduled on each plan. Do we get to have those consistently? Nope. But I plan for them.
I also include any other dinner plans as their own number. We recently held our daughter’s birthday party at dinnertime, so “Isla’s Party” was assigned a number.
Using my list in conjunction with my monthly planner/calendar helps me in making the best possible plan for our family. By using the two-weeks-at-a-time method, I am never overwhelmed, caught-off-guard, or scrambling. Flexibility, accuracy, and simplicity makes this technique ideal for our family.
7. Keep your lists handy.
I save all of my previous lists and keep them handy. You can do this with a binder, an envelope, or simply by tucking them in your cookbook. I also like to take a picture of my lists so that I can reference them quickly on my phone while I’m out or if I lose my paper list.
By keeping all of my previous lists, I am creating a library of meals from which to choose when it comes time to plan for the next two weeks. I never have to think too hard when it comes to meal planning, because I’ve already done the legwork ahead of time.
Again, work smarter not harder, and you’ll be a “Meal Planning Mama” in no time!
If you’d like to see more of my plans, visit us on Instagram @kristi_kloverhouse.
It is my hope that this system helps you to make the most of your budget and your groceries, while giving you the inspiration and freedom to create delicious, healthy and affordable meals for the people you love without frying your brain cells in the process!
Kristi is a former elementary teacher and ministry school graduate turned SAHM mom to four spunky blondies (and one sweet Heaven Baby). She writes about faith, family, food, and occasionally, random diy projects. She is also the owner/designer behind Eden Gray Clothing, using her four daughters and three nieces as the never-ending inspiration behind her dressmaking (and excuse for her undeniable fabric addiction). Babies, budgets, and beautiful things are her passion. Kristi blogs at Klover House.