Hello there! It’s been a while. A lot has happened since my last posting! We’re finally finished with the holidays, which was not all that great for me this year. While I did get to have my favorite part of Christmas – time with my family & friends – I was pretty sick the whole time, so I was more than ready for that part to be over.
I typically don’t participate in new year’s resolutions, but this year felt different somehow. For the first time that I can remember, I’m not going to be headed back to classes or school this month (YAY early graduation!), and I know that 2017 is going to bring a lot of changes with it. So, I decided that this year I want to finally get organized. I mean, everything. The house and everything in it, regular posting on this blog, and (here comes the big one) – meal planning!
Meal planning and organization is the topic of this post for a few reasons. First, it’s cost and time effective to plan your meals and do some prep ahead of time. Just think of the time and money that we spend on last-minute trips to the grocery store! 5 minutes to realize you don’t have what you need for dinner, 10 minutes to get to the store and back, 15-20 minutes to find what you need and check out, and you haven’t even started dinner yet. No thanks! The second reason for posting on this subject is that recently, meals and eating in general have become more difficult for me. Within the past few months I began eating a gluten-free diet, hoping to clear up some health difficulties I was having. The good news is that I feel much better; the change in diet has really seemed to help! The not-so-good news is that I can’t have my very favorite foods anymore (soft, doughy bread, I miss you so much!), and I’ve had to reimagine a lot of my favorite recipes. Some ingredients used in GF versions of certain recipes were totally foreign to me. I had no idea that rice flour was a thing until a couple months ago! With that being said, my grocery list looks a lot different than normal and I’m bound to forget something important unless I plan out our meals and organize my grocery list for the week.
The final reason I’m talking about meal planning is because I just don’t have as much free time to run to the store if needed, and I know you don’t either! This week I started a new job as a substitute teacher at a local daycare and preschool center, and I’ve already seen how unpredictable, last-minute schedule changes can affect my routine! I was planning on getting this post out yesterday, but that went out the window when I got called at 10:00 Sunday night to come in for a full day Monday! This only reinforced my idea that meal planning is a positive for me.
I found this pretty menu planner at Michael’s craft store, and it has come in handy already! Bonus: it was only $4 and it fits in my purse! The inside has the perfect layout. The left side leaves space to write in your planned meals for the week, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day. The right has a nicely laid-out shopping list template. It leaves spaces for produce, dairy, canned and frozen goods, household items, meat, baking goods & spices, packaged items, and any extras or miscellaneous items. This was really nice to use in the store because everything was grouped by what section of the store I could find it in.
I used a different paper pad to write out all of my go-to lunch and dinner recipes in a list, then just plugged them into the planner. Of course, you have to account for any leftovers that you’ll have at the end of the week. I usually don’t plan anything for meals on the weekends because we either eat leftovers or go out to eat either with friends/family or as a date night 🙂
Here’s the catch of meal planning: you have to actually do it! For a long time, I was someone who had a loose idea of what I needed for the next few days or even a week, and I would just go to the store and buy whatever. But that’s expensive and time-wasting, plus you have to deal with this conversation (you know the one..) “What do you want for dinner?” “I dunno, what do you want?” “I asked you first!” Ugh. Again, no thanks.
Here’s another feature of this planner that I love. Fridge and pantry inventory. Yes! This situation happens too often – I think I have canned corn in the pantry, so I don’t pick it up at the store. Then I get home and make dinner, and what’s missing from the pantry? Yep, canned corn. Insert any food item in place of “canned corn” and I’ve probably forgotten than thing too. The inventory feature is nice because I can look at what I definitely do or do not have (and how much of it!) when I’m not at home. Disclaimer: When I took this photo, I hadn’t completed filling out the page yet, and hadn’t even started on the pantry, so don’t go thinking we only eat vegetables and applesauce for every meal! Lol.
I realize that there is probably a whole slew of apps for this, but I really enjoy writing things down. It helps me remember a little better and I don’t get distracted looking at my phone in the grocery store 🙂 Well, there it is: almost everything I can tell you about meal planning. If you’re a meal planning pro (or if you’ve been doing it longer than 2 weeks!) I would love to hear your ideas and tips in the comments!
Thanks for reading!