Time and Money. Two things that cause me great stress.
Most Saturday mornings I spend a good chunk of time planning out my family's meals for the week ahead. I enjoy searching the Internet for new recipes and lingering over my cookbooks looking for recipes that my family likes but that I haven't made for awhile. I find that the weeks I take the time to do this run smoother because I know what I am making for dinner the second I walk in the door from work. These weeks also cost less because my grocery shopping is organized and I am less likely to fallback on pizza. This plan greatly lowers my stress because I am ultimately saving time and money.
However, the weeks that I don't have time to plan out our meals don't go as well. I'm often flying aimlessly through the grocery store late on a Sunday night throwing random items in my cart. When I get home from work I stand and stare in the freezer and cupboard hoping a brilliant idea will pop out at me. I return to the grocery store one or two more times during the week to pick up forgotten items. A pizza box (or two!) and bags from fast food restaurants can be found in our garbage. My stress level is high and my debit card is on fire.
Looking at the weeks ahead, I know that our weekends are going to be busy. Sitting down on Saturday mornings with a cup of hot coffee surrounded by my cookbooks is not going to be happening. But today I had plenty of time. It dawned on me - why not plan an entire month's worth of meals at one time. I expected it to take quite awhile, but it surprisingly only took me 30 minutes!
Here's what I did:
1) Made a list of 30 meals that I make for my family. I listed whatever came to mind from simple suppers such as grilled cheese with tomato soup to more complicated meals like lasagna to classic family favorites such as pancakes.
2) Divided the list into chicken, beef, breakfast, sandwiches, pasta and difficult dinners. This made it easy to make sure I spread the meals out and hadn't planned things like three chicken dishes one week and none the next.
3) Looked up five new recipes that looked good to try (one new recipe a week!).
4) Used five sheets of paper to list Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc. to represent each week.
5) Divided my list of 35 meals between the five weeks. I took things into consideration such as simple meals on my Zumba nights. Crockpot meals on Fridays because I am always exhausted. More complicated meals on Sundays because I often have more times on Sundays.
Bam! I'm done! Five weeks of meals planned and ready to go. I couldn't believe how easy it was. In fact my meal plan came together so fast that I had time to write up five shopping lists.
I know that this sounds like such a simple idea, but I am so excited about it! Obviously, I will need to have flexibility depending on exactly what is going on each week (If you've read my earlier posts you know I struggle with that!). And I am giving myself three Pizza Coupons to use during the five weeks (I LOVE pizza!).
35 Meals in 30 Minutes. I'm expecting this meal plan to greatly reduce my stress and help keep my budget on target (which also reduces my stress level!). I can't wait to get cookin'!