Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Monthly Meal Planning...

I know, right?  MONTHLY meal planning?!  I'm crazy, right?  Nope.  I did this for most of my 15 married years but mysteriously, suddenly quit doing it about 3.5 years ago.  Actually, I know precisely when I did.  The August that we decided to homeschool and buy a house within two months of each other!  What were we thinking?!  Oh yeah.  That's right.  We weren't.

Well, needless to say, I never recovered from throwing two major life decisions (and adjustments) together for a wee bit 'o fun!  Several times over these past 3+ years, I've tried to go to a weekly menu planning system.... and I can't do it.  My brain JUST. DOESN'T. WORK. LIKE. THAT.  It's weird.  I couldn't get motivated until I realized that weekly meal planning required, well, a LOT more work!  More planning sessions.  More trips to the store.  More. More. More.  Blech.  I'm trying to do Less. Less. Less.  This wasn't working.

So, I went back to what worked for 12 years of our marriage.  Monthly meal planning.  To some, that may be overwhelming but I say to them... it is freeing.  Really.

This is how I do it:
* Sit down in a comfy chair, a yummy drink, and a month calendar print out

* Look at your calendar for activities you already KNOW you have for the month and plan meals for those nights FIRST.

* Allow one or two nights for take-out, especially on those crazy, busy nights.  Monthly meal planning helps us TREMENDOUSLY in NOT eating out!

* Then, plug in favorite meals, easy meals, meals for Sundays, meals for your "crunch" day or late-night days.

* Allow for leftovers some nights.

* Plug-in a few new recipes to try.  You know, to keep things exciting!

*Make a grocery list from the calendar, post the calendar somewhere and go to the store (wait for your paycheck, if you need to first, though).  Either shop for the month, with a couple of "fresh fruits and veggie" runs OR shop per paycheck (which is every two weeks for us, splitting the calendar in half).

... and you should have your 30ish days covered!

Here's the benefits of Monthly Meal Planning:
* IT SAVES MONEY!  No more last minute trips to the store, impulse buying or getting take out because dinner time is approaching, you have nothing planned and your brain hurts from trying to think of something.  Trust me, I've been there! This way, allows you to put eating out in its place - as a special treat - not the norm!

* IT SIMPLIFIES SHOPPING!  The grocery list is made directly from your calendar and so you have all the ingredients you might need right before you, in ONE planning session.  Trips to the store are minimized.  Less money is spent.  No more endlessly wandering the store for what might be good to eat!

* IT CLEARS THE BRAIN!  Gone are questions like "What's for dinner?" from your spouse, kids or even yourself!  No more afternoon panic about what to make. You've taken the task of thinking about dinner (which is often overwhelming at the last minute) from dread to ease!  You gave yourself the gift of pre-planning and room in your brain for other important things.  Like Pinterest ideas! :)  

* IT PROVIDES FLEXIBILITY!  I get some pushback on this one every once in awhile.  Some feel locked into having to eat what they wrote down in each square.  Not so!  If you arrive at June 14 and you aren't feeling the Chicken Parmesan you scheduled, NO PROBLEM!  Switch it with another day's meals.  If you've already gone grocery shopping, you've got the ingredients.  Flip them around!  If this is still a concern for you, plan more new recipes to add interest into your dinners!

* IT SAVES MONEY!  Yes, I know this is a repeat but it's true and worth repeating!  If you've shopped for the month or even two weeks at a time, dinners are in the bag!  Should your month run tight with an unexpected bill, guess what?  Grocery money won't be an issue because you've got the stuff necessary to make your meals!  

I love, love planning out meals a month at a time and I'm sorry to have abandoned it for so long!  How do you plan your family's meals? Weekly? Monthly?

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