Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Meal Planning by Mae

Mama in Montana is proud to welcome Mae from Strive for Progress back to continue her lessons on meal planning. Take a look at the next steps to help your family get the most out of your budget, time and meals!

My last few weeks have been crazier then I thought! Guess what? We always had a meal to eat because I always had a plan! That is why you are here today to learn more about menu planning and how to make your food dinnertime come successfully not frightfully! I want to apologize that it took me so long to get back to Mama In Montana!

Did you take my advice since my last post? You were supposed to break three weeks up and do a few easy steps each week to figure out what your schedule was like, what your family likes for food, where to find coupons for the stores and products you shop for. You were also supposed to try some new recipes and find where you can save some money with coupons if you would like.

Now that you have accomplished all the steps from the last post here is what you need to do. Once a week or a month, assuming you have your weekly/monthly activities planned out on the calendar, sit with your recipes and your calendar. Have about 4-5 dinners recipes, 2-3 different breakfast and about that many lunch recipes that you want to use that week. Plug those recipes into the days. Here is a screen shot of my menu planning software that I use (I will give you details of meal planning software on my next guest post).  (Click to enlarge)

This meal plan was my “Vegetarian Delight” meal plan from my blog. For breakfasts I do oatmeal on the busiest mornings, we rotate through different kinds of cooked grains, so it is not just the same old rolled oats every time. I like to make a baked goodie for breakfast once or twice a week. I also treat my kids and I to a breakfast at our favorite coffee shop. This particular week we had muffins two days in a row, I simply made enough muffins to last two days. Lunches are leftovers (which can consist of dinner or breakfast leftovers) and smoothies most the time. Sometimes I will do PBJ’s or mac and cheese.

I am a very creative person in the kitchen, I rarely do the same recipe twice, if I do it’s because we ALL liked it as a family or it’s a fast recipe that I can do super quick! You will notice on this week I had more lunch leftover meals then dinner leftover meals. Just remember the more times you can have leftovers the less expensive your meal plan will be. I am an all organic girl, most everything I buy is from my town's co-op and it’s not cheap! So I am all about what can I make organic and keep it cheap. Leftovers are a great way to do that. Another tip to saving money is making items from scratch. Anything you can from scratch is almost always cheaper and you can add more variety in your meal plan that way. For instance, I make my own hamburger buns and I make my own pitas & hummus. Those are made for just pennies instead of buying pre-made ones at the store. So keep cost down by using leftovers and making your own things. One other way you can keep costs down is making a meal that has ingredients you can use in future meals. For instance you can make hamburgers one night and the next night use leftover hamburger in a spaghetti sauce or tacos. Build meals on top of each other. I will sometimes have waffles or pancakes for dinner and make enough extra for breakfast. Below is one other example of a meal plan from my “A Taste Of Italy” meal plan. Both of these meal plans and more are on my blog. I post a new meal plan every week. (Click to enlarge)

Now that you have the basics and some ideas to create your meal plan, you’ll need to contend with your shopping list. This is easier then you think but a little time consuming and that is where technology is awesome but for the next few weeks just do it with plain old paper and a pen. On a notepad create different columns. Meat, Dairy, Produce, Spices/Baking, Dry Goods, Frozen, Can/Jar, Misc. Go through your recipes and start putting what you need down in each category. Be sure you write your list close to the kitchen. You want to be able to jump up to check your cupboards or just write it all down and check your list before you go to the store. If you are uber organized or slightly OCD (like me! lol) you can take that notebook paper and re-write your list in the order of how you will walk down your store isles. Since I started using a planning program I do not do that now.

Now that you have your list, grab your coupons if you need them and get on your way! Spend the next three of four weeks planning your meals this way. When I return I will be telling you about an awesome program you can use to make meal plans using technology. You may be wondering why I don’t tell you now. Well basically when you learn how to do something “from scratch” then you understand it and get better at it. It will make learning the technology part “that” much easier! Now go forth and plan!!!

Mae is the writer and owner of At Strive For Progress, Mae aims to inspire and motivate people in everyday life. She lives in the USA with her highschool sweetheart Mike, three beautiful kiddlets, a lovable Great Dane and a crazy tabby cat!

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