I’ve written a number of times already about how I subscribe to the FlyLady way of “keeping house.” One of things I love about FlyLady is that each month she focuses on developing a new habit. One month it was making the bed every day, another month it was not letting your laundry turn in “Mount Washmore.” And this month, she is focusing on meal planning.
I feel like I’m already ahead of the game because I started meal planning in earnest a few months ago. But given that the holidays are coming up–and many of us could be entertaining (and feeding) more people than usual–now more than ever you need meal planning to keep your food shopping on budget and to ensure that no food you’ve bought goes to waste.
Here are 3 things for you to keep in mind.
1. Shop via the supermarket circular
For those who are used to meal planning based on what’s on sale at the supermarket, this is a no brainer. You take time to look through the circular and then you plan your meals accordingly. If it’s not on sale, you don’t get it. And sometimes what you would like to serve your family isn’t on sale, and you need to deal with it and figure out what you can serve that is on sale. But enough about that. Next time you pick up a supermarket circular, don’t just think about the next week’s meals–think ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Are there items on sale that you’re going to need for your family meal? Will you be doing a lot of baking five weeks from now? If you find baking supplies on sale, don’t wait until December to get them–buy them now. Case in point: my supermarket had Ghihardelli chocolate chips on sale this week ($2/bag versus the usual $3.50/bag) and cake mix ($10 for 10 boxes) so I stocked up. Now when I get a memo home from school that I need to make chocolate chip cookies or cupcakes for a class party, I won’t have to rush to the store and pay full price for baking supplies. You can stock up on other items that will last until December, such as canned or frozen vegetables, or loaves of bread (stick them in the freezer).
2. Meal planning doesn’t have to be a big production
For the longest time I assumed that people who meal-planned laid out each meal like a restaurant lays out a four-course meal. In other words they would have details down to the last ingredient for appetizers through dessert. Now while it’s important to make sure that you have ingredients you need on hand, you don’t have to freak yourself out each week by making elaborate meal plans. Instead, you can treat meal planning like you do your weekly shopping list.
In my house, for example, I have a notepad on a magnet that is stuck to my refrigerator door. As we run out of items, we jot down what we need to get the next time I go food shopping. Well, these days I’ve got a second list going, and it is simply a list of what I could potentially serve for dinner, based on what I was able to buy at the supermarket this week.
I went food shopping yesterday, and here’s what I’ve got on the list:
Grilled chicken sandwiches and potatoes (We had this last night.)
* Pasta with salad and/or turkey meatballs or chicken parmigiana
* Chicken drumsticks in the CrockPot with rice
* Breakfast 4 Dinner
* Chicken stir-fry
* DIY pizza
See how easy that is? And I’ve got all of the information I need to walk into the kitchen and make dinner. I haven’t committed myself to which day I’ll serve what but at least I won’t be standing at the fridge, starving at 5:00, wondering, “What the heck am I going to feed my family tonight?”
3. Check your calendar and stick to your plan
I know how easy it is to come home after a long day of work and kids’ sports and other commitments and just want to call the local pizza joint. Trust me, in my old spendthrift days, that was my common fallback plan. But if you can plan ahead, based on what kind of day you’re going to have, you can still plan to cook at home so that you save money and don’t waste food.
Today, for example, we have a jam-packed afternoon, with about an hour’s window of free time to eat dinner together. That’s why at 7:00 a.m. this morning I was prepping chicken drumsticks for the CrockPot so that they could cook all day and be ready for dinner in that hour of free time between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. I’ll cook some rice in the microwave and may open a can of corn, too, and in 15 minutes flat, dinner will be on the table. This is why it’s so critical to check your calendar each day so that you can stick to your meal plans.
Let me know how you make the power of meal planning work for you.