Yes that's right. I like to plan my meals a month at a time. I can't take credit for this idea. My amazing friend, who lives WAY too far away, is the one who got me started on it. I had no idea that planning meals that far in advance was efficient or even possible.
I think most of us hate planning meals. It is a time consuming task that just stresses us out. We can probably all agree that planning a week at a time is doable. Well if you go back and look at your plans you would probably notice that what you eat each week doesn't change all that much. Keeping that in mind lets get ready to plan.
First decide on a format. I use an Excel spreadsheet because it is easy for me. You can write it on paper if that what works best for you. I do recommend having it on a sheet of paper that you can hang on the fridge.
I have a column for the "day" "date" "lunch" and "dinner". You can decide if planning lunches is important to you or not. I like it because I'm home all day long. It also gives me a spot to plan for weekend lunch's which are usually more important.
At the bottom I have a spot to record leftovers and dinner that we skipped for some reason. Write down your leftovers and either what day they were made or what day you should throw them out. At night before you start the dishwasher glance at your list and see if you need to toss out a leftover that is past it's date. This prevents me from finding mystery food in my fridge.
Record any changes you make to your meal plan. Cross out what you skipped and write in what you had instead. It will help you see what you family really likes and if your plan was good or not. It helps our family realize when we are eating out too often! Write your skipped meal down at the bottom so you can use it later, maybe even next month.
1. Identify any days of the week that you may be really busy and not have much time to cook. You will want to plan something simple. A crock pot meal, Spaghetti or leftovers works great for those days.
2. Give your favorite meal a special day of the week. (You know the meal that your family eats once a week even if you don't plan on it) We like Tacos on Wednesdays and Pancakes on Sundays.
3. Next pick a day of the week that is convenient for you to try new recipes. If you do this you will get to try 4 new meals a month. Not bad.
4. Sit down with your recipe box/cook books. Make a list of all the meals that your family likes. Put them in 2 categories, "Fast" and "Needs some time but SO worth it" :o) Don't forget to put down those really quick meals that don't have recipes. Like fried egg sandwiches and grilled cheese. You are going to plan from this list so don't forget anything you like. As you find new recipes that your family enjoys add them to this list.
5. Gather together your recipes that you have been meaning to try. (if you have any)
These are the steps that you will do each month. Get Ready and Get Set are done for good!
STEP 1: Write in any SPECIAL PLANS you may have. There will be plenty of days that you will not have to cook at home. Also note the days that you will need to make something special for company. (i.e. birthday party, brunch out with family, pizza for the big game etc...)
STEP 2: Write in your FAVORITE MEALS on their special days.
STEP 3: Make note of your BUSY DAYS and fill in a quick and easy meal. Another idea is to plan a meal that usually has left overs (like lasagna) two days before your busy day and plan to have the leftovers.
STEP 4: Pick out 4 NEW RECIPES you want to try and put them on their designated "new recipe day."
Hey look, You don't have that many days left!
The Picture below is my January meal plan. I highlighted the leftovers, new recipes, Taco Tuesday, Pancake Sunday and Dinners out. I did this just to show you that by step #5 all I had to do was fill in the white spaces.
STEP 5: Using your MEAL LIST start from the top begin filling in your meals. You already have them written down and categorized. Remember to plan for the leftovers. (example: Tue-Macaroni Chili. Thu-Leftover Macaroni Chili.) Don't hesitate to repeat meals. It is WAY normal to have the same meal 3 or more times in the same month.
STEP 6: RELAX and don't do this again for an entire month!
I hope you try this at least once. It is really an amazing feeling to have your meals all planned and not have to worry about it for the whole month. Planning a week at a time makes me feel like I am planning constantly. Monthly planning also helps you view the big picture and gets those new recipes out of your recipe box and onto the table.
Remember to be flexible. I always make changes to my plan. If you don't feel like eating what is planned switch it with something else. It's not the order that matters it's that you have a month worth of meals planned and in the house.
Good Luck and Happy Planning!