Now you’ve done it. You’ve made that resolution. You know the one we make every year: “We’re going to cook more meals from scratch.” or “We’re going to eat at home more” or “We’re going to cut our food budget in half” or “We’re going to eat more healthy meals”. Yeah, we make those every year, and you might make it til the 4th or 5th day, and give up because you’ve already run out of ideas for what you have in the cabinets, or you’re tired of making a run to the grocery store everyday.
Well, have I got the solution for you!
It can make you rich!
It can give you a flat belly!
It can make you more attractive to the opposite sex!
It can remove those stubborn wrinkles and chin hair!
Oh..that’s not right. That’s a lot to ask of any ‘program’ or ‘scheme’ or ‘method’.
Meal planning can be as elaborate as planning out every meal, with a custom shopping list, down to the ounces of salt you’ll use that week. Or it can be as quick and easy as jotting down something in hopes that it’s what you’ll eat during the week. The idea of just giving yourself a basic guideline is a great start to what meal planning can do for you:
- Helps you manage your time
- Helps you save money
- Helps you be prepared for whatever comes your way during the week
- Helps you prepare more healthy meal
- Helps you build a better pantry!
Each day of this challenge will bring you another installment in ways to help you plan your meals, get organized with your meals, and put food on the table every night that didn’t come from a fast food joint and build your pantry for an emergency. You can modify this to fit your family’s needs to make it work best for you. While we’re focusing on the evening meal for the most part, you can expand this whole process for every meal of the day. Remember, this is just how I do my menu planning. There are also other great systems out there.
DAY ONE: THE MEAL GUIDE AND RECIPE CARDS
It’s a fact. Eating at home with prepared meals is less expensive, more healthy, and takes up more time than eating out. I don’t care what Rachel Ray says about her 30 minute meals being less time than picking up a pizza. You can do a load of laundry, help with some homework and tidy the bathroom in the 30 minutes it takes for the pizza guy to show up. I get the appeal. But the pizza is really expensive, isn’t really good for you, and for the most part, isn’t even that good.
If you don’t have an arsenal of meals ready to go, what are you to do? And if you’re like me, and can’t stand in front of the pantry and throw together a gourmet meal, you need some help and some ideas. What you need is a list of meals that your family loves that you can sit down and pick from some tried and true meals to help you start of your week, bi-weekly or monthly menu plan.
The Meal Guide:
I have a recipe box full of family favorite meals. In the front of that box is a hand-written list of meals that I’ve kept, over time, to help remind me what we love. It’s not fancy, just ideas jotted down under basic meal categories: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Desserts. That way, I can have a quick glance down the list to help me fill in blanks when I’m planning The Meal Calendar. There’s nothing worse than trying to plan a week’s worth of meals than sitting and staring at a blank piece of paper and not coming up with any ideas.
I know that all of the menu ideas on my Meal Guide have a corresponding card in my Meal Box. I’m just a recipe girl. And I’m okay with that. I’ve learned to embrace it and make it work for me. Those cards give me all the tools and information I need in planning my menu for the week as well as preparing my meals and stocking my pantry effectively.
There’s nothing fancy about any of these recipe cards. No formulas (well, some are written for x2, x3 and x4 for bulk cooking). There’s nothing magical in these cards, either. But they are the thing that I can take from my meal planning session to my meal shopping session to my meal preparing session to keep me on track.
Your Assignment: To help you begin your journey to effective meal planning, sit down at dinner tonight and come up with at least 20 meal ideas with your family. Have everyone chip in their favorites. This won’t be your final list as you’ll want to add to it over time. As you remember a meal you love, or find a new favorite, make sure to add it to your list (and make up a recipe card for it) so that you won’t forget when the time comes to plan your next month’s worth of meals. Or if you’re not going to be together, take a moment to make a list based off your own recipe cards or recipes you’ve got marked in your books.
Then, use 4×6 or 3×5 cards (unless you like the look of pre-made recipe cards), and write down the recipe for those 20 meals. You can do more or less. You’ll use these to begin your challenge for Part 2.
Click the image below to download some free, printable recipe cards:
Directions: Just print out this file onto letter sized cardstock, cut and use!
How does this pertain to being more prepared for an emergency? As you work through your cards, you begin to purchase foods based on those cards to build up your pantry. You can get a quick idea of the meal planning process and how I use meal planning to build my pantry from this:
As you build your pantry, you’re able to have foods that you know you will eat, that you know how to cook, and that you can store for long-term, making it easier to build a pantry for times of need. THAT makes you better prepared for an emergency.
Build a Better Pantry Menu Planning Challenge
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