October 27, 2010

Meal Planning

Over the last few weeks, I've had several conversations with different people about meal planning, and I thought I would share how I make it work. 

First, the overview: I cook almost every night. We usually save going out to eat for the weekends. We're not afraid of leftovers, and so some meals I cook can feed us for two nights.

Let's say it's Sunday, and I know that I need to go grocery shopping. First, I look in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. What's in there?

  • Black Eyes Peas in the pantry
  • Lettuce from the farmers' market in the refrigerator
  • Ground beef and chicken in the freezer
Chris had asked me last week to make black eyed peas so that's easy. I check the pantry to see if I have rice to put them over. Check. And I have my grandmother's chili sauce to put over them, so there's one meal; although, I might want another veggie.

The lettuce from the farmers' market can make a delicious salad. I decide that I can defrost the chicken, bake it and add it over the lettuce with pecans (already in my freezer), cheese of some sort (have a block of parma in the refrigerator), and I can make a dressing (I have olive oil and red wine vinegar). I decide I might want to buy some onions.

The ground beef I decide to cook up and season with Italian spices (in the pantry) and have spaghetti one night. But, I'll need to get a package of frozen spinach and a jar of sauce. I already have the noodles in the pantry.

That's three meals already, and that's usually what I plan for. Considering leftovers and the occasional dinner plans that come up, three planned meals usually works well.

So here's what I do when I go to the grocery store:

I look for a veggie to go with the black eyes peas: I buy one acorn squash that I'll split and bake in the oven. Meal #1 done.

I grab one bunch of green onions for the salad, and as I'm passing the chicken section, I see they have split breasts on sale. I buy two packs of those, and add one to the freezer, leave the one that's already there, and cook with the other. That means I just stocked my freezer some more on sale! Meal #2 done.

I grab a jar of pasta sauce and head to the freezer section for the frozen spinach. (Add frozen spinach to your pasta sauce and you get a lot of veggie points!) When I grab the frozen spinach, I see that the Boca burgers are Buy 1 Get 1. I remember that I do have extra buns in the refrigerator (or freezer, can't remember) (why don't they make packs of buns the same quantity as burgers??) So I grab two packs of the Boca burgers for my freezer. That gives me more freezer stock, and an easy extra meal this week if we need it. Meal #3 and #4 done.

Then I buy all of our staple stuff: juice, bagels, sandwich fixes, etc.

My final trick is to come home and make a list of the week's meals and place it on the refrigerator. This way, after a long day, I don't forget what I bought, and get a take-out pizza out of desperation.

I find shopping like this has decreased my grocery bill because I only buy what I need and items that are on sale that can be stored in the freezer.

How do you plan your meals?


  1. You're so good. I didn't come up with any of those ideas when I looked at your on-hand list. And I always forget to check what I already have before I make a grocery list.

  2. "What's for Dinner?" This is a friend's blog and I think it's quite good for meal planning: http://thematzats.blogspot.com/

  3. Boy I wish I was as organized as you. I'd love to be able to cook every night for my family. I think the first step is to meal plan...which I have no time for. I tried having the kids do a a meal plan for the week...that lasted for about 1 week. I just signed up for a free trail menu plan from Gigi Centaro author of Let's Cook Tonight. If it's planned I can make one trip to the grocery store AND have the ingredients to cook with on hand!

  4. And she forgot to add that she is an awesome cook as well

  5. I wish you would come back and resume your job shopping for me.


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