Meal-planning smooths out the bumps!

Do you sit down and plan out your meals every week?

You should. I have weeks where I fly by the seat of my pants, meal-wise–where I allow myself the “freedom” to go with what sounds good (i.e., what’s leftover, and/or what can be prepared in a hurry with a minimum of mess) and operate without a written plan, and usually mid-week I crash and burn and we order pizza, or eat a pathetic melange of leftovers, or just resort to cold sandwiches, stale chips, and candy corn. Not so good. The overriding emotion: panic.

I really don’t like the scenario above. I don’t feel good about the way I’m caring for my family in this case. On the other hand, devoting a simple 5-minute planning session every Saturday, not to mention a quick weekly refrigerator clear-out, is an excellent investment of my time and reaps huge rewards the following week. And the candy corn lasts a bit longer, besides. Win-win.

This is what a 5-minute planning session will do for me: it smooths out the bumps of the week. I actually glance at my menu plan as I’m cleaning up from breakfast in the morning, and get the chunk of meat out of the freezer, or at least lay out a few ingredients on the counter that will go into our supper. There is a pleasant anticipation of making supper that night because I’ve planned it. I like to cook good food for my family, I really do. And the simple plan makes it so much easier. The overriding emotion: peace.

5 minutes.

I have found that the mechanics of meal-planning are not that important: sometimes I just jot down my menu on the legal pad that I keep my brain on (i.e. my to-do list, my drama to-do list, my shopping list, etc.). That’s how absolutely low-tech I am, Gentle Reader; I hope you’re not disappointed. Sometimes I’ll get the menu into my planner, but usually not.

Here’s a typical meal plan for a week for us:

  • Sunday: roast chicken in the crock pot with veg (make broth out of the carcass)
  • Monday: chicken and barley soup
  • Tuesday: Taco Tuesday! Tacos with lots of raw crudites, and melon!
  • Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner: Crunchy cornmeal waffles, sausage, orange julius
  • Thursday: big ole’ stir fry and rice with garden Swiss chard, carrots, cabbage, peppers, etc.
  • Friday: homemade pizza, green salad, ice cream!
  • Saturday: It’s leftovers night, baby. Pull them out!
Here's my meal plan for this week, in all its messiness.

Here’s my meal plan for this week, in all its messiness.

This very simple plan that I jot down on Saturday gives me lots of peace for the upcoming week. Plus, if I write it down we do tend to eat better. There is less resorting-to-the-easiest-thing, or just stopping for pizza on the way home, when I’ve got a menu written down that uses the garden goodies, or whatever I’ve socked away in the freezer.

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24 thoughts on “Meal-planning smooths out the bumps!

  1. Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

    I think this sort of planning works well for those who want to come home (or for those working at home, plop down) at the end of the day and sit down to eat.
    That’s not me. I work hard during the day, now far removed from the research labs I habituated, and am enthralled to come home and play with my test-tubes. (OK, pots, pans, knives, and chemicals [ingredients].) And, like the great (of course, I was) scientist/engineer, my lab is always fully stocked (because I do the shopping and know what I have and need- always). So, I can get creative and prepare what will most nurture the rest of my brain and my body that evening. (Yes, I do consider what the rest of my family needs in terms of nutrients, proteins, etc.)
    So, no, I don’t plan my meals. I plan my shopping.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Sounds like a great system, Roy! I enjoy your analogy of the kitchen as your science lab. It is that, and an art studio, too, don’tcha think?

  2. Chef William

    Good show Amy, now your thinking like a chef. Most of the time we start the month with a 30 day plan. It will include favorites that everyone loves, which are repeat items each month, then there are a few new items, which is where you would slide in some great new recipes (such as the ones found in the challenge). Now weekly we will revise the menu on Sunday to take advantage of price for items on sale that we need. It is two fold. It helps you know in advance what your doing plus it helps you control costs. I do believe that the e-books your offering this week are a great buy that people who eat should take advantage of. And thanks for the insiders tip, when we come to visit you in the spring on our way back up north, we will plan NOT to arrive on a Saturday.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh Chef, I do wish I thought like a chef! I think generally I think like a scattered housefrau. And, for your info, when we have company we have something a little nicer than leftovers, no matter what day it is! 😉

  3. Kristen from The Road to Domestication

    Yes, I plan our meals every week. I plan them right before I go shopping, so that I can make the most of my grocery shopping trip and be prepared. But I also do things like freeze the meat for the week when I come home. That way, if something comes up, I know I can still make that meal another time because the meat will still be preserved. I also keep what I call a “bag meal” on hand. (Those bags in the freezer section with all the ingredients for a meal in them and you just put them in the pot and cook them?) Just in case life gets crazy, my hubby knows how to make those LOL They’re not the greatest, but they’re still better than stopping at McDonald’s for dinner! And we take our own lunches to work made from leftovers, too, so we don’t waste the food we have. Some weeks it’s all quite the process LOL

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Sounds like you’re way ahead! I like the idea of the “bag meal” always in the freezer, just in case you need it. Well done!

  4. Cindy

    When it was my responsibility to feed the fam, I always planned things way ahead. I was good at cooking things in the crockpot or extra food when using the oven for future meals. Now that I live with my daughter and her family, she is the one responsible for it all. I do get to give input on things once in a while. But we don’t plan much ahead. Cindy, Visiting from Ultimate Blog Challenge on FB

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Elizabeth, I don’t think real well “on my feet” so having a planning session when I’m feeling energetic is a good strategy for me!

  5. Anita-Clare Field

    Well set another place at the table I’m on my way to the airport ! We try to plan our meals I know for a fact what we are having on Saturday and Sunday oh and tonight.. maybe we should try this, in fact I think we should 🙂 Thanks as ever for your wonderful advice and insight

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      There are times when I need a plan more than others, like during the school year when I’m teaching a good share of the day. But I’m happy that I’m home and can work on meals throughout the day.

  6. MuMuGB

    What a lovely idea! I never plan my meals because I live close to a nice supermarket and buy a little bit every day. That said, I think that planning on a Sunday would really save me time. I totally need to give it a try. Thanks for the tip.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      We are a good 20-minute drive from a good-sized grocery store, so I have to plan fairly carefully so I don’t have to spend a ton of time and $$ running to the store. We have a small grocery store close by, and that is helpful when we need a few things.

  7. Francene Stanley

    We think alike, Amy. I’ve always planned a menu and written a list, especially when I lived in the country with no shop to run to if I ran out of something. Now, with my husband retired, he has taken over. He plans all the meals, does all the shopping, cooks and washes the dishes as he goes. My job is to eat and appreciate. 😉

  8. Alana (@RamblinGarden)

    As much as I hate to cook, if I had been forced to (i.e. if I had not married my husband, who knows full well I picked him for his cooking skills – well, that was ONE of the reasons.) I suspect I would have depended on the 30 day meal planner in each issue of Family Circle magazine – or, was it Woman’s Day? Anyway, I would have been planning way in advance! On the other hand (like Roy, above) my husband also does the food shopping, so for him it is more shopping than week-in-advance planning. Finally, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Orange Julius on an official supper menu. Awesome!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oooh, Alana, I have got such a great recipe for orange julius! And by the way, I used to love those 30-day meal planners. Their food plan always looked so fascinating and so good! (By the way, concerning the cook-as-hubby, you are a blessed woman!).

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Absolutely! There’s something really fun about having breakfast for dinner. We usually have it once a week, too–waffles, or omelets, or a pancake bar!

  9. cookinmom

    Great post…Ya gotta pull out the old pressure cooker. Works like a charm! I will double up when I cook, as I freeze the other half of the meal. Also, I will pull out about three different meats from the freezer at the beginning of the week and will go from there. I place the meats in the very back of the fridge on a tray so that they will thaw slowly and be ready when needed during the week. Then I will get the side kicks if needed at the store when I go shopping. I buy meats on sale so I keep a rotation of something on hand. I usually do pizza once a week and different kinds of tacos. My favorite is soups…so nourishing for a family. I just make a base and put all the leftovers in it (from freezer too). Works like a charm! Happy planning!

      1. rose

        Nooo…I’m a far cry from it. I sometimes will do every man for himself for about four days pulling leftovers out of the freezer, roughing it! Like anyone else, I will cook for a while and then go through a dry spell.

        1. dramamamafive Post author

          Rose, true disclosure: though when I’ve got my (shaky, at best) act together I plan meals, I have entire weeks where NOTHING gets planned and we eat whatever can be quickly prepared at 6:00 p.m. I am thankful that I have a freezer and a pantry full, so runs out for fast food are not something we have to fall back on.

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