Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Meal Planning!

Maine is a frozen wasteland in between November and April. For example, after the Christmas week ice storm we had an inch of ice in the parking behind our apartment. So my usual "do something exciting outside and then blog about it posts" will be few and far between. Maybe we'll go skiing. I'd like to take up snowshoeing but haven't yet.

So until then I'd thought I'd talk about meal planning and share the spreadsheet I made to help me do it. I love meal planning since it means I can get started on dinner as soon as I get home (or Mr. H can have dinner ready for me when I get home). It also means that most weeks we only go to the grocery store once. It keeps us from wasting food since I can plan around large produce purchases like a head of cabbage. And, I think it keeps us healthy since it means most of our dinners are made from scratch from real food. Except I hate whole wheat pasta. (I'll make my own condensed soup mix for casseroles even.)

A Meal Plan for Two Weeks
Made One Week at a Time
I have trouble spelling. Please don't make fun of me.

I make a note of which days we won't need to make dinner because we have plans. I usually start meal planning when our grocery store's flyer comes out on Saturday or Sunday so I can take advantage of whatever is on sale. I also check and see what we have in the fridge and the pantry so I can make meals that use up any vegetables that may be hanging around before they start mouldering. (Potatoes are a problem for us.)

I look through my recipe cards and my binder full of recipes that I've printed out to find recipes that use what's on sale and what I have. Sometimes we've bought ingredients for a meal and then we don't have it so I just move that meal to the next week (see the lasagna in the plan below).

This one has a reminder to SOAK THE BEANS.
Also notice that in the first week we have chicken and potatoes
then use of the rest of the potatoes in the ham and potato soup.

We don't always stick to the plan. We frequently switch days because I forget to soak beans or defrost meat. Since we buy dry beans and buy bulk sizes of meat and freeze them in smaller portions. Or sometimes we're too tired even though every things ready so we have a frozen dinner or Vienna Beef Hot Dogs that I've smuggled in from Chicago. (I need to figure out how to smuggle sesame seed buns without them getting smushed in my checked luggage.) Sometimes the plan is vague and just says a type of meat so I choose what to do with it that afternoon.

There's also space to write down when we run out of things like flour, trash bags, or olive oil. Though sometimes I just use it to write down everything needed. We also use that space for things that aren't part of a meal--like fruit for snacks. We buy a gallon of milk pretty every week so that usually doesn't get added to the list. But Mr. H drinks orange juice and cranberry juice every morning with his breakfast so if that's running low I have to add that or else we forget it. We don't usually buy things for lunch since we usually eat leftovers for lunch.

Mr. H was on his own for dinner on Wednesday
because I had a Junior League meeting. I worry about
him when I'm not there to make food for him.

What I like most about making the meal plan is that it helps remind me to defrost things the night before. We'd never be able to save money by buying meat in bulk without planning ahead. Last year, we tried to keep our weekly grocery trips to $50. But our data from Mint shows that we spent about $70 a week on groceries. My trips to Trader Joe's to stock up on wine and frozen dinners were probably to blame. Ooops!

This year my goal is to keep the grocery bill at $40 each week. So far we've keep the grocery bill under $50 but it's not at $40. This year I'm trying harder to buy things in bulk if they're nonperishable or can be frozen. I hope this will help keep the our grocery bill down over all. Though now we have a 5 pound bag of macaroni in our pantry. But it's hard to keep the bill at $40 when you buy in bulk because 5 pounds of macaroni costs a lot more ($4.25) than a pound of macaroni (89¢) but in the long run it's cheaper.

If you'd like to use this meal plan yourself, I've uploaded it to google drive and I am sharing it so you can see it. What do you do to manage what you eat? Do you plan ahead or wing it?


  1. such a great idea, thanks for sharing!!

    1. I think it really helps us so I am happy to share it!


Thank you so much for reading! I read all comments and I try to reply to all of them if I can! If you want me to email you a reply to your comment go to your Blogger profile, select show your email address and put in your email address.