Tag Archives: meal planning

{Meal Planning 101} 8 Tips to get you started!

mealplanningimage

Meal planning is essential to our budget and the functioning of our household. When I started meal planning, life got a little easier! It saves time, money, and my sanity. 🙂 I’ve been saying for a year or more that I would do this post, and for some reason I’m just now getting around to it! It’s probably best that I waited though, as I have tweaked things and am a bit more organized than I was then. Here are some steps to get you started. Remember, these ideas may work as is for your family or may need to be changed up a bit here and there to fit your needs!

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1. Get a blank calendar.
I started out just printing a basic calendar from my printer presets, but eventually designed my own and laminated it to reuse and rearrange meals easier. I recommend ultra fine tip dry erase markers to write on it. However, for true beginners I suggest printing a new calendar every month. At the end of each month, tuck those into a folder for easy meal planning later! Get stuck? Just pull out an old calendar and copy the meals to your new one, rearranging as needed. 🙂


meal planning calendar  

2. Get out your planner.
In meal planning, it’s important for me to take into account what we will be doing each day. This way I know what days would be best for trying new recipes and which days would be best for leftovers. For instance, I don’t want to plan a huge, complicated meal on a day I know we have baseball games. Fill in a small note on days of big events, games, or practices for the whole month.

3.  Start with meals you love!
Start with family favorites. I started my meal planning with meals we knew and loved, adding in a new recipe here and there. Do not feel pressured to cook something new, fabulous, and pinterest-worthy every night! It’s just not necessary! If you love to cook and have the time however, go right ahead and enjoy! Don’t forget to include side dishes!

4. Organize your recipe search.
I prefer Pinterest for this, but there are lots of ways it can be done. Here is a sample of how I organize mine. Hopefully it will give you ideas for how to best organize your recipes for your use.
Feed Me
My basic food board I add recipes to that I want to try as I find them.
Feed Me (Slow Cooker)
– Same as above, but all slow cooker meals. It helps speed up my meal planning if I don’t have to sift through other recipes to find one for an evening I know I’ll need a crockpot meal for.
Recipes We Liked
As I try new recipes, winners get added to this board.
Recipes We Liked (Slow Cooker Style)
Again, same as above, but crockpot meals.


However, I also have a notebook of recipes I have printed out, made copies of, or pages torn from magazines. I have them hole-punched and in a 3-ring binder with labeled dividers to separate them into categories such as: breakfast, chicken, beef, slow cooker, slow cooker soups, desserts, etc. Also, remember I said when I first started I printed a new calendar for each month? I stored those calendars in the back of my recipe binder.


  

5. Don’t be afraid to repeat meals!
This can make meal planning go much faster. Sometimes it’s fun for me to challenge myself and cook lots of different meals in a month. Other times, I’m super busy and need to simplify. in Fall and Winter, Thursdays are chili night at our house. Homemade pizza is a Friday night regular around here. This Fall, Monday will be a crockpot meal or prep-ahead and toss in the oven meal, as we will be attending our homeschool co-op that day. Tuesdays I change up the recipe each week, but it’s usually a Mexican dish.

6. Leave room for leftovers!
Pick a night that you will be busy or tired from a long day and declare it leftovers night. Not only will this be another easy space to fill on your meal planning calendar, it will also mean less food is left in the fridge and forgotten about.

7. Make your grocery list.
As you write meals on your calendar, make a list of everything you’ll need for that meal, even if it might already be in your freezer or cabinets. For items needed for multiple meals, I use tally marks next to that item to keep track of how much I’ll actually need.

8. Look through your cabinets and freezer.
Get an idea of what you already have on hand to work with. Mark items off your grocery list if you already have them.

I hope these tips help you get started and in the habit of meal planning with a little less headache. If you have success with my method, let me know! I’d love to hear from you. If you change something up to better fit your family, I’d love to hear about that too!

 

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Emily’s Broccoli Cheese Soup {a no meat meal my husband actually liked!!}

I try really hard to carefully plan out our meals every two weeks. I browse through my notebook of tried recipes and my boards on Pinterest, print recipes, carefully check ingredient lists with what I have on hand, and make my grocery list. However, the reality of it is, all this usually occurs on on a Friday or Saturday afternoon while my kids are running around playing, fighting, and asking for a snack or help in the bathroom every 45 seconds. It’s a wonder I even make it to the store with a list, much less a list that will actually result in yummy meals. There’s always that one recipe that I totally goof up on. It never fails. I forget to write down an ingredient on my shopping list, I look at a jar of sauce or a spice in my cabinet wrong, or I under estimate how much of something my kids will devour before I get around to actually cooking the meal. Then I never realize it until I’m in the middle of prepping that meal. Happens every time.

Last week it was this recipe for Broccoli Cheddar Soup. The original post claims it to be a great copycat of Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup. I can’t help ya there. I’ve never actually had the broccoli cheddar soup at Panera, so I have no idea how close it is, or even what that recipe tastes like. 🙂 If someone tries it though, let me know how it turns out. My version of that recipe turned out great, so that’s what I’ll be making from now on. It even got a thumbs up from my husband. I am quite certain this is the ONLY non-meat soup recipe that he has ever said that about. He’s pretty darn picky about soup. He basically likes meat and vegetables with a bit of liquid. So here it is…

 

Emily’s Broccoli Cheese Soup
(makes 4 servings)

Ingredients
1/2 stick of butter (I may have used a tbsp more)
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups half and half
3 cups homemade chicken stock
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4  tsp. nutmeg
2 bay leaves
1 large and 1 small carrot, chopped
1 head of broccoli florets (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups grated marble cheddar cheese
1 8 oz. bar colby jack cheese, cubed
Salt & Pepper to taste

measuring cup of cheese

 

IMG_5103

 

Directions:
Cook butter, onion, and garlic on medium heat until tender
Slowly add half and half and chicken stock.
In small bowl, mix the corn starch with a little water and stir until smooth.
Add corn starch mixture.
Add nutmeg and bay leaves .
Cook on medium until it has thickened.
Add the carrot and broccoli and simmer until desired tenderness.
Spoon out the bay leaves and discard them.
Add the cheese.
Stir until the cheese is completely melted.
Add salt & pepper, serve, and enjoy!

broccoli and cheese soup

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