Monday, March 14, 2011

My Organized Home, Part 2- Meal Prep

My daily dilemma- "What should I make for dinner tonight?" Can you relate? Then when you finally figure it out, you realize you're missing one or two of the ingredients to make that meal? It's the story of my life (when I don't plan ahead).

Making dinner (or any other meal) is my least favorite job as a homemaker!! For me, the worst part of it is choosing just WHAT to make every day. I've done a few different things to help in this area...

A. I've done FREEZER MEALS, (both alone and exchanged in groups with other women).
PROs (for me): cooking/preparing only once a month.
CONs: Still have to choose what to have for dinner everyday, and have to remember to pull out of freezer to thaw.

B. I've done the FRESH MEAL exchange/co-op with friends. *Did this one for a long time and loved it!
PROs (my opinion): Cooking once a week, no freezing, menu is scheduled and we know what we're having, fresh!, side dish included.
CONs: Finding that perfect group (4 of you) with similar size families and similar taste.

C. Right now I'm doing the 4-WEEK MENU method, and I'm really liking it so far. Here's how I'm doing it...

1. On the back of a laminated poster I had, I wrote down (with a dry-erase marker) all the dinners that I know my kids will eat. Then I presented it to my family and let my kids (and husband) vote to veto any they couldn't stand.

2. I then printed off one of my blank Four Week Menu Plans, and penciled in some weekly menu ideas. (I was sure to use a pencil because I had to erase several times to get it just right.)
*This was quite time-consuming, trying to figure out which meals to have in a week. I wanted to make sure we were switching it up enough, while trying to have similar ingredients (or sides) to use 2 nights in a row in 2 different meals. It's kind of tricky!

Click HERE to print my blank menu!

(Click on image below to read my "menu" up close.)

3. Now you can make a binder like Heather's that has all of the recipes for your menu. (Most of my recipes are in my "memory bank", so I haven't taken the time to do this step yet.)

4. Now I needed to make a grocery list to correspond with my menu. So I used my finished menu to guide me while I made a grocery list for each week, (also with consideration for the amounts of each item I would need for the whole week).
*It's a good idea to use a spreadsheet for this. I didn't, so it took me forever!
*I had already made a list of food and non-food staples, so I incorporated my weekly menu items into this list (4 times for the 4 different weeks) and color-coded the weekly items in each one. (I think my list is too big, so I am still making notes on them and changing things as I go, which is an easy fix as long as it's on the computer.)
*Categorizing and alphabetizing also help!

5. I printed out my four lists and put them into sheet protectors to keep in my coupon binder.
*I use plastic sheet protectors instead of laminating them, so I can easily change them up if needs be. Also, so I can check things off with a wipe-off marker without having to reprint the list.

I go grocery shopping every Friday (or Saturday) for the new week, and I have my lists ready and waiting. All I have to do before going to the store is to go through the list and check off all of the items I don't need. This took me a long time to organize, and I still make small changes; but it is saving me so much time and headache in the long run! Especially since I now work outside the home, part-time.

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  1. Awesome post Angela!! Thank you so much for all the wonderful info. I'm going to start my menus right now!

  2. Okay, I was really proud of my system, but this post just blew my mind. I'm SO excited to start pulling ideas from this and putting together something that works for my family too. I was planning each week at a time, and testing new recipes in there... I love the idea of getting the family to vote out stuff they don't like etc. Brilliant! I love this!!!

  3. Sorry, I am a lurker! I wanted to tell you about two sites I love! They plan your menus and you shopping lists all for $5 a month. and They have saved my life!!!

  4. I've tried many times to work up some kind of system for planning meals, usually only a week at a time. Like you, I really don't mind shopping or cooking, it's figuring out the menu that drives me crazy. It's been interesting to read what you're doing and I'm happy to know I'm not the only one that struggles with this.


Thank you for your comments!


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