Another Crack at Meal Planning

I think by now, we all know that I’m not about to compose a sonnet to Fall about the virtues of Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love Fall.    I adore Fall’s arrival, just as I adore the comings and goings of Spring and Summer. Winter is the season I have a tempestuous, mostly-hate relationship with.

But back to fall.  What’s wonderful about this time of year is that we are finally home.  Enough to care about cleaning the house from top to bottom (which happened last weekend).  Enough to start actioning double-batches of meals so that on the nights or weeks where things are a bit trickier schedule-wise, we have cozy meals ready to go.

Which brings me to meal planning.  A week or two ago, Stephanie asked me if I had ever blogged about the topic.  Because we all know that even though cooking dinner can absolutely happen organically, you will save More Money, More Time and More Mental Energy if you’ve got a plan in-hand.

First order of business, apparently I have blogged about meal planning (here and here) and grocery shopping (here and Stephanie’s Guest Post).  These posts are worth reading because there is some good information there (excluding the part where I declared I would never make enough of anything to require freezing).

However, we all know that as you continue to refine a habit or skill, things change.  Over the course of two years, thing change.

So what’s in our meal planning toolkit right now? A few new rules to live by:

  1. If you’re going to cook a time intensive/ingredient intensive meal, do it on Sunday.
  2. Only try one new recipe per week.
  3. When picking out recipes, aim for one vegetarian meal, one meat meal and one pantry meal per week.
  4. When in doubt (or if you need to action something on the fly) any leftover starch or carb you have around goes great with a couple of soft fried eggs on top and a side salad.
  5. Plan your biggest meal (portions-wise) for the evening before you have a night “off.”  You’ll have more time to work through the leftovers, which prevents refrigerator chaos.
  6. Plan your lightest meal for Thursday night because weekends and leftovers do not go together.
  7. Cooking at least three nights during the week is ideal.

Some of these might sound sort of rigid, but why the madness?  How is any of this really worth it?

  1. I hate eating dud meals (hence the new recipe quota).
  2. I really like keeping our grocery bill in check (hence the pantry and vegetarian meals).
  3. Eating all of the food we make is a really easy way to save money on lunches out during the work week (hence the militant planning for leftovers).
  4. Cooking dinner at home on the evenings where we’re both home (and sometimes on the ones where we’re apart!) allows us to stay in-budget with our weekly allowances.

Or, to summarize: we like saving money.  Being intentional about the way we prepare our meals is one way that we are able to do that, without having to make any significant or particularly noticeable changes.

What meal planning tips and tricks do you have?

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2 responses to “Another Crack at Meal Planning

  1. I’m with you on winter. I’m really trying not to think about it too much yet, because I don’t want it to ruin the time That Is Not Winter. And I’m with you on the pumpkin stuff. I got to a point last year that I almost got Completely Fed Up With It All.
    I agree with you on meal-planning. The biggest thing I found for me is that I can plan all I want, but if I don’t take into account what my energy level for the day might be, I might as well throw the planning out the window!

  2. If I write out a meal plan and associated grocery list, it works. As long as I stick it on the fridge. Meal planning in my head does not work. Actually most things in my head do not work.

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