Meal Planning Part Three–The Plan
Continuing my series on meal planning, we are now getting to the actual plan. Before you read this post, I recommend you read part one, the introduction to meal planning, and part two, about recipe rosters. (Keep in mind, I do this only for supper. You can plan all three daily meals using the same method, but it’s not something that I do.)
I tend to be very Type-A about these things, so you may find my approach a little over-the-top, but you can follow it to whatever degree you choose.
Meal Plan Format
Here’s where I might sound a little too intense, but this is the system that works for me. I use a spreadsheet that I print and post in my kitchen for all to see. The rows list each day of the week; the columns list the main course, side, and vegetable for each day. I also have a column for notes where I add little reminders to thaw or marinate ingredients. Here is an example:
Yes, I use colour. Yes, I enter dates.Yes, I add many reminders. Over-the-top; it’s what I do.
Seriously though, indicating where ingredients are and what needs to be done is really helpful for anyone else who might want to get a head start on the meal or remind me of what needs to be done. (Forgetting is also a thing that I do, a little too often to be honest.)
You can make your meal plan any way you choose: scribble it on paper, write it on a calendar, keep it in your phone, use a meal planning app.
I prefer the spreadsheet option for a couple of reasons: my handwriting is atrocious and virtually illegible to the untrained eye; a spreadsheet is easy to copy and paste every weekend when I make a new plan. Sometimes I don’t even have to change sides and vegetables because I cycle through the same options each week.
If I were really clever, I have a series of locked-in plans that I would just roll through without having to edit; standard plans for weeks one through four, for example, and when week four is done, just go back to week one. But I’ve never managed to do that. Maybe that’s too over-the-top, even for me.
Creating the Plan
With a format in place, I just go through a few steps to complete the plan:
- Check the grocery store flyer. I shop at the same store every week so I just check that flyer to see which meats are on sale. I can then base some of my meals on what’s cheap that week. (I am an unrepentant penny pincher.)
- Select recipes. I find that a recipe roster streamlines this process, but it really doesn’t matter how you choose the meals, just that you do it.
- Enter the meals in my spreadsheet, print it, and post it.
- Add the ingredients I need to my grocery list and head to the store.
And that’s about it.
Some further tips:
- You may want to pick something easy for late in the week. I never feel like cooking anything elaborate on Fridays so I generally select something I can pull out of the freezer.
- You may also want to consider activities and schedules, e.g. I always pick something quick and easy on nights my son plays baseball.