Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping Simplified

Every so often, it really occurs to me just how unprepared I was/still can be when it comes to taking care of my family. Things that girls learned in the 50's from their mothers are just not what we learned growing up. I have no idea how my mom prepared her meal planning for our family, and when my parents divorced when I was in high school, she had to work and I don't remember family meals being feasible from that point forward.
Dinner is the most important meal to me for our family. It's really the only time that we all sit together, in one place during the day that we are able to talk. It's also extremely important to me that Jerrod always have a meal to take to work for lunch. When he is working non-stop, especially when he is working every single day during a plant shut down, I like to think that with the worst of conditions, he is able to look forward to having a healthy/hearty meal in the breakroom at work. There are only so many ways I can make Jerrod feel loved and thought about when he is working 12 hour days, I like make his dinner a major priority.
A lot of what I have learned works best is probably no different than what women would practice before being thrust into the workforce. (And if you're working and raising a family, God bless you! I couldn't hack it... It's like having 3 full time jobs! You have all the respect I can send to you!)
I'm hoping my little blog might help anyone feeling as overwhelmed as I did when it came to meal planning/grocery shopping. It's now just a little less awful... (Seriously, does anyone enjoy this part of being an adult?)




I used to do the "walk up and down the aisle, grabbing this or that to make this or that..." scatter brained shopping... And what I realized was, I was going home with half the ingredients needed to make a simple meal, like chicken tacos, and I was spending way too much money on impulse buys, that would eventually spoil before I used them.

I've been responsible for a household since I was 19. I think I've made every grocery shopping/meal planning trial and error there is... And I've finally worked it out to a science. I'm in and out within one hour, with groceries and meals for 2 weeks (at least!). I've tried using apps, calendars, websites, etc, and nothing worked as well as plain ol' pencil/paper.

I shudder to think of how much money and time I have wasted before implementing this system that sort of evolved into the absolute most simple form. I had 3 major goals in mind: 1. Save time. I was tired of wasting time trying to figure out what to make, gazing in my full pantry that seemed to be missing everything I "needed." 2. Cut out processed foods, I started off as a housewife not knowing how to make ANYTHING, and because of that, I learned how to make really gross/unhealthy processed foods. 3. Avoid the store for 2 weeks at a time, nothing is worse than going to the grocery store every other day. When I was working, I'd get off at 5, go to the grocery store, pick up what I needed to make dinner and by the time I got dinner/dishes/kids bathed/etc... It was midnight. That basically cured me, I avoid the grocery store between big trips as much as I can.



What you'll need:

1. Regular Notebook

2. Coupon/Recipe Index Card Organizer

3. Index Cards

4.Ads (if you want)



The System:

1. I have taken the time to write out every recipe I use on simple index cards. Some were off the top of my head, some I've gathered over time from some of my favorite blogs/cook books. I write all the ingredients, and if needed, I'll write basic instructions on the back of the cards. In the upper right corner, I write the main "Dish" Category that it belongs in. (IE. chicken, pork, beef, vegetarian) which is the file tab I put it under in my organizer.

2. I first pick out 10 meals that I'd like to use for the next 2 weeks. I used to meal plan for 14 days, but realized that wasn't very practical (it gives us leeway for going out to eat or my awesome mother-in-law likes to spoil us and bring over dinner.) I use my ads to see what's on sale for this part, (sometimes, when I have the time.) I then make the list on the top of my page with the 10 cards I've pulled out.


3. After I've written all the the meals on the top of my page, I take each card and systematically write the ingredients needed for the recipe in the section of the store they are found. (ie. Frozen, Dairy, Meats/Fish, Breakfast/Coffee/Baking, Produce). After I've finished with my dinner meals, I try to fill in things we'll need for lunch/breakfast/snacks and regular items (milk, eggs, bread, coffee).


As I walk through the store, I cross off each item before moving on to the next section, so I don't forget anything. When I am home, preparing dinner, I pull out the index card for that meal and viola! I have a handy list of all the ingredients needed for it.

With 20 mins of prepping, 1 hour shopping, I'm usually done thinking about "What's for dinner?" for 2 weeks. I make each meal in the order of the amount of fresh ingredients that will spoil the fastest. (For example, Chicken stirfry has the most fresh veggies, so I made that first, whereas, Spaghetti and meatballs are pantry and frozen items that can last longer.)

This is a tried and true method, that has saved me TONS of money/time and I try to add 2 new recipes to my modus operandi, aka, recipe organizer, to keep things fresh.


This may seem like a simple/obvious method, but I would have loved to have had this as a resource when I was first starting out as a domestic engineer. :P I hope someone will be able to use it!