Click on link below to download printable pdf. Slip it into a sheet protector (or a frame or laminate it), slap a magnet on the back throw it on your fridge and whaa-la you have a dry-erase menu ready to go!
Ah. That wonderful hour before dinner time. Everyone is tired, grouchy and just plain HUNGRY and you have no clue what to make for dinner because no ingredients in the fridge or cupboard match any of the recipes you’ve been looking at… Familiar to anyone? Well it certainly was for me. It was basically an everyday scene. I dreaded dinner time. I got so sick it happening everyday, the whole dinner shenanigan, but you know, I couldn’t stop dinner, mealing and eating from needing to occur everyday so I knew I just had to change my approach.
The weekly dinner meal plan dilemma
I had heard of meal plan but my attempts at creating one most often consistent of this crazy frenzy right before one of us was about to leave to go grocery shopping, so you can imagine, it was quite a scramble. The stress of it discouraged me from wanted to keep doing it. But I did love the feeling and ease of having one when I did make one though. So one day it hit me that I would just create a giantic meal plan that I wouldn’t have to recreate every week… one for the whole month! Basically four weeks of meal plans that I could rotate through.
Here is how I did it
I piled up the cook books that I usually used and collected all the recipes that I usually made..which I was surprised to find was only like 10 meals…wow…only 20 more to go. I only got to like 26, which worked because I calculated that a least once or twice a week I wouldn’t cook because of other family dinners, need for a quick fix day or left overs. It got more elaborate. I wanted to make sure we didn’t have three days of rice dishes in a row or chicken dishes in a row. I also wanted make it easy to know what I needed to get from the store. I put all the recipes in this on a google spread sheet and outlined the following for each recipe.
1. Recipe name
2. Make sure you have (ingredients that I usually have on hand)
3. What I should buy fresh (what would go on the grocery list every week)
4. Where to find recipe (Recipe book and page number. I started printing out all the recipes I found online and put them in the same binder as the spreadsheet)
5. meat/starch (so-”C, R” for chicken and rice. This was mainly to easily set up weekly plans to include a variety. I set it up so we’d have at least one vegetarian dish a week)
I color coded each week so I could see were one week began and end at a glance.
I make more than enough for each meal so we could have the leftover for the lunch the next day. If there is even more left overs it goes in the freezer for quick fixes later.
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Ok. I know what you are thinking. This seems like an insane amount of work and I must be an organization nut. Truth reveal is, I’m probably one of the most scattered brained, disorganized individuals you could meet. That is exactly why this is SO good for me and exactly why I know you can do it too if you want to give it a whirl. It might just change your life. Like it has mine. Seriously, it really only takes a few hours if even that or so of intial sit down work BUT what it SAVES you in time, money and stress is more than you could possibly conceive! Think about it:
- No impulsive dinning out. The temptation to go out to eat because you have no idea what to make or because you don’t have ingredients will be virtually eliminated. Saving you money and helping you eat healthier.
- Healthier decisions. We all want to eat healthier and creating a plan is such effective way to get exactly want you want in your diet. Relying on spare of the moment meals usually result in wanting something fast and convient because you start thinking about dinner when you are already tired and hungry.
- Time Saver. Have you ever spent over a half hour just trying to decide what you would make for dinner and realized that in that same time you could have had something ready already? That was the worst for me. The greatest part about it is that I realized that there are SEVERAL meals (can you say crockpot) that I could have the active prep done in less than 11 minutes! That is less time than it takes most to make mac and cheese from a box! Imagine, 11 minutes of your time in the morning to free yourself from dinner stress and enjoy a healthy hot delicious meal at night, totally worth it.
- Quick and Easy grocery shopping. With the plan in place all you have to do is scan down a list and write it down and know you will have all the ingredients you need to make all your meals for the week. You can even organize your list in the order that you shop: Produce, dairy, meat, pantry, household, etc, making shopping even easier for you!
It’s like my dinner bible that I refer to almost daily.
How to create a grocery list with it
Getting a grocery list is a breeze with a meal plan. This is how I get a list ready:
First I get my weekly calendar (see above to download a printable I threw together) and dry erase marker and fill in any outside-the-home dinners that will be available eg. eating at parents, parties, etc. Write which days you will eat out too (heh. one day…we are still on a student income).
Then I refer to a week block in my meal plan and write down all the meals for each day. Sometimes I will mix and match order and even pull from other weeks if I want. Since all the meals are ordered with what I need from the store, it is still simple to put together grocery list. I just scan the ‘make sure you have’ and write down anything I know we are out of and write down everything on the ‘fresh to buy’ column for the week.
During the week we keep a magnetic grocery (click here for a printable grocery list and shopping tips) list that we fill as we ran out of stuff that we usually have on hand while it is still on our minds. This means, while I’m cooking if I noticed that there are only two more potatoes left (something that we usually have on hand) then I stop what I’m doing for the moment and write it down before I forget.
Adding new recipes
Has pintrest not totally beefed up your recipe box? It has mine. I have a recipe binder full of sheet protects that I can easily slide in a recipe I find after I print it. It is a great way to have reference to it afterward, it is spill proof (really important for me since I’m constantly wiping off splatters) and I sometimes even make temporal notes with with a dry erase marker on recipes I modify (which is often), see if worked out and write it on on the actual recipe with a pen if it worked out. If there are winner recipes that are easy, healthy and my family liked, they make it to the meal plan.
I look forward to dinner time now!
Dinner time is on my mind before noon while I still have energy in the day. I either throw things in a crockpot or chop veggies and have all the prep work done to make it easy as possible in the evening. Now all I have to look forward to is eating. It’s beautiful. *sniff*.
What ways have YOU found that really helps you with meals and such?