What is the easiest way to start meal planning?
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  1. #1
    Registered User KimZ's Avatar
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    Default What is the easiest way to start meal planning?

    Do you base it on things you already have and add fill ins?
    Do you base it on what's for sale this week?
    Do you only use what's on hand and make substitutions?
    What is the easiest way to start to do this so that I can make a dent in my $300 a week spending? This does include paper, cleaning, and pet items (I have a diabetic cat)

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    Registered User imagine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KimZ View Post
    Do you base it on things you already have and add fill ins?
    Do you base it on what's for sale this week?
    Do you only use what's on hand and make substitutions?
    What is the easiest way to start to do this so that I can make a dent in my $300 a week spending? This does include paper, cleaning, and pet items (I have a diabetic cat)
    Yes, Yes, And Yes

    I look to see what we have, and look what is on sale then make a menu plan based on those and what fits with evening activities. Does it need to be a quick meal, sit down meal , crockpot meal etc. If I plan wrong I try and make do and use substitutions with what is on hand.

    I plan the menu then make the list according to what I need and where to buy it. Shopping day is Friday or Saturday based on my work schedule.

    Paper products, Heath and beauty aids, pet supplies are bought when needed unless there is a great sale or a coupon then I will buy one or two ahead of need.

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    Registered User Raiquee's Avatar
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    Yes to all. I do a freezer inventory, then star what really needs to get used up. Then I look at the ads. It's funny this is mentioned cause I'm actually doing a video on how I meal plan this afternoon. I will link it is you can see.

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    Based off stockpile in pantry and freezer
    based off sale items
    lastly based of desires/cravings

    I try to make a loose menu for a week. I used to hide menu items that were dry goods in a brown paper bag in the pantry from my all consuming teen boy. But he is off on his own in the army so food goes slower lol

    I sat and made a list of 50 dinners we like and rotate w/ some variations. I used to cook ahead but the upright died. That will be replaced this year once Dh has a more steady job. (back to work but short term contracts).

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    Registered User zakity's Avatar
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    I do a mass inventory of everything (the whole pantry, kitchen cabinets, both freezers, both fridges/freezers, etc). Then, I sit down and make a meal plan until the stuff almost runs out (got to leave a little extra out for the surprises that come up). We get a whole beef in the fall and we get several 40 lbs boxes of chicken breasts (from zaycon) for a good price a few times a year.

    Right now, I have meals planned out until September 4th. I use my electronic calendar on my computer to schedule the meals. That way, I can see the days where I need quick meals and where I have time to cook something. On Thursday, I look at the meal schedule, the weather forecast, and the calendar and move the meals around as needed. This week, Monday was really warm, so I moved a meal that we could grill to that day. DH was not going to be home for dinner for two of the days so one became a "fend for yourself (ffy)" day and one became a frito pie day (because Husbie doesn't care for frito pie). The meals scheduled on those two days were moved to the end of the meal plan.

    When making a meal plan, there are certain things that my family loves and will eat every week and there are things that they only want once a month or every few months. I start by adding the weekly meals and then adding in the once a month meals. The every few month meals or the random purchase meals (ie, found fancy sausages on sale and will never buy them again because they are too spendy or unhealthy) get added in after that and usually the calender is full by then.

    We also wind up with extra meals because we have a partial chicken breast leftover here and there. They are diced up and tossed into a quart-sized baggie. When one gets full, it gets added to the meat inventory list or it gets added to the meal plan. Usually, the diced chicken is mixed with Mexican-style seasonings and become the meat for burritos or tacos.

    Day old (ie, won't get eaten before they go bad or have sat in the fridge for a few days) single-sized leftovers are put in a baggie or a container and put on the "lunch fodder" shelf in the freezer. These items are used for lunches or for ffy dinners if there are no leftovers that need eaten up.

    I have a white board on the fridge. When that week's chef puts away dinner, he is expected to write down what was leftover and then a dash and that day's initial after it. That way, we can keep track of what needs eaten and what is in the fridge. It helps to eliminate groddie science experiments in the back of the fridge.

    I also have lists of meals that we like, one for summer and one for winter.

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    Registered User KimZ's Avatar
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    Zakity you are one of those Organized Prodigy aren't you

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    Registered User zakity's Avatar
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    No, not really... This system emerged over the years. Trial and error are my bestest friends. If something didn't work for me, then I changed it until it did work.

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    Registered User Raiquee's Avatar
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    Zakity has got her crap together when it comes to meal planning! I thought I was awesome with planning a month at a time!

    Still working on that video. Got a fussy baby so it makes it hard to film and not have her screaming in the background about somethin'. Aka: why isn't mama holding me?!

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    http://youtu.be/zF01XVbrAvk

    There is the video! it's not too in depth, just a general way of how I do it.

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    It is rather easy when you have a whole beef or 40 lb boxes of chicken breasts to fill up a calendar. I only schedule meals Monday through Friday. Weekends are for eating up the leftovers. The mass inventory gets done right before the beef is supposed to arrive. When we get the beef, it gets inventoried also. Then, I do a mass meal planning that takes about two hours. Then, each week, I spend about five minutes checking the next week's meal plan, the weather, and the schedule.

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    Registered User MsMarieH's Avatar
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    I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of my monthly menu plans.

    I have a sheet in that workbook for tracking my freezer inventory, so it's right there when I am planning my menus.

    I also have a separate sheet for a Master Recipe Listing, which is a master list of all the recipes I have in my monthly menu plans (with columns designating them by category (i.e. Beef), type of cooking (crockpot), portion of meal (dessert, entree), where I got it (cookbook, internet url, etc.). I'm finding this very useful for making sure I mix up my recipes every month.

    I also have a sheet for new recipes. As I see recipes in my cookbooks that I want to try later, I add them to this worksheet (in a format that matches my master recipe list so it's easy to cut and paste after I make the recipes) so that i don't forget about them. This way I will just have one place to look instead of dragging out a gazillion cookbooks when I am doing my monthly menu planning.
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    Registered User KimZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MsMarieH View Post
    I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of my monthly menu plans.

    I have a sheet in that workbook for tracking my freezer inventory, so it's right there when I am planning my menus.

    I also have a separate sheet for a Master Recipe Listing, which is a master list of all the recipes I have in my monthly menu plans (with columns designating them by category (i.e. Beef), type of cooking (crockpot), portion of meal (dessert, entree), where I got it (cookbook, internet url, etc.). I'm finding this very useful for making sure I mix up my recipes every month.

    I also have a sheet for new recipes. As I see recipes in my cookbooks that I want to try later, I add them to this worksheet (in a format that matches my master recipe list so it's easy to cut and paste after I make the recipes) so that i don't forget about them. This way I will just have one place to look instead of dragging out a gazillion cookbooks when I am doing my monthly menu planning.
    Another Organizing Mastermind! I wish I could do all this...... and I am going to try this weekend.. Sunday I will make do an inventory and make my meal plans... Yes I am grocery shopping on Saturday BUT I Kind of know where I have to fill in and I will make meals based on that...

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    Registered User MsMarieH's Avatar
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    Well you could always just write down all the meals you have made in the last two weeks and use that as a starting point for going forward.

    Remember, with my spreadsheet, it's a little work to set up, but then it's done and easy to recycle in future months.
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    Registered User KimZ's Avatar
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    I have to show what I have done with one cabinet and I will continue later but it's a start and it will help to be more organized to meal plan right well it's not letting me upload a photo :disappointed: but it looks really good I have all soups on one shelf and all beans and veggies on another ... I found some that expired in 2013 wayyyy back in the back of the original cabinet all these were stored in :neutral_face: I guess that's what I get for not being very organIzed

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    Registered User zakity's Avatar
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    Before they put in the expiration dates on food, they were advertising on tv that canned foods would last to the three year trip to Mars and back. So, depending on what the cans are, you might still be able to eat them. Though, I would try to eat them up first. And, when you open them, take a peek at the can before you open it and the contents afterwards. If something seems off, don't use it.

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