Meal Planning… Where to Begin?

July 31, 2011 at 2:25 AM 11 comments

On Thursday I mentioned my plans to stock the pantry in preparation of the arrival of my little-one-to-be and my impending job loss. A few readers provided great ideas on preparing and freezing meals in advance as well as creating weekly menu ideas. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of both creating a menu and preparing make-ahead meals.


I was wondering if anyone can direct me to blogs or websites that discuss menu planning in more detail. While I don’t want to create crazy and elaborate entrees, it would be nice to have a quasi-plan in place that will limit take out, especially during those first few months.

I found a few sites that recommend meal planning, but when I dig into them I find a lot of their menus involve eating breakfast for dinner. While I wouldn’t mind doing this every so often, (I actually love scrambled eggs and french toast for dinner), I’m not sure that I want to make that a weekly staple.

So I’m handing this one off to my readers in the hopes of hearing about your ideas and suggestions. Do you plan a weekly meal menu or do you fly by the seat of your pants each night? If you make a menu where do you find inspiration and how long does it take to prepare and cook an average night’s meal?

I’m looking for solutions that are healthy, but relatively quick. I’m also hoping for suggestions that will involve a bit of variety so I’m not staring at the same set of meals over and over.

If you have any ideas or thoughts on meal planning please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Entry filed under: food. Tags: .

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Pam  |  July 31, 2011 at 3:15 AM

    http://www.eatathomecooks.com

    One of my recent favorites. She posts weekly menus, regularly cooks for the freezer, and links to recipes on her menus.

    Reply
  • 2. Jenny  |  July 31, 2011 at 3:44 AM

    Here is a blog post giving several ways to create a meal plan. Hope it helps. My personal favorite is the pantry and sales plan.

    http://amysfinerthings.com/menu-planning-strategies

    Reply
  • 3. Margie  |  July 31, 2011 at 3:48 AM

    I try to meal plan on a weekly basis and do all my grocery shopping for the ingredients in one trip on the Sunday before the week starts. This totally helps with the end of the work day "what should we have for dinner?" texts that DH and I would pass back and forth – each hoping the other would come up with a good idea!

    I have a handful of recipes that are tried and true . . . but since I love to try new recipes and branch out, I'll dig around allrecipes.com, the food network, and epicurious. The hubs is a vegetarian which makes things a little tricky but fortunately he eats fish/seafood so that expands my options!

    Reply
  • 4. Cora  |  July 31, 2011 at 5:57 AM

    I really like http://www.thefrugalgirl.com She posts a meal plan weekly, sometimes with links to her recipes and she also has a post about how she makes her plan each week.

    Reply
  • 5. Vivienne  |  July 31, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    You know, I'd just start with a list of my favourite recipes. With about a dozen recipes, you've got enough to make and freeze and you know that you and the household will eat them regardless. This, to me, is frugality – left overs get eaten.

    I buy protein (meat, fish, poultry, peas, shrooms whatever) in bulk. If it's meat, I prepare the meat for meals for 8 (ie, 2×2 meals at home and some for work lunches) with marinade and freeze. Nothing goes into the freezer unless it's prepared.

    Buy the best veges in season you can afford and blanche and freeze them – much better and more economical than already frozen which bulk up their weights with water.

    If you've got a deep freeze, do what my friend (who has 6 kids) does: he gets a whole cow/pig etc butchered from a farm and distributes amongst the extended family, much cheaper than the supermarket that's for sure. All the cuts are deep frozen until use in that season.

    Eat your pantry/deep freeze down by the end of each season, to make best use of the next.

    All the best for the coming motherhood!

    Reply
  • 6. Merri Ann  |  July 31, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    I really like The Frugal Family Fun Blog. I think it's http://www.frugalfamilyfunblog.com

    She has great tips for saving money in a lot of different areas.

    Reply
  • 7. Debbie  |  July 31, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    Sunday afternoons are my meal plan times. I customize our weekly CSA box and then make out my grocery list for the next day and get my coupons together.

    After that, I make three columns on a piece of paper: one is for proteins, one for vegetables and fruit, one for grains and starches. Then I make a blank form to fill in dinners for us and a lunch for me (often leftovers). I cross each item off the list as it it's added to the form. This really helps me use up our fresh produce and make sure it won't go bad – I know to flash freeze, dry or can certain things if they won't get used that week.

    I sounds really complicated now that I've written it out, but it's evolved over time to what works for me.

    Reply
  • 8. Merri Ann  |  August 1, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Yesterday I couldn't remember the best site for meal planning … today I found the exact site http://www.orgjunkie.com. She has lots of sites link up for "Menu Plan Monday". Tons of great meal ideas and tons of tip from all these other moms about making the meal plans work for their new families.

    Reply
  • 9. Ruby Leigh  |  August 1, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    My plan is more like a quasi-plan. My boyfriend and I work together at the beginning of the week to come up with a dinner meal for each day. We literally write this on something as fancy as a post-it note. We try to come up with meals that work with the ingredients on hand, but sometimes a shopping trip is required.

    I've tried in the past to do the stocked pantry – and then just wing it with the meals, and it doesn't work for me at least. Just a little extra planning has made all the difference in terms of budget, using food before it expires, and so forth.

    Reply
  • 10. One Frugal Girl  |  August 2, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the ideas and suggestions! I've bookmarked all of the links you provided and plan to start a solid meal plan over the next few weeks. I'm excited by the idea of knowing what to cook for dinner long before 6 o'clock each evening!

    Reply
  • 11. SarahA  |  August 4, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    I'm behind on my reading but I would suggest Simplifried.com. It came out of Unclutterer.com (which you would also love) and has a very simple way doing things.

    Also, please share your adventures in meal planning. I have never been able to do it consistently and would love to see how you go about it.

    Reply

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