Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meal Planning/Grocery Shopping 101

I find this post rather humorous. Mostly because it's about a subject with which I have much animosity. This chore/wifely duty is by far my least favorite, but alas I have been called (Matt's idea of cooking is heating up left over Monical's in the oven).

I AM NOT A PLANNER. In fact I hate planning and I'm bad at it. A very deadly duo. I tend to go with the fly by the seat of your pants, need some pressure to get things going approach and it has worked well in most aspects of my life EXCEPT this one. If I went with that approach with meal planning we'd either starve or I'd be at the grocery store every 12.5 minutes picking up another ingredient. Neither sounded like good alternatives so I have come up with this simple plan.

1. Assess your need.
With Matt and I's schedule it is pretty easy to know what nights of the week meals will be a priority. For example, Tuesdays and Thursdays are busy so left-overs and frozen stuff works best, but the rest of the week meals will have to be prepared. So that may mean 5 meals a week instead of 7.
2. Set a goal.
We try and make our shopping/meal list last about two weeks. Towards the end of the two weeks the meals get interesting and most of the "fresh" stuff is gone but it makes us use what we have without going out and buying more.
3. Go through the recipe box and pull out meals that are appealing.
We have a rotation of a few favorites like chicken and rice, Italian beef, tacos and fettuccine. I then pull them out and leave them on the counter.
4. Go through cookbooks/Internet for new recipes that sound good.
I try to stagger the new recipes with the old. That way if we don't like the new one, we know we will like the next one. I try about 3 new recipes every 2 weeks. I also ask Matt to go through and sticky note recipes that sound good to him in our cookbooks. That way I can go directly to them when the shopping list needs to be made (most of them contain ground beef, surprise, surprise).
5. Write down the list of meals you gathered and don't lose it.
I got this idea from my sister Brooke. I write down all 10 meals or so and put the list on the fridge. I cross them off as I go along so I know what ingredients I still have.
6. Make a shopping list.
I go through the recipes that I have collected and make a list based on them. If the garlic potatoes call for sour cream I put that on my list. I also make a list of the "fast" stuff like frozen veggies, yogurt, etc. Make sure you check your pantry for duplicate items!
7. Stick to your list.
Bring a pen and blinders (some how brownies get in my cart every time).
8. Cook away!!!
This is my favorite part. I get to cook meals that I know I have all of the ingredients for. Now don't get me wrong there is the occasional trip to IGA but it's not NEARLY as bad as it once was.

So there you have it. It can go in the record books... SHANNON ANDERSON plans something!

I still dread doing this every two weeks but the few hours of planning/shopping is worth the many days of bountiful yummies.
How do YOU do your meal planning? I'd love to know.
Any suggestions on side dishes? I have a hard time knowing what goes with what. I've been known to put potatoes with pasta (strange, I know).


Keli B. said...

I have recently learned to love menu planning. I, like you, am NOT much of a planner. But, I created a system that works for our family and has really helped me enjoy grocery shopping/menu planning. Thanks for sharing your tips!

Unknown said...

THanks Shannon! Bryan and I usually do shopping by the month (we just restock our cabinets every month, but never get specific ingredients for particular meals), and I always go crazy and don't feel like I have enough stuff (or the right stuff) for meals ever! Maybe if we broke it down to 2 weeks we would be more intentional about the things we buy! I might just have to try that...however, I do know that the more times we go to the store, the more random things we don't need end up in our cart...so we try and stay away as much as possible! Don't know how keen you are on veggies, but we find that always having broccoli, zucchini, carrots, and green beans is good because they go with just about everything. Bryan usually steams them while I tend to like to brown everything on the skillet with olive oil and parmesan (removing all nutritional value). Either way, those tend to be staple "sides" for us. Bryan was taught something that always sticks with me when meal planning and that was to get as many different colors on your plate as possible. Different colors not only tend to get you the different food groups and nutrients, but also help pick good sides. Thus why people might not understand your pasta and potatoes =) Thanks again for the advice...!

The Wickershams said...

Thanks Shannon! We really do love our home, but have fixed it up until we are blue in the face and are sick of spending all of our extra $$$ on things. We also are just ready to get into something that we can stay in for a LONG while (aka the baby years) and spread out in...I do feel blessed to have a cute little house though. But hopefully I can make the next one cute as well :) haha

amy said...

i agree with EVERYTHING! i love planning meals...i also think it's a great idea to get a couple girlfriends together on a saturday and cook a bunch of great meals that freeze well (lasagna, soup, etc), trade and get some of everyones and then on a night when you REALLY don't feel like making a mess in the kitchen, pull one of your frozen things out and heat it up! maybe if you guys move to springfield we can utilize this method =]

Lisa said...

My family has been meal planning for a few years, and about a year ago my husband started working in his free time on a meal planning website to help me. Now we use it every week, and instead of having all our recipes all over the place, and having to create our shopping list from scratch every week, now we can just drag our saved recipes to a weekly planner and the website automatically creates the categorized shopping list for us. You can also share your recipes and weekly plans with your friends. He initially just created it for our family, but we thought other people might like it so he spent more time recently making it available online. Check it out and let us know what you think. www.plantoeat.com

Faith said...

totally unrelated to meal planning but this website is right up your alley. have you heard of it?