By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail
Oh Benjamin Franklin, you are a man after my own heart.
I like things to run smoothly. The more streamlined and efficient I can make my life, the better. I want to know what’s coming at me so I can prepare and respond in the best way possible.
I was the kid who set out her clothes the night before and I’m the adult who plans meals a month in advance.
Meal planning is the best home management tool I use to keep our days flowing along and me not panicking. I’ve been doing it for about a year and half and while it most importantly saves my sanity, it also saves time, effort and money. By planning all three meals for every day up to a month in advance, I am able to use what is in the cupboards, buy ingredients when they’re on sale, prep meals when it’s convenient for me and never have to answer the question, “What’s for dinner?”.
Ready to give it a try? Here’s how I do it:
Grab a pencil, a blank one month calendar, recipes and the weekly ads.
A pencil is absolutely necessary. You never know when you’ll run out of leftovers before ‘leftovers night’ is on the menu or when out-of-town guests are going to show up for lunch. I print a blank calendar from Google Images so it’s nothing fancy but it works. Just make sure there’s enough room to write in each day. I write in B/L/D in pen. You can also plan a snack.
I start by choosing meals I can make with what I have on hand. Then I put down what Ryan or I specifically want to have. If I want roasted chicken I’ll put it later in the month so I have time for it to go on sale. Next I look at what’s on sale that week and fill in at least the rest of the week while making a shopping list, making sure I have everything the recipes call for. Two tasks done at once! Depending on how good the sale selection is, I might be able to plan most of the month or I might really only get that week done. I always leave holes in the second half so I can fill them in with what’s on sale later on. I do like to plan all three meals because I never have to think about what we’re having. Even when we’re having something as simple as cereal, I don’t need to make a decision. It’s also helps me to be intentional about what I make. So rather than just reaching for cold cereal every morning, I mix it up with oatmeal, pancakes and eggs. We don’t get in a rut and we have healthier meals because I’m not choosing what we’re going to eat when I’m hungry and pressed for time. If we’re going to have quinoa salad for lunch, I start the quinoa when I’m cleaning up breakfast dishes and chop vegetables when I have a few minutes throughout the morning. I’m not reaching for boxed mac and cheese because we need something now (full discolsure: that still totally happens sometimes).
I keep the menu on the inside of a cupboard I frequently use so it’s always right there. Ryan can check it to see what we’re having and if it’s something like ‘leftovers’ for lunch, he gets it for himself without having to ask me. When the kiddos are older and reading, I’ll post it somewhere they can see it, too. I also keep a pencil close by so I can alter the menu as needed.
While planning every meal for a month is a lot of work up front, I find it’s worth it. One big planning haul and I’m mostly done. But planning a week at a time is also highly valuable, as is just planning dinners. I’m not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl (except when it comes to major life decisions) so I like to see the whole month laid out before me. However, to whatever extent you choose to plan, you will benefit. And when you aren’t worried about what to put on the table it allows you to spend more time with your family, which is the purpose of any home management tool.
Do you menu plan? Want to give it a try? Or are you a rock star at putting meals together as you go?