Monday, December 6, 2010

Practical Meal Planning

Ok, here are some more practical tips that I have been gleaning from for years, so that I can become a better wife, mother, and servant in my home. Almost none of these are original to my own imagining, I have gleaned them from far wiser women than me, and so can take little credit for them, but they have been a huge help to me.
Now, I will give a quick background on what my life looks like and why. I have two children and a husband who loves to eat healthy but a the same time, he is not a salad type of guy ( he likes salads, just not as the main part of the meal). So as our budget dwinded when we became missionaries and dwindled again when we started having kids, I have had to become creative in our meal planning.
I run a pretty tight ship in our house as far as finances go, so at this point, one of the only flexible items in our budget is our food allotment, and it still isn't much.
For health, financial, and practical reason we have cut down our meat meals to just two a week. That helps out a lot in the cost areana, and I am working on incorporating more beans (and therefore more gas-x) into our diets (cheap, filling, healthy).
I'm also working toward a weekly meal plan with only a few variations in the mix that allow for some excitement, it makes my life easier, keeps my kids more grateful, less picky, and keeps the question of, what's for dinner? answered, for the most part.

Now, it does help that my husband fasts regularly, so I am not always having to cook with him in mind, it is quite simple to cook for me and two kids, nothing fancy, simple quick easy.
So for example, my weekly meal plan may look something like this:
Monday - egg night (usually we have a quiche or if I'm late getting started, scrambled eggs and toast)
Tuesday - crock pot meat meal (something stew-ish or soup-ish)
Wednesday - beans and something (beans and rice or beans and corn)
Thursday - usually we eat out that night at a friends house (we love Thursdays, thanks Harrigan Family for feeding us!!!)
Friday - crock pot meal (usually not meat, beans or something)
Saturday - possibly left overs or something thrown together like tuna noodle casserole
Sunday - main meat meal of the week, the showcase meal of the week!

Well, if my husband is reading this, he is probably wondering who is writing this, because so far I haven't been keeping to this meal plan so well. The truth is, I'm actually not that good at cooking beans from dried beans. They always split and explode and are nothing but mush when it is time to eat them. Until recently I didn't know what I was doing wrong. Well, I always use the quick soak method, and from what I hear the overnight soak yields better results. So starting this week, this is our newest version of the weekly meal plan.

Second meal planning staple besides bean is frozen veggies which I buy lots of when they are cheap, mostly organic, but some things are not. I also buy a lot of them from Sam's Club in bulk, which is more cost effective, but soon we will be switching to Costco because they have more organic choices in general. I try to cook a veggie at every meal, green beans, corn, lima beans, carrots, peas.

Another way I keep our food budget under control is I don't buy cereal, I make granola once a week and we put that in our yogurt and eat it with Almond Milk on it. Yum. To buy healthy cereal anyways, its about the same thing as granola in most cases.

Next, I always make a list when I am sitting down and calm and rational. I go thru my meal plan for the week, and think about breakfast, lunch and dinner, and try to buy only two snack items (example, pretzel sticks and triscuits). Then, when I go shopping, I stick to the list unless it is a necessity that I just forgot, like milk, bread, butter, etc. Or if I find a great sale on a  staple like rice, butter, bread, etc.

I try not to shop with my kids too, it cuts down on the 'I want' syndrome that they are so prone to these days.

I also only shop once a week (achievement of this goals is actually at about 60% of the time). If we run out of something in that time frame, unless it is a dire need, I don't replentish it until my next shopping trip. So if we run out of orange juice, we don't buy more until I do my regular shopping again. If I want to make homemade bread, but I'm out of flour, then I'm not making bread that day. Sometimes it really bums me out, because my husband goes on little kicks sometimes and eats a whole lot of something that I thought I had enough of to last and then we just don't have it until I go again. But this rule saves on money, gas and time. It is worth going with out for a few days.

Last meal plan idea that has helped me a lot. Not buying a lot of pre-made things, but setting aside time in my week to cook up some things that can be eaten throughout the week. Like my granola, I make it once a week and we munch on it until it is gone, I make a big batch of cookies and that is our desserts, or I buy a bunch of fresh fruit and cut it all up in one day and have it clean, stored and ready to pull out and serve as snacks. Crackers are my only downfall because I haven't learned how to make my own yet. I love me a rosemary and olive oil triscuit with some cream cheese on it! Yum, and so do my children.

Well, so those are my ideas, and some of them are just goals in the process of being instituted into daily living, but I think they will help me to serve my family better, especially since I work part time outside my home. Anything to help save time and money is well worth the initial investment it takes to make it habit.
Be blessed today and take a look at your meal plan, see if it could use any of these ideas to make it run smoother, and if anyone reading this has a homemade cracker recipe, let me know, I would love to have it!!!


lifeinthevillage said...

what fun! no cracker recipe here, but you did inspire me to make my granola today, plan my meals, and eat a cracker! haha!

Abbie said...

i love your tips! there is a recipe for cheddar crackers I saw on And about the dry beans. I had a hard time getting them right too! A couple tips I have learned.. Definitely the overnight soak or up to 24 hours and I simmer mine for 2-3 hours on med/low and add extra water when needed. And stir every 20 minutes. I also do them in chicken broth often to give them more flavor. I need to soak some tonight! Glad I read this it reminded me. Its been a while!