Meal Planning: It’s possible
January 18, 2010
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We have been creeping towards it, my husband and I. From the days when we first met and ate almost every meal out; to the days when we were planning our wedding and I got ‘domestic’ and starting cooking here and there; to our first year married where we frequented the farmers market weekly; to today, where I can honestly say that I meal plan and cook 90% of our meals at home. It was this last year that really gave us the push. Two factors really:
1) I am on mat leave and miracle of miracles- our baby sleeps pretty well. Facilitating both the time to plan and the time to cook.
2) I am on mat leave and that means our income has been reduced. Oh, and we spend a lot on baby stuff. Hence our ‘going out/ordering in’ budget has been, well, eradicated.
So I cook. And bake. A lot. (Which is partially why I have not lost my baby weight. Mmmmm muffins)
What I have learned is that it is really not that hard. You come up with 7-14 good recipes that you can cook relatively quickly (or at least you can prep ahead and throw in the oven while warming up a bottle). Then you shop accordingly. If you are really smart you make more then you need and voila- lunches too!
- You will eat more real food. The kind made from ingredients rather then something that has a list of ingredients on the package.
- You will spend less. For us, the grocery bill went down about 40%. And you save the money you would have spent eating out. And we still buy as much organic/natural as possible.
- It is far healthier. Unless, like me, you bake a lot. Still, you will eat less yucky preservatives and chemicals
Here are my top tips:
- Pick meals that everyone likes and rotate to fit the season (more stews and casseroles in the winter, more salads and grilling in the summer)
- Shop for your protein first, based on availability (we buy a particular ‘more natural’ line of meats from the supermarket and the same cut of meat is not always available)
- Keep your arsenal of recipes kinda in your head and then buy the veggies to go around the proteins in your shopping cart
- Always keep the staples in the house (rice, pasta, dairy, salad greens, favorite veggies and breakfast fixin’s)
- Write your meal plan when you get home based on what you now have in the house. Our meal plan is actually more like a list of possible dinners/lunches for that week
- Always have one uber easy, semi-convenient food option. Ours is frozen chicken meatballs, box of whole wheat pasta, jar of organic pasta sauce.
- Before you shop next week, write down any meals you can make with what is still left in the house. Factor this in when you shop so you don’t buy more then you need.
Now the question is how I will keep this up when I go back to work? Anyone know any good crock pot recipes?? Stuff that freeze’s well?