Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Meal Planning -- Cycle One

You now know the basics of how I meal plan.  Are you ready to see how one works at our house from start to finish?

We do our grocery shopping late in the week on pay weeks.  Mostly, I do this so my husband is home to go with me.  So I start planning on Monday of that week.  The meal plan I’m going to walk you through was shopped for and started on November 11th and we cooked the last meal on November 23rd with the last day of the cycle being on Thanksgiving.
Monday morning during naptime, I sat down and made my menu list.  This being my first “formal” go at this, I stuck to tried and true favorites.

·         Mini Calzones
·         Lemon Chicken – quinoa with cranberries, green beans
·         Black Bean & Corn Chili
·         Meatloaf – mashed potatoes, corn on the cob
·         Pasta & Meatballs
·         Potato Soup – cheddar biscuits
·         Red Beans & Rice
·         Indian Chicken
·         Baked Ziti
·         Stir-Fry

Once I had the meals and sides decided on, I listed all the ingredients I needed that I either knew we didn’t have or were unsure of.  Then I went to the kitchen and started checking off the items I already had.  Many items were easy to find in the pantry: pizza sauce, chicken broth, dried cranberries, raisins, rice, and beans.  Other meals I had listed with items from the fridge and freezer in mind: ground beef, corn, stir-fry veggies, bell peppers, onions, and garlic.  I also took this opportunity to write down other groceries we needed.

The next step was to sit down and make the actual grocery list.  I opened up the template in Word and just went down my list plugging things in.  After everything was listed, I went back and wrote down a price estimate for each section and a total at the top (those are the little numbers in pencil).

On grocery shopping day I have my husband look over the list and add things I may have missed (soda and Oreos this trip) and then off to the store we went.

My husband and I are a pretty efficient shopping team.  His job is mostly to push the cart and entertain the kids, and he’s pretty darn good at it!

As things go in the cart, I write down the price rounded up to the next dollar.  That’s the numbers in the black ink.  Items in black ink were things that made it in the cart but weren’t on the list.  As each section was completed, I added up the items and recorded the total price.  These would be the circled numbers.

While we’re walking to the checkout line I run a total of all the sections.  See the chicken scratch in the far right column?  This trip I came up with $93 compared to my $100 estimate.  Total at the register?  $81.97.  Without a single coupon.  Be jealous, I shop at a commissary which means no sales tax, just a very small surcharge.  We also had about $40 worth of WIC items and we tipped the bagger $5.

Groceries home and put away, I made the Stir Fry that night.  No leftovers!

I made the meals rather randomly over the next two weeks.  Some had leftovers, some did not.  I picked what to make based on any plans for that night and whether or not my husband would be home.  I focused on eating the leftovers for lunches so they didn’t go to waste, and we had a total of 4 nights where I didn’t cook and we ate leftovers for dinner.  No one complained.  In fact, the Black Bean & Corn Chili was so good that I’m pretty sure my husband ate it for lunch the first three days he was home and for dinner at least twice. 

Family’s Favorites: Meatloaf, Pasta & Meatballs, and Corn & Black Bean Chili

Least Favorite: Baked Ziti

All said and done, this cycle was a real success for us!  We didn’t eat out even once and very little went to waste. 

I even did some bonus cooking!
  •      After making the Indian Chicken, I realized that I over-bought carrots.  Seeing that I also had some zucchini that needed used, I whipped up some muffins.  My toddler went nuts for them!
  • I made some pizza puffs that turned out to be a great snack for myself.
  • Saturday morning I made Oreo Cheesecake cookies for my husband to take on the road.  His coworkers quickly demanded more.
  • Late Sunday night I got a bug to make crepes which used up a bag of mixed berries and a block of cream cheese that needed to go.  That ended up being at least two or three days of breakfasts and snacks for me and the kids.

I look forward to adding more of the bonus cooking in the coming weeks to use up things from the pantry before we move and to streamline breakfast, lunch, and dinner for myself and the kids.  

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