This week, I decided to do a Meal Plan Marathon. What is that? Well, for me, it’s taking inventory of my freezer(s) and pantry, planning out at least three months of meal plans, and bookmarking recipes for specific meals. Since my husband and I both work, home school our kids and take classes, planning meals just makes sense for us. Not to mention, it takes a lot of stress out of the day in just knowing we have a plan for dinner.
Yesterday, I began taking inventory of the freezer(s). I have a small one above the fridge and a large, upright freezer in the garage. Recently, we made two bulk purchases of chicken and bacon. Therefore, I needed to re-organize and inventory what all we had.
Today, I began taking inventory of the pantry. Routinely, I keep a bulk supply of whole grains (quinoa, couscous, a variety of rices, bulgur wheat, and polenta, etc.) and legumes (black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans and various types of lentils) for use in a variety of soups, stews, and other tasty meals and snacks (think: spicy, roasted chickpeas, hummus and bean dips). I, also, have a well-stocked bakery section, even though by no means am I a fantastic baker. However, we do make quiet a bit of pizza dough and quick breads, such as biscuits, cornbread and sweet breads.
After I figured out the ingredients that I had on hand, I discovered that I had plenty of freezer items to plan out at least three months worth of meal plans. So, off I began searching and planning. My first step was to ask my kids and husband what meals they really enjoyed and would like to eat in the near future. They were happy to oblige! This helped me tremendously, too. Thankfully, I have all the ingredients for the meals they requested. YEA! From there, I just began to review past meal plans, or search the web for recipes that contained specific ingredients.
All in all, I only worked about two hours total, which included the inventories and the menu planning. Not bad! Considering I now have three months worth of meal plans and only have to purchase fresh items like produce and dairy products. Suits me just fine!
In addition to purchasing the specific produce/dairy items, I’ll buy a couple of turkeys when they go on sale, too. I love to roast these, in order to have amazing stock for Turkey Gumbo and cooked turkey meat for quick meals. During this time of year, I, also, look for sales on baking items and certain canned goods (corn, green beans, etc.) Definitely, stock up when the price is at it’s lowest.
(Click on the link for the menu plans, which are in a .pdf file. Links to some recipes are included.)
You may notice that I only planned for 20 meals each month. Why? Well, regularly, we schedule in a Leftover Night, a Breakfast for Dinner Night and a Freezer Meal Night. Leftover Night, as you can imagine, is leftovers. Most often, Breakfast for Dinner is pancakes, eggs and bacon, biscuits and gravy, or waffles.
For the Freezer Meal Nights, I either purchase pre-made lasagna (Yes, yes I do! Costco’s is our favorite!) or double a recipe and freeze the extra for a quick, go-to meal. On the menu plans, I have marked the meals that allow me to easily double (or triple) a recipe. This affords me an extra meal (or two) in the freezer for a busy evening, or a pre-made meal ready to share with someone else.
Also, the first Friday of each month, we host our Life Group, which includes a potluck dinner. Lastly, we budget to eat out once a month. So, I had all of these particular scenarios in mind when I was making up the menu plans.
From the monthly list of 20 meals, we can select which one to make; then, mark it off of the list. Along with the other pre-planned meal nights, I think 20 additional meals each month will be sufficient for our family for dinners, as well as an ample supply of leftovers for lunches, too. We will see!
Here’s to new plans! 🙂