Finding Balance with Meal Planning


I’ve always been good about eating at home, and eating mostly health foods and since getting married I feel we have done a pretty good job with sticking to our healthy, at home meals (thank goodness my husband loves veggies!). But we’re still trying to work out the kinks with the whole “how to meal plan” thing and often find ourselves going to the store for the same standard items, and then finding meals to eat out of that (generally a made up version of chicken, veggies, and grain of choice).

In thinking about ways to be more balanced with our meals (adding more variety), and responsible with our budget, I’m on a mission to figure out a better system of meal planning.

I’ve been looking to others to see how they do it. Some site, reference suggestions are the following:

Meal Planning 101: http://www.mealplanning101.com/2008/09/how-to-meal-plan.html

Planning with Fruits & Veggies: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/menu-a-day-week-1

Stocking up a pantry: http://www.thebalancedlifeonline.com/robins-favorites/healthy-kitchen-staples/ (The Balanced Life also has a good post on meal planning..)

Good, healthy recipes: http://www.eatingwell.com/ (I also have a couple good cookbooks with yummy, easy recipes like these that I try to use).

After looking at these suggestions, and thinking about what works for us, here are things I’m proposing to try:

1. Sit down and plan meals for the week before going to the store. Think about what’s on our schedule and how many nights we’ll  be at home to eat. I typically use leftovers for my lunches, and we can easily have 1-2 meals a week of leftovers. Leaves 5 meals to plan for the week.

2. Add at least one “meatless meal” to the weekly menu. We are lean meat lovers, but mostly know the importance of getting good protein. In order to further help the food budget though we will try to eat meatless a couple of times a week. Health and budget benefits.

3. Write up my list before going to the store (and try to write it up in order of where things are found in the stores to help prevent my forgetting something). Thinking about items needed for the week as well as what staple items we have or need. I have been trying to get things like canned beans, tomatoes, quinoa, rice, etc, at Costco or bulk places because I know we use them weekly.

4. Write down on our white board what’s planned for the week and cross them off as we make them. That way both me and my husband can see what we have available to eat and either one of us can prepare and be ready to cook when needed.

5. Assess at the end of the week how well we did. Discuss what meals worked, didn’t work, and thinking about how we can improve the system!

Part II of my meal planning improvement will be to come up with  a tried and true menu binder with recipes (old and new) that we love. Using the binder and sheet protectors we’ll be able to rotate through the recipes more and find meals we haven’t had in a while (trying to break the food rut).

Anyone else have suggestions or tips on how YOU do meal planning?

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2 thoughts on “Finding Balance with Meal Planning

  1. Ooh ooh ooh! I’ve totally been thinking about this a lot, too (obsessing is more like it). We’ve decided to go vegetarian during weekdays, and eat meat only on the weekends. Now that I’m working 5 days a week again and Tom will be starting late football practice soon, I decided I need to do a little more planning in advance. http://www.KitchenStewardship.com has FANTASTIC resources. I feel like you and I need to have a pow-wow because we seem to be thinking about all the same stuff lately. We need to find a workshop and go together! 🙂

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