My Meal Plans

I get inspiration for meals from all sorts of places.  One source in particular is from a lady’s blog on Allrecipes.com.  Every week, she writes down what she is going to make, a link to the recipe, and often the side dish she will serve with it.  If the recipe can be split up into two or more meals, she includes that information as well.  In addition, if she links the meal one week, freezes a batch of it, and uses the frozen meal a couple weeks later, she will mention that too.  It is very organized and well thought out, which helps me.  It also helps me that she cooks for just herself and her husband.  When she says she is going to split a recipe into two or more meals, I know I will probably be able to split them into the same quantities since I’m only cooking for two people as well.
Something I have started doing over the past year or so is making a meal plan.  I try to pick one of my days off to sit down and figure out exactly what I want to make for the next several days.  I don’t usually stick with a week because my schedule is not conducive to that. 

One thing I should mention is any time I see a recipe I like, I write it down in a spreadsheet on my computer called “Recipes”.  If I saw the recipe on the computer somewhere, I will add a direct link from the spreadsheet to the web address the recipe can be found.  If I see it in a cookbook, I will write down the cookbook name and the page number.  Magazine articles have tripped me up in the past because I will tear out a recipe I want to try, but I’ll forget to file the article away, resulting in lost recipes.  I am going to get better about organizing my recipes, but that is a work in progress.

Anyhow, back to the meal planning.  I have another spreadsheet on my computer called “Meals”.  I write down the day, date, and my schedule (early, late, or off) on the lefthand side of the spreadsheet.  In the next column, I decide which protein I will serve at the meal.  I try to mix it up and not have five days of chicken followed by five days of turkey or whatever.  Then, I will go to my “Recipes” spreadsheet and pick out the recipes I would like to try.  I will insert them into the “Meals” spreadsheet, complete with links to each recipe, and often the side dishes I would like to serve.  Then, when it’s time to make my grocery list, I just go to each recipe and copy down the ingredients I need to pick up.  A little planning saves a lot of time in the long run.  Check out a picture of my spreadsheet below:

Another thing I try to do, is follow Rachael Ray’s advice and prep my food when I get home from the grocery store.  I look at each recipe and see if there is anything I can do ahead of time to save a few steps when I go to make the recipe later that week.  If I’m making stir fry and the veggies will not go bad if I chop them up, I do so.  If I know I’m not going to need some of the protein I picked up for a few days or longer, I toss them in the freezer.  Anything I can do on my day off that will save me time later on, I try to do.  Many days I don’t get home from work and the gym until after 6p.  Jeff is usually starving by this point, so I have to either make food that can be whipped together very quickly, or I have to rely on my crock pot to do the cooking for me.  Casseroles are another great thing to make ahead.  I just leave a note on the counter that tells him what to do (preheat oven to 400* and cook casserole for 45 minutes, etc). 

I hope this helps some of you out there that have a hard time planning meals and finding time to make homemade foods for your family.  If I think of any more tips, I will let you guys know!

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