Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Can a girl get some help?! Meal planning 101.

I feel like with all these resources out there, and the fact that I've been married well over a year now, I should be some sort of wizard at cooking for Caleb and I by now. I don't know what it is, I just haven't grasped onto the concept of cooking for two every single night, having all the right ingredients when I DO actually have the time to cook, and even just that, finding the time. I feel like I need to be better at making my time right after work specifically about my marriage. Half the time we cook together, and then we can enjoy a dinner together at the table! However, Caleb and I have crazy schedules (both with work + personal commitments) so some weeks, we're not home long enough to cook a giant meal and actually enjoy it.

Remember this post last year about how I'd never used my crock pot? Yeah, so I wrote that on August 29th, and here we are...nearly a year later. Still haven't used it. I will be honest, I'm getting MUCH better at cooking in general, everything I've made us, we've loved, and following a (hard) recipe is even proving to not be so terrible... its just the PREP-work that I need help with.

I will say though, last night I made Mediterranean stuffed zucchini and EEK, it was amazing. Guys, at one point I looked down and realized I had a towel on my shoulder, Caleb looked up and said "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, a CHEF!", we cracked up, but for real?? These things were so good we went back for seconds and thirds, and I don't care how silly it was that I'm still proud of myself. I have actual freak-outs about how I don't think I'm a great "housewife" so I'm giving myself 7 golden stars for last nights dinner ;)
Pampered Chef creates wonders. This made my job so much easier last night!

How do you ladies meal plan? Is Pinterest your best friend each Sunday afternoon? Or do you literally sit at your kitchen table and write down ingredients from your fav cookbooks and just go for it?! I just need a little direction because I feel like its my organizational process (the part before the a actual cooking) thats just NOT that great. Also, while you're at it, I could use some yummy side dish ideas. Thanks, in advance!!!

27 comments:

  1. Over the last three years we have been married, we have gathered up a few "favorite" recipes. On Sundays, I look at our schedule for the week and pick out however many meals we need for the week and then we go grocery shopping for the specific meals. It makes life so much easier when we have a plan for the week. Every once in a while, we throw in a new recipe to try to see if we can add it to our favorite. I think most of it is just trial and error so feel free to just test it out to see what happens!

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  2. Those look delicious! Kevin and I are trying emeals this month and so far love it! You can tell to how many you're cooking for so you don't have so much leftover. It creates a meal plan and a grocery list for you every week! Dave Ramsey backs it. Check it out!

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    1. I am totally going to have to look into this!! Sounds awesome.

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  3. We sit down on Sundays and plan out our meals for the week. Usually 4-5 meals. That way we have some flexibility if one person just does not want to cook that night. Go to the grocery store and that is the ONLY food that we buy. It has worked for us for the past couple years.
    I use Pinterest, my friends, and some recipe books I got for Christmas. Some weeks, meals come to us easily, but some weeks its a struggle to think of just 1 meal to cook!! I've always learned, to cut recipes in half. That way we don't have left overs for weeks.

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  4. Look at you! And look at those zucchinis, mmmmmm. I will be coming back later today and stalking everyone's comments to see their advice on this one, too!

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  5. I will often sit down and make a big list of recipes we enjoy (and where they're from) and just pull from that each week. Also I make enough so that we can have leftovers the next time (less meals you have to plan!). I use Pinterest, cookbooks, blogs, make recipes up, etc. (there's a cooking tab on my blog!). Every meal doesn't have to be gourmet or elaborate either. I also like to make things and freeze them so when we are in a crunch they are practically ready. And use that crock pot, girl! It will be your best friend!

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  6. We are old school and get the paper on Sunday, which has grocery ads for the week. I go to the store on Wednesday, so on Tuesday night, I look through the Meijer and Aldi ads. Then I take a look at the calendar for the week and figure out what we are doing on each night and decide if I have to make something that doesn't take a ton of time or if I can make something elaborate. We do plan a night where we pick up supper vs. making something (typically Sat.). Once I have a "calendar" made, I shop the ad first, checking what's on sale. That usually is a big factor in what we eat. I also check what I have to work with here at home. I'm super anal and write my list according to the store layout. It really shortens the amount of time I spend there. I like to see how fast I can get everything on my list. Plus, grocery shopping is *really* fun with 3 kids, so that's extra incentive to keep things moving. :)
    It took me a long time to get my "system" down. Don't stress out about it; you'll find something that works for you!

    I forgot: I do buy family packs of chicken, hamburger, and so on when it's on sale. I divide them up and freeze what I don't need for later.

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  7. I actually do my planning on Wednesday, when the grocery ads come out. I go through my recently pinned recipes, and compare them with whats on sale, and pick 5-6 meals to make that week, buy the ingredients for those. I dont usually assign a meal to a day, I just know that in that week, I'm going to make these 5-6 meals. It's flexible enough that if I (or the hubs) is just NOT in the mood for '"x" , I can drop back and pick another meal I already have the ingredients for. Make sense?

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  8. That first picture makes me laugh, and the finished project looks amazing!! Definitely coming back to stalk people's answers. We have a pattern of meals we cook but I agree, the prep work kills me!

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  9. I love you for this. I am the worst at cooking, mostly because I am so picky. Michael and I like to grill a lot and by Michael and I, I mean Michael. We try to plan for the week and go to the store on Sunday to get everything we may need. If we fall off schedule, we can have it next week. :)

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  10. I'm loving the comments already! I would give yourself 12 gold stars for cooking that delicious meal too! Whatever helps keep you motivated :) I'm way too spoiled with being able to eat what Sarah makes for dinner. From what I've observed from her, she really enjoys it and cooks a lot so she has a lot of recipes in mind because she's made it before. It doesn't have to be pinterest worthy every single night! You totally got this :)

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  11. Look at you chef Kayla!!!! That looks delicious, you go girl!! :) I check the ads as well for when meat goes on sale and I go and stock up. A couple of weekends ago Matthew's mom and I spent the whole Saturday cooking the meat and other meals to freeze. We browned the meat and separated it into freezer zip lock bags (a pound of meat in each bag) we didn't add any seasoning. So when I am ready to use it I just take warm it up in a skillet for about 6-8 mins and then it is ready for the seasoning or to add it to something. We made Italian meatballs, mixed all the ingredients together and then baked them. Once they cooled off we put separated them into freezer zip lock bags and when I am ready to use them I just take them out and place them in my spaghetti sauce and let them simmer for 30 mins. We also made chicken pot pie, breakfast burritos, poppy seed chicken casserole and grilled chicken (I wrote a post on this last week!) We spent about 4-5 hours that Saturday, but it was SO worth it. We both have crazy schedules too, and with classes fixing to start back up in a couple of weeks so will all those activities. So this is definitely going to help. It is also cheaper because meat can be pretty expensive! I make brown rice for our side dish a lot of the time and add seasoning to is. I also just cook vegetables or noodles for sides!

    P.S. I got a really cute crock pot for Christmas and still haven't used it LOL

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  12. Definitely use your crockpot ;) Most weeks Jared and I try to plan one crockpot meal, one meal we'll actually make when we get home, and one "quick" meal (like pre-made turkey burgers and a salad). Two of those meals will provide plenty of leftovers for the next day (sometimes more!) and then we fill in the gaps with other quick things as we need. I think it's better to start small rather than saying you're going to all of a sudden start cooking 6 nights a week, etc! :)

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  13. You're talking to the queen of being organized over here :) Seriously, I'm so OCD... but it comes in handy in the cooking every night department! I actually plan our meals with a spreadsheet each week (and I usually use a store sale flyer when planning our meals to save money)... it's a bit of a pain to sit down and plan it all out but it's so worth it. I plan the meals then make a shopping list from the meals to make sure I have everything I need. I'll also try to plan smart and shop smart... like if I'm buying lettuce to use in tacos, I'll also plan to make a big salad for dinner one night so that I can use up all the lettuce. The extra time spent doing all that is SO worth it because it makes each week night a breeze knowing what I'll be making and having everything on hand.

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  14. I'm absolutely the worst about cooking. I also have an unused crockpot sitting in the cabinet alongside an unopened crockpot cookbook. My problem, aside from a lack of time, is that I hate buying things for only two people! I can't count how many times a loaf of bread has gone stale or a gallon of milk has been dumped down the drain. They need to sell individual size portions of things! Also, the picture with the towel on your shoulder? Hilarious. Maybe you've inspired me to get the crockpot out at the very least.

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  15. Kait at CommuniKait just did a post on this today.

    I have been meal planning for over a year and life is so much easier because of it. Otherwise we would be eating the same foods every week or two. Basically I plan 6 meals a week with one day being a freebie to eat out. I usually meal plan on Sunday and shop on Sunday. I have a grocery list template I use. I go through each recipe I have decided on from either Pinterest or a cooking mag and put each ingredient I need to buy in its respective spot on the grocery list. (http://theprojectgirl.com/downloads/theprojectgirl-mealplanner2.pdf) I pretty much decide the night before what I am going to make the next day depending on what is going on and what items need to be used first. I usually plan a mix of new and tried and true recipes. If a new recipe is good and we both like it, I keep it and move it to the tried and true pile. Otherwise I toss it. For easy, fast recipes that don't require a lot of culinary skills, I would recommend picking up a Taste of Home magazine or their Simple and Delicious TOH one. They have recipes that don't require a lot of work/prep and don't include a lot of off the wall ingredients which I like. I hate having to buy a spice or something for a recipe that I will only use once.

    Hope this helps!

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  16. Your link for the zucchini doesn't work. :-(( Can you e-mail it to me? I'd love to make them!!

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  17. I meal plan but don't get crazy about it. I typically make sure I have basics stocked in my apartment (frozen chicken or sausages, pasta, frozen veggies to throw in) in case my plan falls through or I need to quick throw something together.

    I pin tons of recipes and rarely go through them (I need to be better about that.) BUT I have several wonderful cookbooks that are my go-to. I previously went through and made a list of all the recipes I think I could legitimately make (ones that don't take 2 years to make or require too many ingredients). Then when I need a recipe I go to that list, pick one and then find it in the cookbook and write down ingredients. Also, make recipes early in the week that are BIG and can be used for lunch or dinner leftovers OR can be frozen in bags or Ziploc containers and pulled when you need something quick.

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  18. Just recently, I have started using cookbooks, and I have found that my dinners always turn out much better. Pinterest is great, but it is all short cuts (which is fine for desserts and appetizers), but I just feel like they never have good supper recipes.

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  19. I'm telling you- the crock pot really can be a life saver!! It's so awesome to just have your dinner ready when you get home.

    Also- Doug always makes fun of me because he can never find towels in our kitchen. I always put them over my shoulder and they end up other places randomly throughout the house.

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  20. The best thing I have ever done in my life is emeals Seriously! It's life changing! I wrote a post about it before but it really is awesome, it just breaks everything down for you!

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  21. Those look awesome! Go you!

    I find recipes that look good and just play....and after some time you find yourself "playing" more and more with things that sound good together...and find you have more/different "go-to" meals.

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  22. I'm not so good with the stove but I can bake just about anything so I'm fairly good making things from scratch. I use our crockpot once a week or so, usually when we have a busier day and I don't have time to "slave away" at the stove. But the meal you made last evening looks delish. Great job! Keep cooking and you'll get the hang of it for sure.

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  23. I personally try to plan based on what's left and finish off our food before going to buy more and forgetting about what we have. I don't plan according to pinterest and cooking books but I'll look on occasion. A lot of it depends on time for me too and with having two jobs, that's hard.

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  24. I have a system that I think works pretty well for our family that I implemented before we got married because we knew we wanted kids shortly after and wanted an organized schedule.
    Every Sunday I make my meals for the week. 2 big meals that we have two nights, so 4 nights of meals with only 2 dishes. A one nighter meal, something quick. Then breakfast for dinner and Friday pizza - 7 dinners!
    We grocery shop once a week and buy only what is needed that week for meals. So I have my meals planned before going to the store. I also plan a week ahead. I have my meals planned for August 9 - 15th but am using the August 3-9th ad - if that makes sense. I'll also buy any staples on sale, but this way it helps with our budget as well. I'm not just going around buying willy nilly and hoping to make something out of it. Especially with fruits and veggies - it all has a purpose! Weeks are much, much easier now. Dinner is made and just needs to be put in the oven - grocery shopping is done! No more "well what do you want for dinner" conversations. My husband also works 12hr shifts so this makes life much much easier especially with a 6mo old at home!!! Hope that helped and made sense.

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  25. I'll admit that I don't cook dinner every night, but I do try to make something most nights. My method is pretty simple. I have a handful of tried-and-true recipes that I choose from, and then I look at my bookmarks where I keep recipes that I happen upon through blog reading/Instagram/what have you. I decide which recipes I'm going to make for the week, and then add all the ingredients that I don't already have to my grocery list. I grocery shop once a week (usually Sundays), and I don't plan out what meal we're going to eat which day, because I might not be in the mood for pasta on Wednesday or whatever, but it does help to have some structure. Hope that helps!

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Thanks for your comments, I read and respond to every single one of them! :) Excited to get to know you!