Thursday, June 19, 2014

Desperation in the Kitchen: Meal Planning 101 or Something Like It

Gabe and I have always joked about my "borderline" OCD-style approach to my kitchen. Even when I was working 80 hours a week and never cooked, my kitchen counters had to be organized to my liking. I can't even begin to tell you how much that has intensified since we moved to North Carolina and I became a mostly-stay-at-home Mom.

I have a list of what's in my freezer, fridge, and cupboard tacked to my bulletin board. Yes, I absolutely update it every time I use something. Yes, I think my husband thinks a nice little "vacation" in a padded room is probably necessary. (For the record, I think it is a fantastic idea.  I could use the time away)

About six months ago, I started planning meals a day ahead, then a week ahead, then a month ahead, trying to use as much as what I had in my fridge/freezer/pantry and buying as little as possible.

I guess my love with Meal Planning actually started one week, between paycheck where I literally had what was in my kitchen and $15 to feed my family with for a week. Lord...I panicked. And cried. And yelled. But, I actually accomplished it, with meals and money to spare.

And today, I got a message from my friend Brenda, who rocks and sometimes blogs here, and she needed some help with Meal Planning. Between the two of us, we came up with 2 weeks worth of meals with what Brenda has in her kitchen and less than $30 spending money. Brenda and I feel like we've conquered the world, and I feel like I should share some Meal Planning hints (even though Gabe told me I should keep them all to myself and "charge people out the nose for it"....gotta love my husband)

So, here you go. Be grateful I didn't take Gabe's advice.

*Keep track of what's in your house. That means organize your pantry. I learned this the hard way when I was convinced I was out of peanut butter and found 7 full jars in my cupboard. Yeaaaaah.

*Have some go-to meals, and keep the stuff for them on hand all the time. My go-to's are taco soup, ramen stir fry, frittata, baked potatoes, and grilled cheese. That way, even if you are short on time, you know you have stuff to make SOMETHING.

*Plan ahead as far as you can. I just finished my July meal plan. But it's a fluke, so please don't think it goes this well every month. It doesn't, I swear.

*Keep a calendar of it.

*Don't feel bad if plans change, because, guess what? Plans change. I've crossed stuff out and replaced it with other stuff on a regular basis.
*Make a list of meals you would like to have ahead of time. I took pen and paper and asked Ella and Gabe what they would like to see on the menu next month.

Here's my list.

That's about it. Sound simple? It really is.


  1. I love menu planning, I have been doing it for well over 20 years and I couldn't function without it.

    I always plan from my pantry, deep freezer and refrigerator first, then I use cookbooks and online sites, or meals from my childhood. I plan for two weeks at a time, and it really does help to know what you're cooking ahead of time, plus it saves a lot of money at the grocery store.

    Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog :)

  2. Thank you for commenting back. I'm in North Carolina, and I've yet to meet another meal planner here, which makes me the crazy grocery store lady....I'm ok with that title!