Friday, March 26, 2010

Meal Planning 101: The Why's

Welcome back to another Meal Planning 101. I have been in deep thought about meal planning for several weeks and after flying by the seat of my pants for the past few weeks I just can't do it anymore! I LOVE having my meals totally planned out so I have decided that drastic times call for drastic measures.

I want to plan my meals for an entire year.

No, no, don't run away from my post.

Come back here! It's not that scary I promise!

If you think about it then it will make a whole lot of sense!! Please bear with the crazy lady for just a few minutes while I explain to you how I came up with this...

and I'm not going to try to sit down with a calender and write out 365 meals in a row and be able to tell you that on September 22nd we will be eating Pizza. Give me a break! I'm weird, not insane ;)

I realized that our diet lacks diversity...I have realized that some weeks I end up serving a lot of pasta or a lot of rice or a lot of red meat etc. and my kids are sort of picky about some things. The girl doesn't like rice but does like pasta. Doesn't really like sauce - she wants to dip her pasta in her own sauce like you would with dressing and carrots. The boy HATES pasta. He will eat it RARELY.
He's okay with rice.

*I need to eat healthier. I want to be sure I set a good example for my kids of what to eat.
*I'd like to ensure i'm eating 1 salad a week.
*I'd like to ensure we are eating 1 meatless meal a week.
*I'd like to be sure we are not having red meat more than once a week
*I want to COOK a fanci-fied meal (Turkey & dressing and such) once a month for my babies.
*I want my kids to learn to appreciate a diverse spread of food.
*I want to be able to plan well in advance what i'm having.
*I don't want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.
*I want to try new stuff.

I hardly EVER eat salad and I am tired of feeling horrible all the time from carrying around excess weight. I want to make it clear here that I am NOT going on a diet, I do not diet. I change my eating habits. If I want candy then I will eat candy! Is it really gonna hurt anyone for me to start eating better? Do I care what others think about this? Conditionally yes. I care what you think :) Because I love you :) I don't care what random people on the street think ;)

SO that sounds overwhelming but here is what I did.

I listed out all categories that I wanted to serve food from.
At first I had categories like this:

special family stuff (Like my upcoming princess & the frog movie night with my princess and frog)

Then I decided that still didn't help me so I ditched it...I put down what was actually important to me...and how often I wanted to have them.

When I was thinking about it I decided on these categories and frequencies:
Fancy Meals - 12 a year. (could be ham, turkey, whatever, just a NICE fancy, elaborate FEAST)
Salads - 1 a week. (52 a year)
Meatless meal - 1 a week (52 a year)
Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner!) 1 a week (52 a year)
Beef - 1 a week (52 a year)
Seafood - 2x monthly (26 a year) (I have problems with ecologically irresponsible fisherpeople & am VERY picky about seafood)
Pizza - 2x monthly (26 a year)
Pork - 30x a year (roughly 1 x weekly for 70% of the year...Not a huge pork fan)
Chicken - 63x a year (1x weekly but 11 weeks I will have it twice...this also includes turkey/poultry)

I know there is some overlap. Pizza might have chicken on it or hamburger or the salad might be meatless and you know what? It's my dinner! It's OKAY to have two meatless nights :) And it's okay if I have salad two nights in a week etc. :) Because I am queen of this here castle!!!!

I realized something. If I have breakfast for dinner once a week (it's cheaper than regular food ya'll) That's always going to have a spot on my menu! so I stuck him in my chart under Day 1.

If I have one salad a week, he always has a placemat too - BAM! Day 2!!
Same with meatless, Beef and chicken.

I know fish is recommended once a week but I worry about ecofriendly fishing and sustainability and mercury levels so I halved that. Sue me ;) We also love love love pizza but it's not healthy to eat pizza twice a week like we do when mommy is in a rut! well, that means that I can alternate them or if I want pizza two weeks in a row that's fine but that means i'll have seafood two weeks in a row some other time.

Everything else takes up the last day. The last day of the week will EITHER be a chicken, pork or fancy dinner....

If I fill in a sample week this is what it looks like:

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7
Chicken Caesar

Red Beans &

Tuna Burgers
Caramel Apple Pork Chops

HTML Tables

Will I eat this in that order? Likely not. But that gives me 7 days worth.
Also - Chicken really represents poultry since I might have turkey Meat loaf instead of chicken on one of those days ;)

So I can come up with everything one at a time OR I can come up with meals in advance.

I am working on a listing of recipes that i'll be pulling from throughout the year for my charts and will hopefully have at least a months worth ready.

One of the other nice things about this will be being able to surf the meat sales. Whatever meat is on sale..I can just go to my list, and buy it and use it.

Please tell me what you think of this. I just LOVE this idea - it makes things SO EASY for me, like a plug & play kinda deal - you know? The really awesome thing is you could just adapt it to your families needs. If you have a family that is vegetarian then maybe you still do Morningstar Farms burgers so you could designate one night a burger night, one night an international night and try recipes from all different countries! (ooo that sounds exciting!) one night a pasta night (Is there vegan pasta?)

I am sure that some folks will see this as too rigid, but maybe if you have 14 categories you can rotate every two weeks or something.

The beauty of this is...I don't have to have 52 different Brinner recipes. I could have 10 and rotate those.

I actually have around 20 in my list that I will be posting to help you guys out with meal planning.

What are your favorite RESOURCES for meal planning? Where do you get your recipes?


Jaime said...

Haha....most pasta is vegan! If you're looking for a good meatless meal, you can make a delicious shepherd's pie of lentils and mashed potatoes. Saute a chopped up onion, garlic, and herbs de provence in olive oil for a few minutes and then add lentils and vegetable stock (or water). Dump in a can of chopped tomatoes once the lentils are done cooking. Fill a casserole dish with the mixture and then top with a layer of mashed potatoes. Cook in oven at 350 for about 30 minutes! So good and really low in calories. You can even add mushroom gravy (you can buy it canned and it's also low in calories). It's one of our favorite meals!

Carol said...

that sounds great :) and i just know that sometimes they put eggs in the pasta and some vegetarians don't like that ;)

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