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3.01.2016

Meal planning on StErOiDs

Every year July seems to be so busy for our family. It’s the sweet spot of summer where our cheeks are sun-kissed from long days at the pool, our hair stinks of smoke from late night bonfires with neighbors {who mock my magical oil bug spray, but still always want to use it}, our home is filled with lots commotion as we connect with friends, our counters are consumed with school curriculum in excitement of the year, and our grocery bill is out of control because we are always on the go and have had no time to meal plan. Anybody with me on that?

I use the month of July for planning out our school curriculum, syncing our weekly schedules and updating household responsibilities. Each year proves to involve more of our time and resources- which is only to be expected when homeschooling multiple grades. As I started to look at all these things REALITY hit me. There is no way I can keep on top of our specific diet needs without a plan.

I am a planner. I like organization. I like things pretty. I like systems. I like challenging myself. I dream big. I am a doer. All these things are what make me tick. Literally! It certainly can be overwhelming and utterly exhausting just thinking about my long list of to-dos, but it’s exactly what I LOVE to do.

So, I began planning…

Planning big picture...

6 months ahead.

 
I have always meal planned. Like so many people, I have tried all kinds of different avenues of planning; monthly subscriptions, Pinterest, cook books, blogs and always end up coming back to the simple meals our family all enjoy. I easily get caught up in the "doing" and totally over complicate things while investing more time and effort into something that falls apart with in days, so I decided to make this process realistic for us.

This is going to seem OVER the TOP with detail but please know this is not intended to overwhelm you. It is the best way for me to explain how I do it. I hope you find a nugget or two and are able to use it in your family meal planning.
I am not going to lie in saying it was super quick. It was time consuming. I worked on this project for a week as I had time. The pay off of that time spent will be in the days, weeks & months to come knowing that I will NOT have to do this again. This will give me more time with my God, husband, girls, friends, and building relationships in my oily journey. Totally worth it in my opinion. 

Here we go.

UPDATED: See MEAL PLANNING ON STEROIDS: bigger & better 

Step 1: Use a calendar to map out your plan. {always have a rough draft to start}
Here is the super cute one that I used from Mrs. Prince and Co. monthly calendar printable . It goes perfect with my iheart organizing planner. planner

Step 2: Decide how often you want to rotate your meals. 
I am not a morning person at all, so our morning meals are NEVER grand or exciting. They are simple, healthy and quick. Same goes for lunch since we are usually knee deep in school at that time. For dinner we have decided that in order limit the waste of produce we would rotate the the same meals every other week each month. For example in the picture below we have Stir Fry listed on two Sundays. We eat the same dinner meal twice a month then move onto a new meal rotation the following month. {that sounds complicated but its not, just look at the picture below}

Another reason I wanted to rotate the meals this way is so that our oldest daughter, Bryten could continue working toward 'mastering" her abilities in the kitchen. About 2 years ago we decided that Bryten could start helping with family dinners. We let her choose one recipe and over a month or so she would make that meal once a week. Eventually she was able to make the entire meal start to finish with NO help and from memory. Memory isn't the goal, the goal really is to learn the skills needed to contribute to our family and to help teach her sisters to do the same. 

This has been such a blessing to our family and given Bryten such ownership. One day all four of our girls will be cooking side by side. When that day happens I know my heart will EXPLODE with thankfulness and joy for the time we have spent in the kitchen training and equipping them to nourish their body's and spirit with these skills. 

Step 3: Make a large list of the meals your family enjoys. 
I wrote them out in categories to make it easy. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner- Chicken, Beef, Seafood, and Meatless/Misc.

Step 4: Decide on a color code system (this will prove beneficial further on). 
Choose a color for each meal type. ie. beef recipes will be in blue. I heart sharpies so these are what I use in all my planning.


Step 5: Fill in days that you will not be cooking or have out of the norm meal plans
You will need to look at your family calendar and see what you all have going on over the next few months. Birthdays, take out, traveling, entertaining {love love love having people in my home, so this happens a TON}...

Step 6: Start filling in the calendar with breakfasts and lunches. 
When I put down a meal I always consider what we will be doing that day and how much time I can allot to preparing meals. We always have bible study on Wed mornings, so that means we will have a quick easy meal. 

Step 7: Based on your families schedule, fill in appropriate meals.
We ALWAYS have family night on Fridays which include homemade pizzas so that makes it easy to fill in. I'm weird like that and always have the same meat type on the same day of the week and usually try not to do back to back main meats.



Step 8: Gather your recipes {cookbooks, online, social media}

Step 9: Write out your recipes using a cute template like this one recipe cards

Go back to the colors you choose for your main dishes and write it out on the corresponding recipe card. Here is how I did it; pink-meatless or misc, light blue- beef, orange- chicken, and red- fish. I hand write my recipes but feel free to use something like PicMonkey to edit your cards.

Keep your families restrictions in mind when writing them out. I take this time to add in any substitutes that we need so that when my daughter or husband prepare the meal there is no guess work as to which ingredient to use.

Step 10: How to use the COLOR CODE SYSTEM- When it comes time for dinner prep, all you will need to do is look at the calendar see what meal you are making and the flip through your recipe cards looking for that color item. So easy and quick.

Step 11: I decided to laminate because, well I have little people with messy hands who like to help and I wanted these to last a LONG time. 

I plan to add to this collection over time. I used a ring to keep them together.


 I purchased a little metal basket from Office Max to hold these cards in because they can get to heavy for a magnet. You may want to just put in an old fashion recipe box, but keep it close to the menu.


Step 12: Keep it visible. Make a station. 
I laminated the monthly calendars as well so that we could use dry erase on them to make adjustments if needed. HEAR ME LOUD AND CLEAR... we are not slave to this plan and therefore have set the expectation that we will need to have grace and room for change. 

I dislike clutter. I like to keep things simple and visually pretty. Having "stuff" all over my counters would be so distracting for me, so I made a little station on the side of my refrigerator. Everything is in one spot. When the kids ask me whats for breakfast, I tell them to go look at the menu. My little ones love asking whats the dinner meal so they can help take that item out of the freezer if needed. Its so darn functional. 




Step 13: Make a master list of all the snack options you allow your family. 

Keeping this list handy helps eliminate the guess work and reduces impulse shopping. 

Step 14: Have a grocery list available for list making throughout the week. When its time to actually write my list for the meals, I take the calendar, recipe cards, list and sit and jot down what I all need. I usually will buy the items in bulk if I know I am using in more than one recipe. I use another Mrs. Prince and Co. printable for my lists grocery list

Plan to have at least one meal on the list that you can take to someone who could use it. Have a friend who recently had a baby, friend who has been sick or had an injury, someone struggling, or a just because I love you meal? 


After I shop for all my goodies, here is what I do almost immediately.

Step 15: Portion out snacks. 
If I do not do this, we will literally be our of snacks by day three. Once they know we have a fresh batch of yummy snack items they feel the need to eat them all as fast as possible. I implemented this little system a few weeks back and it has been AMAZING!!!! 

I can not keep my snacks in hands reach of my kiddos. They are like sneaky super spy's who find ways to distract me and grab a snack without permission. I use these baskets from the Dollar General for organizing all of my kitchen stuff. 
I use LOTS of zip lock bags. I'm ok with that because I know it's saving me money. I will often re-use any bags that did not have produce in it. The baskets below all are refrigerated snacks. The kids know that they must always ask for any snack item in a basket. The fruit in the drawers are free for snacking without permission. That would include apples, oranges, peaches, pears, plums and whatever seasonal tree fruit is out. 



These baskets go right into the refrigerator


Then I move to the snacks that will end up on the top of my refrigerator. Let me tell you, one bag of corn chips will last us well over a week now. Each bag is just the perfect amount for snacking. My husband has really like this system as well. 


My kids no longer dig in the cabinets for food. They know that all snacks are prepped and ready to go and must be asked for. We rarely eat processed or convenience foods, so our cabinets are always pretty bare. I am hoping to stock up on some staples as I am shopping more in bulk. 


Lastly

Step 16: Don't stress about making your meal planning exactly like mine. Not everyone likes to get this detailed. I do, so that's what works for me. Do what works for you. Give your self GRACE. You will make mistakes in the process and that is OK. If one month seems more doable, do that. 



2 comments :

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  2. I'm inspired by your basket of snacks! After 7 years of homeschooling, why haven't I thought of this!!

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