life is always about the journey...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Meal Planning!

I meant to get this post done earlier but its so nice & sunny out that my chair was calling for me outside to come and sit a bit.  I love Spring, everything is in bloom and the weather is getting nicer.  I have all my windows wide open and fresh air is filling the house.  I however could do without the pollen because even with my allergy meds my eyes are still swollen.  And yes I have to dust & vacuum everyday but its worth it to me to have my windows open.  I refuse to turn on the A/C until I have to...hey back in the olden days they didn't have A/C so I can deal right?

My cherry tree all in bloom today...80 degs out with blue skies..I luv it!

Today I'm gonna give you a peek into how I organize my week and get some things done without stress involved...ahahaha...well I try anyhow!  A big stress issue for me since I work from home used to be creating meals in the evening.  I would work all day and then scramble at 6 pm to start dinner without a plan and trying to figure out what we did and didn't have.  And I try to make sure we sit down as a family 4-5 times a week for dinner.  Weekends I don't always cook unless its nice weather and then we grill...hey even mom's have to have a break now & again right?

So 2 years ago I said to self..."self...this isn't working and you are giving yourself a migraine over it, how can you change it?" and my self ACTUALLY listened LOL!  Meal planning was the answer...yeah its not a new concept...I'm not gonna WOW you with magic or anything like that.  I try to be as organized as I can be and disciplined about things in the house.  Since I work from home you have to be disciplined in order to get everything done.  So I just translated that over to my meal planning as well and it MADE A HUGE DIFFERENCE!!!

So what do I do?  I have a pretty binder (just got this new fabby binder in January from Staples) that has meal planning print-outs (mine came from here) that I print and then have the hubby run a bunch off at his work for me.  And YES I fill it out every I ALWAYS stick exactly to the plan?  NO! Well does life slip up and change moment by moment...duhhhh...yeah LOL!  But it gives me a good system in place to work with and keeps my stress low which is always a GOOD thing KWIM!

I make my plan on Friday or Saturday along with my grocery list of items I will need that week.  I usually do my grocery shopping over the weekend or on Monday and get whatever I might need for that week.  I sometimes run out to get fresh produce towards end of the week if need be but I TRY to have everything I need for the week in one trip.  The picture above was for the week before we left for Spring Break so its a bit skimpy...sorry LOL.  I don't go into a ton of detail unless its a new recipe I want to try and then I will jot down the website or where I saw it on the menu day so I don't forget.  Let me tell you...its a JOY and I say that with real enthusiasm to open the menu planner up in the morning and know exactly what I will be making.  I also pull anything from the freezer to thaw in the morning so its ready.  I will usually do any prep that I can in the afternoon before I head up to my office to work on projects unless its a crockpot meal then I will get that ready to go.  That way when I come down at 5:30ish I don't have too much to do.  The kids set the table and some nights Alexa is my sous chef ;) which is its teaching her cooking skills she will DEFINITELY need in the future. 

Lots of times I will double a recipe so I can have a batch to freeze for a later date.  I made my homemade spaghetti sauce last night to put over tortellini..mmmmm...and doubled it so I could freeze some.  The tortellini I buy fresh made from my Wegmans and its soooo good...not frozen and we had homemade rolls and a salad.  Extra frozen batches are always helpful on days you need extra help or have NO extra time.  I've really been trying to get away from using processed foods...not because I'm a food snob but because I want to eat healthier.  It doesn't mean I don't use any, I just tried to limit it these days.  And you know what?  It only takes a bit more time to make the real-deal than to just open that box or frozen food too AND if you have a plan its even me...I do know "some" things :)  And yes that brings up mom used to do that every year...I have all the supplies...and you bet your bottom-dolla I'm gonna can some things this year..its a goal...stay tuned on that.

Now another little tool I use is a meal-planning website.  I started using it last fall and it costs me $7 a month...which to me is a good use of $7 and not TOO much that its a crazy luxury type expense.  There are many plans out there and you can google them but I liked eMeals the best...I researched a few and found this one to be the easiest to use and offered up dishes I knew my family would like.  Every week they send you a new menu plan for the week depending on what plan you signed up for.  They will ask about your preferences and things you don't like or cannot eat as well.  Now I don't use their menu for each day but I do hole-punch them and keep them in my binder (I have a separate binder of recipes from last year too).  Its nice to go thru them and pick something I think everyone will like when I want to try something new or am bored with my go-to recipes.  You can also mark those recipes you just LOVED the best on the website with a favorite button.  That way you can click on your favorites tab if you every lose the recipe or don't want to print them out.  The recipes are easy to follow and usually quick to prep and make which is nice.

Along with the recipes for the week you get a shopping list of items that you will need for the recipes.  You can cross off anything you have manually on the list OR take them off the list on the website and it will print w/o them for you.  Its good to go through if you are using some of that weeks recipes to make sure you have everything you may need.  I hate to start a recipe and then find out I'm missing an item....arghhhhh.  I HATE making unnecessary trips to the store...I don't like to go out unless I have to and yes I have a grocery store in my neighborhood and Wegmans is 10 mins away but its a me anyway LOL!

So there you go...that's how I make my week a little less stressful and easy going.  Having a plan can change how you use your time during the day and cause less headaches in the end.  It MAY look like a lot of work but if you can take 20-30 mins on the weekend to create a menu plan for the following week...I PROMISE you its worth it!!

What's for dinner tonight?  Oven fried chicken, cauliflower smash and roasted red potatoes :)



  1. Great idea and great tool, Suzanne! Wish I had done something similar when I was working and still had kids at home. You mentioned having Alexa as a sous chef, that it was teaching her skills she would need in the future. Don't forget to include Riley in the food preparation learning process. I have 2 sons, both grown, and my youngest is a terrific cook. He loves experimenting with lots of foods and he along with some of his friends, parents of friends and us several years ago formed a gourmet group that meets once a month. The goal being to try new recipes based on the theme chosen by the host for that month. Lots of fun!

  2. I like your plan and really need to create something along these lines. We have switched to mostly organic produce and lean meats. Steve is following pretty religiously the Paleo diet (no grains :()and that means me too for the most part. There are some things I still eat though - love my sweet potatoes but processed foods have been out of our diet since Nic went to college. Grocery shopping is mainly produce and meats then I hit the sundry isles. I am making more things from scratch and also double/triple batches for Steve's lunch and quickie dinners. Since we both are doing Crossfit right after work the crockpot meals make the end of my day that much easier.


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