Meal planning not only saves time and money but it helps prevent the inevitable frustration caused by not having anything on the table when the tribe thinks its dinner time!

Planning ahead saves time! While it may take me a little time upfront to sit down and plan out meals, the time it saves me in the end make it all worthwhile. By planning ahead I can prep my food ahead of time, know at a glance when I need to take out of the freezer the day before, and reduce the amount of extra trips to the grocery store.

Meal planning saves money. The most obvious would be the reduction of take-out meals because you fail to have anything ready to cook or serve when dinner time rolls around. Who hasn’t tried to thaw chicken in a bowl of water because they forgot to take it out of the freezer in time? By planning ahead you can coordinate with store specials and/or use the current coupons. Planning ahead also helps to prevent waste!

I admit, I sometimes fly by the seat of my pants but due to previous planning sessions, I can usually count on having something in the pantry or the freezer to throw on the table in a hurry.

Like everything else in this day and age, there is a wide range of options to help you with your menu planning. Like everything in household management, if you find what works for you and your family, you are more apt to use the system and be more organized and productive! Hubby and I don’t fall into the typical 9-5 category. He works days, I work nights, and he has a part time job that also involves mid-shift and night shift work. I also have to consider that I need lunches for me to take to work and I need to feed hubby when I am not home! Granted, there are days he is happy with a grilled cheese sandwich that he makes for himself but no man can live by grilled cheese alone. Or can he??

I’m a pen and paper girl when it comes to meal planning using my trusting disc bound errand planner. I create my shopping list in the same planner. I even have a section in my planner titled,  wait for it… Menu/Food. Can you imagine?

I do my plan for two weeks. The first thing I do is make a list of the days. I highlight in yellow the nights that I work. I then go back and highlight in pink the nights hubby works too so I can prep take along meals for us both. Hoagies are a common meal for those nights!

I start filling in the days with meals and as I do, I fill in my shopping list. I always include leftover nights and know I can pack left overs in my lunch. I like to freeze single servings for hubby to eat on the nights I’m not home. Pulled pork sandwiches is one of his favorite meals.  I throw it in the crockpot and then freeze single servings, including the buns! Easy peasy to thaw it out for him and even easier for him to heat up! <grin>

I like to prep food ahead of time too. If I brown hamburger for spaghetti sauce, for example, I brown all my meat and freeze in 1 cup packages. Easy enough to pull out a package for taco’s or a casserole later in the week. If I dice an onion, I dice and freeze the rest of it. Prep once, cook twice, I like to say!

I am always trying to get more organized in my life and meals are no exception. I hope to continue to improve in this area! When you set up a meal planning system remember to 1. Be flexible. You are actually allowed to change fried chicken from Monday to Wednesday if you want! HA. Schedules have a way of changing last minute so have built in plans for those days. 2. Don’t beat yourself up when take-out pizza is the plan for the night. Build dining out into your schedule if that’s important to you! 3. Continue to tweak your plan until it’s the perfect fit. I discovered that a running freezer inventory list in my planner was needed so I would know when to restock the diced onion, the browned meat, the spaghetti sauce or pulled pork! 4. Review your plan! Know what days you need to thaw something the day before so you can throw it in the crockpot in the morning. Jot it in your daily planner like I do!

Running life at my own pace, laughing the whole time