Making a plan for dinner

I’m going to have to pass on undulate guys. My brain is just not clicking today.  What I want to talk about instead is meal planning. This is something I used to do several years ago and I thought since I’m trying to cut back on foods that are overly processed and sugary, this would be the best way to go about it.

Back in the early days of motherhood and when I was planning to go back to work after maternity leave, I knew it was time to get organized. Liam was turning one at the time and as I think back now, those were the easy days of juggling family calendars. But I knew meal planning was going to be important if I wanted to get a meal on the table every most nights.

Step one was to gather all my favorite recipes which I’d found online. One of my husband’s favorites is a recipe for chicken and shrimp with fusilli pasta from Epicurious. I had forgotten all about it until I dusted off my recipe binder last week. For any recipes I didn’t get online I either typed them up or pulled the index card from my previous attempt at organizing recipes to put in the binder.

Step two, the binder. I purchased a 2″ binder that was a bit oversized so I could add those sheet protector thingy’s and slide recipes right in them. I organized it by type of food and then created a sheet for the front of each section to reference recipes in some of my cookbooks. I noted the cookbook name, recipe and page number it could be found on. The binder also has pockets to keep handy things like conversions and small recipe booklets that didn’t fit in the pages.

Step three was to create a grid calendar for the year. I kept it simple so that several weeks fit on one page. The active page gets clipped to the front of the fridge where everyone can see the plan and once completed, it goes in a sheet protector at the front of the binder so I can use it for future planning ideas.

meal planning calendar

I would plan out the week each Sunday and fill in the daily menu (in pencil). If we were not going to be home for dinner, I usually marked where we ate out or if we had takeout. I still had my menus from years ago and it was a trip down memory lane of places we’d dined or if where we’d been on vacation.

Step four was to plan the shopping trip. After looking through the grocery flyers, consulting the well-loved recipes from the binder and perusing the internet for new ideas, I would set up the plan for the week. What I needed that could be used more than once during the week or if there was a special event that required a special dinner or what anyone had a hankering for.

I’m not sure why I ever veered off this plan because it was a really good way of keeping connected with everyone’s schedule for the week. Who had what and when that would interrupt the dinner schedule that week? I stopped planning and found myself standing in front of the fridge too many times to count until I made an executive decision we were going to either fend for ourselves, go out or have soup and grilled cheese. I’ve only just been back at it but it feels good to have a plan again.

After our shopping trip on Sunday, I spent the afternoon preparing meals for the week (including the above-referenced recipe for that night which was a major hit). Cutting up chicken, chopping veggies, fixing a lasagna that would be for later in the week. It has saved on time that I can now devote to other things like reading or playing a game with Liam and that’s a win for all of us.




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