Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to take a small step in organization and planning this week. There are a lot of levels of meal planning. Find out where you are, and move one step up.
Level of Commitment: Baby Steps (It’s a choose-your-own-adventure this week!)
Level One: I don’t meal plan
Your mission: Plan a meal for ONE DAY this week.
Level Two: I meal plan every so often
Your mission: Plan 5 days in a row and see how it goes.
Level Three: I am a meal planner!
Your mission: Plan an interconnected meal plan this week.
Brainstorm a list of five “fast meals” for surprise days.
Level Four: I do it all already
Your mission: Try a new recipe this week.
Make a list of five “budget-watcher” meals.
Level One: Meal Planning Step by Step
- Check the grocery sales or what you have on hand
- Decide on a meal that fits your frugal supplies; include sides and salad
- Plan backward and write it down:
- What needs to be done the day before? (Thaw meat, for example?)
- Where are my ingredients? Add to shopping list if necessary
- What time should I start preparing the meal that day? Write it in your calendar.
I promise your meal prep will go more smoothly than if you hadn’t planned anything.
Your goal: You are NOT allowed to run to the store or borrow from a neighbor for this meal! Added Bonus: You’ll save gasoline, time and money if you don’t make extra store trips. If you need more meal planning help, see the links at this week’s Food for Thought.
Level Two: Five in a Row
Follow steps above and see if you can knock out some meal prep for Tuesday as you’re cleaning up Monday’s meal (pulling ingredients out, etc.). Write it down, including the day before prep and start time. Challenge yourself. I truly believe that if you know what is coming, you’ll be happier and less stressed as each day passes.
Level Three: Connect the Dots…I Mean, Dinners
See my meal plan for a slightly overwhelming example of connecting dinners. I used chicken and broth many times in a week, plus other perishables like parsley.
The theory of Cook Once, Serve Twice (C.O.S.T.) is a real time and money saver. Can you have stir fry one day and something else with cooked rice in it a day or two later? You’ll save a pot! Is spinach on sale? Plan a casserole and a soup using spinach and make sure you don’t have to throw out half the bag once it’s goopy and gross. You know how I hate to waste food. Can you brown ground beef once and use it for two meals? This is best if you can put the leftovers from meal 2 in the same container you stuck the cooked meat in after meal one. It’s all about doing fewer dishes, my friends.
Your challenge this week is to make at least one connection in your weekly meal plan. Enjoy!
“Fast Meals” Folder
Some days you’ve just forgotten to extend the meal plan that far. You come back from a trip and there’s nothing to eat at 6:00. You forget to buy an ingredient – what to substitute for your perfectly planned week of meals? I have a file folder in with my cookbooks with a few recipes that
- include ingredients I (almost) always have on hand
- can be made in half an hour or less
My favorite emergency meal is spaghetti with meatballs, which are almost always ready to go (homemade) in my freezer. I just throw them into the sauce and they heat so quickly. Frozen homemade chicken nuggets are great to have on hand, too. The toaster oven makes short work of them. Tacos and cream of potato soup are other winners. What are your fast emergency meals? If you have a folder or write down a list, you won’t have to work so hard mentally when it’s crunch time.
Level Four: So You Have it All Together
Fabulous. I applaud the fact that you’re meal planning already! That makes life easier, doesn’t it? It will also make some of our future missions easier. Here’s something you can do this week if you don’t feel like trying a new recipe (or if even that is in your routine already!):
Take 15 minutes or so and estimate how much some of your favorite meals cost. It’s an interesting exercise, I think. If your favorites don’t exactly fit into the “budget” meal category (under $5 start to finish is my qualification), find some recipes that do. I make it a goal to include one budget meal each week. It’s often my meatless meal (I do love two-fers!). Your wallet will thank you!
UPDATE: More meal planning inspiration at the updated Monday Mission, and if menu planning, especially keeping all the meals nourishing, seems daunting to you, you may want to check out a menu planning weekly helper like GNOWFGLINS. You’ll get recipes, shopping lists, and even “what to do when” guides.
Your mental mission this week is simply to pay attention to how much plastic you use in the kitchen. To eat, to drink, to store food, to prepare it.
Keep looking for chicken with bones (preferably a whole chicken) on sale, and keep collecting glass jars (like from spaghetti sauce). Chicken stock is coming in two weeks and homemade yogurt in April!
Find meal planning resources and a sample two-week plan here.
Come back Wednesday to learn what works for me in my freezer!
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If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
I am a guest lecturer and partner with GNOWFGLINS eCourses, so I will earn commission from any sales made starting here. Of course, the courses are also an awesome way to learn to cook real food, so I’d gab about them anyway.