Monday, July 18, 2011

Dinner Meal Planning

I just followed a tweet from one of my cyber-friends, and she Tweeted about her meal plan. I thought, what a great idea! I meal-plan, but I never post about it! So, I thought I would post today about meal planning.

I meal plan every week. I meal plan and create the grocery list simultaneously. It is essential in my home for many reasons:
  • It saves money: I know before I go to the store what I want, and I don't impulse buy.
  • It keeps the week flowing smoothly. I know on Sunday what needs to be thawing for Monday, and I put it in the fridge.
  • It overcomes my brain-freeze when I walk into the kitchen at 5:00 to start dinner. I know what I am making, where the recipe is, and that I have the ingredients at hand.
There are more reasons, but I'll stick with those for right now. So, when I work on my meal plan, I start with my calendar, my cookbooks or recipes, and my grocery list (in my case, my laptop, where I type up my menu plan and my shopping list on the same page).

First step, I look at my evenings. On evenings when I have activities outside of the home (Awanas, Boy Scouts, Bible Study, whatever), I decide what fairly quick meal I will serve that night. Some favorites for that are "Sloppy Joes", hamburgers, or leftovers. They cook quickly and they clean up quickly. If I have more than one meeting, I branch out from there, because...

One of the things I work on with my meal plan is to maintain variety. I generally serve beef no more than once or twice a week. I might serve chicken two or three times a week. I mix up chicken and beef with pork, sea food, turkey, and vegetarian. So, here's what this week's plan is/was (cause I'm starting with two days ago):

Grandma's chili (OAMC), salad, cornbread (purchased from store bakery);

chicken Caesar salad (Caesar salad kits with cut-up left-over chicken), rolls/Texas toast;

cheeseburgers, rolls, summer slaw

barbecued chicken on the grill, corn on the cob, green beans (from our garden)

Beef (turkey) enchiladas, tortilla chips, refried beans, salad

Salmon, yams, spinach

chicken, rice, broccoli

So, the first thing I hope you notice is that every meal has a protein, a starch, and a vegetable.  If you can't see that, then that will have to be a separate post.

The second thing you might notice is that Thursday and Friday do not have actual recipes, just the name of the "meat". That is because sometimes I can decide at the last minute how I will prepare it, and I will use to prepare it items I keep as "stock" items in my pantry.

Beneath the planning portion of this entry, I will post two of our family's favorite "recipes" that we might use on Thursday and Friday.

After I have decided what will be for dinner, or while I am deciding, I create my shopping list, which I break down into categories according to how the store is laid out. It might look like this:

2 Caesar salad kits (Sun)
2 green peppers
1 onion
1 head romaine lettuce
1 cucumber
6 corn on the cob (Tues)
4 yams

3 pound lean ground beef (Sat., Mon.)
1 pound lean ground turkey (Weds.)
chicken thighs (Tuesday)
chicken breasts (Fri.)
sock-eye salmon (Thurs)

summer slaw (Monday)

cheddar cheese
sour cream

Canned goods:
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 15 oz. cans dark red kidney beans
2 cans enchilada sauce
1 can refried beans

Dry goods:
corn bread
brown & serve rolls
Tostito chips
hamburger rolls /sandwich flats

Household goods:

cut-leaf spinach
broccoli spears

Once I have the list I need to make the dinners, I add other things needed, such as napkins, laundry soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and food for the other meals: cereal, oatmeal, frozen blueberries, oranges, apples, bananas, bread, lunch meats, etc.

I try to have a running list going during the week of these things, that I just consolidate with the menu-plan shopping list, to make sure I get everything.

Then, once a week one of the adults goes, without children, to the grocery store to shop this grocery list at one or more stores (Shoppers' Food Warehouse is our local inexpensive favorite, supplemented by visits to Giant or Safeway for the things we need/want that are on sale). Then, later in the world we can have hubby stop at a store on the way home from work, or one of us go after dinner, if we have run out of something or missed something. (Like, this week I got home from shopping only to find we were out of orange juice, or we buy more lettuce mid-week for more salad, or the bread or milk's all gone.)

So, that's our menu plan for this week. I won't be able to post one next week, but if you liked this I'll post more in the future.

So, here are two of our favorite recipes for what we might pick for Thursday and Friday.

We often marinade our salmon this way and grill it, but this can be used on any meat, and it can be fried, it can be baked, etc.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp. grainy-type dijon mustard
1 clove crushed garlic

Marinade meat in this mix in a zip-lock bag for from one hour to one day. Cook as desired.

1 tablespooon olive oil

heat over medium-high heat. Add boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Brown first side, and turn. Put lid on and reduce heat; cook at medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Remove lid, turn heat back up to medium-high heat. Brown side 2 and serve.

One more for good measure:

Sizzle burgers:
In fry pan over low heat, melt 1 Tbsp. butter. Add 3 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce. Over medium high heat, in this mix, fry four or more hamburger patties. Serve with noodles and a veggie, or serve on hamburger rolls or sandwich flats. Enjoy!

Please post comments and let me know what you think!


  1. I do so much better with a plan. Every time I read a post like yours I want to do this.

  2. You can do it, really you can. I am on vacation this week, so my meal plan is not as diverse:
    Saturday: Hamburgers, rolls, green beans
    Sunday: Spaghetti, salad, Texas toast
    Monday: Pan fried chicken thighs, rice, broccoli
    Tuesday: Fresh caught (by our kids) pan-fried flounder, cole slaw, corn on the cob
    Wednesday: Using up spaghetti leftovers and making more, salad leftovers and making more, toast (Texas toast is all gone, cause I burned the first batch...)
    Thursday: fishing all day so we're eating out
    Friday: gonna have to wing it
    Saturday: trip home. Haven't figured dinner out yet.