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My love for stationery knows no bounds but meal planning holds a special place in my heart
I have always been a big fan of meal planning. I love going shopping for new organizers and agendas and I usually have more than one on the go. Trouble is, I have no follow through. I start using them every now and again only to stop after a week or two. There’s just something about the idea of being organized and knowing what’s next that is so appealing. And seemingly impossible to keep up with.
I’m a natural born (dis)organizer
My favourite way to pretend that I am an organized person is meal planning. All the beautiful calendars and shopping lists in coordinated colours just call to me. So I start and then never finish. I plan out a week or two and then I get busy one day and forget to take something out for dinner. Or I simply don’t want what’s on the menu. All the pretty meal planning tools in the world mean nothing if I can’t follow through with them.
this is what lead me to search for a better way to meal plan
I recently stumbled upon a method called “reverse meal planning”, have you heard of it? It involves going grocery shopping, buying versatile, inexpensive ingredients, and then making your meal plan based on that. You know, the method we’ve all been using for years without much to show for it besides a fridge full of slimy celery, old cabbage, and questionable leftovers.
Not very long ago, before I discovered “reverse meal planning” I invented a method that I also called Reverse Meal Planning. I made up this particular way of planning because my memory is complete crap and I have no idea what’s in the fridge, freezer, or pantry at any given moment. Neither can I remember when we last ate something leading to leftovers being thrown away, often needlessly, because I can’t tell if they’re spoiled. My method is incredibly easy to do, takes very little effort for the first couple of months, and actually helps with the problem of the Schrödinger’s leftovers.
I’ll break it down for you in just a few easy steps.
The first thing you need to do is buy a monthly calendar in a style that suits you
I went to Dollar Tree and bought a student planner because that is what was available at the time and I wanted to start right away.
For the next part just start where you are
All you do for the first month or so is simply write down what you’ve had for dinner. Chicken and potatoes? Write it down. Cold cereal with an a side of applesauce? Write that down too. Too exhausted to even bother and got take out? Definitely write it down, including where you got it from. If you tried a new recipe and it was gross make sure to make a note of that too.
Now we can deal with the leftovers
The previous step will help with the leftovers vs. memory problem almost immediately. If I find something questionable in the fridge now I can just look at my calendar to decide whether it’s garbage or needs to be eaten immediately. If a few things need to be eaten up simply plan a “leftover” night for dinner and use them up. We’ve had dinners where I have curry, the kids have spaghetti, and the husband has leftover takeout, just because we need to use up the leftovers.
Look over your data andsee where you stand
This is the interesting part. I have two and a half months of filled out meal “plans” right now and I’m looking it over in anticipation of the next step, Actual Planning! The calendar you have filled out should give you an idea of your “meal rhythm”, the meals that your family eats and enjoys regularly. We have a few favourites and I try to incorporate them once every week or two. Spaghetti, shake and bake chicken, and tacos can regularly be found in our meal rotation.
Now you can make a real meal plan, in advance and everything
Here we are, making plans just like we always wanted! This can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. I like to have an idea what’s in the freezer before I plan so I bring my calendar to the basement and make a little note on the side of what is available. Then it’s just a matter of transferring meals from one month to the next in roughly the same order, checking off the freezer meat list as I go. And if you’ve made note of a meal that was a flop just skip it. It’s easy enough after that to make a list of just the ingredients I need to buy to make the meals I have planned.
And that is really all there is to it. If you prefer you can just transfer your meals before you look for ingredients. Or plan a night where you try a new recipe and make sure you shop just before that so you have what you need. Or plan it based on who cooks when if you’re lucky enough to have someone who can take over kitchen duties.
A Note on Breakfasts and Lunches
I have it easy in this area because the kids and I eat basically the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch. My husband either skips lunch or it’s provided at work. I keep an assortment of breakfast cereals, frozen leftover pancakes, bread, and milk and fruit in stock and that’s breakfast. Right now my kids eat lunch at home so we usually have soup and sandwiches or some variation of that. If you need to make school lunches every day just add them to your calendar when you’re first starting out. That way you can easily add those into the actual plan when you are adding the dinners.
So that’s my easy meal planning method. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Until we meet again,
Chantal, the Secular Homemaker