Saturday, January 22, 2011

Once-a-Month Meal Planning, Part One

Those who have read Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers might remember that there is a substantial sub-chapter in the book on meal planning and grocery shopping. That's because, like it or not, we have to buy food for and prepare at least three meals a day for our families, day in, day out. Laundry can be skipped…you can take a snow day off of homeschooling... but your family isn't going to go very far without being fed.

In Part One of this series, I'm going to review the paper and pencil method of meal planning discussed in the book. In Part Two, we'll talk about an AMAZING web-based software program that follows the same basic steps, but cuts your time by half or more. I'm so excited to share it with you! Still, I know that not everyone has the equipment, money, or interest in the latest computer gadget - and some homemakers just prefer planning on paper. This bloglet is for you!

The Bootcamp method of once-a-month meal planning and shopping essentially breaks down this monumental task into 10 steps.

1. Create a list of rotating meals. That's right, you have to know what you're going to cook before you cook it. Can't think of meals? Keep a list of the meals you actually eat for a few weeks, and there's a fine start for your list!

Photo courtesy of http://food.yourway.net
2. Create cards for those meals you eat most often. Each 3x5 card will be written on both sides. On the front of the card, write the name of the recipe, where to find it (what page on what cookbook), and what side dishes you usually eat with it. On the back of the card, write the ingredients you need to create that meal. It's a little time-consuming, but creating these cards is something you do only one time, and will speed up your planning process for ever after. No more scrounging through multiple cookbooks to see what you need to buy….it's all on the cards!

3. Cut and sort coupons, if you use them.

4. Use a meal planning form to fill in breakfast, lunch and dinner (you can find mine in the Bootcamp Binder Form appendix of Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers). Simply sort through your meal cards and consider what meals best fit in what slots.

5. When the menu is planned out, put three pieces of paper in front of you. Label them: Working Shopping List, Kitchen Day Preparation Worksheet, and Weekly Shopping List. (If you only shop for one week at a time, you don't need the Weekly Shopping List.)

6. Look at your menu, and for every meal, take out the appropriate 3x5 card. Write the ingredients needed for that meal on the Working Shopping list. If there are duplicate items, write it twice. Now add any items from your Master List you may need. What's a Master List, you ask? This is a list that you keep to remind you what things you need to buy each shopping trip that aren't necessarily found on your menu, such as laundry soap, toilet paper, diapers, or dog food.

7. Now, if you shop for more than a week at a time, move to your Weekly Shopping List. This list is for perishable items (like produce) or repeat buy items (like milk) which you cannot buy on the first and expect to eat fresh on the 31st. You should divide it into as many columns as weeks you will shop for. For instance, if you are once-a-month shopping, there would be five columns, named Week One, Week Two, etc. Week One will only have "Shopping Trip" under it. As you work down your Working Shopping List, you can list the foods under Week Two, etc, that you will want to buy fresh on Town Day of that week.

8. Next, create a Weekly Preparation Worksheet. This should be set up in the same format as your Weekly Shopping List, with the number of columns corresponding to weeks covered in your menu. As you are filling out your Working Shopping List, move items which will be baked, instead of purchased, onto the corresponding Weekly Preparation Worksheet. For instance, if you are eating Italian bread in Week Three, and you write Italian bread on your shopping list, you might buy italian bread by mistake. But if you move Italian bread over to your Weekly Preparation Worksheet (and write the ingredients for Italian bread on your Working Shopping List,)  then you will have what you need to bake the bread, you will not accidentally buy bread you don't need, and you will have a ready-made list of things to bake on Kitchen Day of the corresponding week.

9. You're almost done! Move the remaining items from your Working Shopping List to your Final Shopping List, according to their aisle in the store. (Don't skip this step! It will make your shopping trip go so much more smoothly! Don't know the order of the aisles in your store? Ask for a map at the customer service desk.)

10. Finally, check your pantry, refrigerator or freezer for each item on the list. Cross off those items of which you do not need to buy more.

YOU'RE READY TO SHOP!

Next post, menu planning goes high-tech!

Now get to work!






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