Saturday, October 1, 2011

Monthly Meal Planning

We are a homeschooling family, and we often get asked questions about it.

Some of the most common ones we have heard are:
Is it legal?
What about socialization?
Do you have to use a set curriculum?
Do you need a teaching degree?
Why do you homeschool?
Do you have your kids tested?
How do you keep up with everything?

 Today's post is related to the last question listed above. With each year of school, and with each little blessing added to our family, I had to be more organized and planned to get everything done in a day! Once our third child arrived on the scene I knew I had to put a meal planning system into action!!

When our first child was a newborn, a woman spoke about meal planning at a MOPS meeting. At that time I thought meal planning was not for me!  I thought I could do it all. I didn't want to plan meals. Each day I would decide what was going to be for dinner and prepare a fresh meal for my family.

Oh, how that old me makes me laugh!! I was so naive! Now I do a monthly meal plan and prep.It is one of the ways I am able to keep up with everything, and it saves money too! A few friends have asked me how I do it, so here it is!

  1. At the end of the month I sit down and write out 25 dinner ideas for the next month.  It seems like a daunting task, but we tend to eat the same things, so I often copy my plan from the month before.  I always add any meals that are in the freezer, crock pot meals for busy days, and simple meals like grilled cheese/soup or nuggets/fries. I also repeat some meals, like pizza and spaghetti.  I just write out 25 meals on the side of my calendar, which is on the fridge. When we have a particular meal for dinner I scratch it off my list. Any meals that are left at the end of the month automatically get put on the next list.
2. Once my list is complete, I make my shopping list. After checking my cabinets and freezer, anything that I need to make my 25 meals gets put on this list.

3. Grocery shop! The kids used to stay home with daddy while I did this, but we're still getting back into the swing of things!

4. Since all of my meat has just been bought, I prepare what I can ahead of time. For example, if I need 6lbs of burger for spaghetti, tacos, and chili. I brown all 6 lbs at once, and put them in freezer bags and label them by which meal they are for. I do the same for chicken. I boil up all the chicken I would need for chicken pot pie, enchiladas, etc. Once the chicken is shredded or cubed I freeze it in quantities according to the recipes. This saves me a ton of time on prep work and clean up!

5. Depending on my schedule I may prepare some meals ahead of time and freeze them. One cookbook that I have found helpful is Once a Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson. Typically, if I am preparing a meal that can be frozen, I double it and put one in the freezer. I usually do this with lasagna, meatloaf, enchiladas, marinated chicken breast, and several soups.

6. Each week I run into the local fruit/meat market to pick up milk, bread, cheese, lunch meat and fresh fruits/veggies. Any fresh items I need for my menu plan are picked up here too.

That's how meal planning works for me!

A few more notes:

If planning by the month is overwhelming, you could plan for a week or two at a time.

In the summer, I usually do not meal plan. Our schedule is a bit more relaxed and we often just eat what's fresh in the garden!

This fall is the first time I have been back to meal planning since the accident. It has been overwhelming going back to it, but it is so helpful to have meals planned!


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