Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Meal Planning

I must admit that this has been a really refreshing week. I've been so blessed and excited at the new things that God is teaching me. Reserving my morning with him, enjoying a cup of coffee while we talk and he teaches me - man, things just feel so great.

I have found an abundance of great new blogs to check out. And one good blog leads to another that leads to another and on and on! There is such a vast amount of talent out there. I love reading people's stories. Sharing their lives. If only for a few paragraphs.

Today finds me grocery shopping. Each week I enjoy getting out my numerous cookbooks, recipe cards and food mags to discover just what we are going to eat for the week. I am pretty organized when it comes to our meal planning. I'm not interested in standing in front of the fridge each evening trying to determine what to eat. I like a system. I like lists. And preparing a meal plan for Shane and I is something that I love to do. Here are some tips:

* Set aside a slot of time in the morning (or evening) to peruse your cookbooks and such to get ideas. Pour a cup of coffee or make a smoothie. Curl up on the couch, relax on your bed or set up shop at your kitchen table. You will need a paper, pen/pencil and a clear mind. Remeber any activities that you have during the week - nights where you may need a speedy supper or if you will be dining out at all. Weekly we eat at the inlaws so I make sure to not plan dinner for one evening. That is our flex night.

Remember, you are deciding the nutrients that will sustain your family for the week. Be choosey. It's okay to have a "more fattening" meal one night, but balance that out by something not so calorie laden the following evening.

* I begin by writing each day of the week in a column format on a peice of notebook paper. I leave about four lines inbetween each day. Here is where you will write your main dish, sides, fruit/veggies and a dessert. You can even get so creative as finding special drinks for your meals. I always love a smoothie with dinner. On the back of the paper (or a seperate sheet) you write your grocery list. I divide mine up into different sections: Dairy, Frozen, Meat, Fruits and Veggies (F+V), Dry Goods, and Household Products. As I go through recipes I check to see what ingredients I will need and then place them in the appropriate column. As you are shopping and find you are running lower on funds than you had planned, you can just flip your grocery list over to see if you REALLY needed that particular ingredient. Can something else be substituted? Could you come up with a different side dish on the fly? Do I REALLY need those frozen mango peices for my smoothie?

* Try to coordinate your meals. No sense in buying sour cream if only one dish will use them. To save money, make two dishes that week that include sour cream. This encourages you not to waste by ensuring that you really are using all of your supplies.

* When you get home, take your meal plan list onto the fridge. It will help keep you on track through the week as to what meat needs thawed, what veggies not to eat bc the recipe calls for them, etc. I am not so ridged that I always stick to it. By no means! Sometimes I substitue different sides with different main dishes and sometimes we just plain old order a pizza! Be flexible. That summer soup that I thought sounded so good two weeks ago - well, lets put it this way. I have yet to use the squash, whole tomatoes or chicken stock that I bought just for the recipe. Hmm...maybe I should make that tonight...

* When you bring home your goodies from the grocery store, do some prep work then! Rinse your veggies (well!), chop what you can, wrap and freeze your meat. I like to prep half of my veggies when I get home. It's far easier for me to grab a handful of cucumber slices as a snack when they are already prepared. It encourages you to eat healthier and at the same time, food isn't getting lost to the abyss of the fridge.

So there are some tips! Enjoy! Sorry there are no strawberry tips like I promised. Rinse your berries (well!). Hull and slice. Hull and keep some whole. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Make a single layer of berries. Freeze. Then add to baggies or freezer containers in one cup and two cup portions. Label. Feel happy that you have preserved a bit of summer for a snowy winter. Yum!

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