Save time cooking, more time to play in the leaves

Are you a meal planner? I try to lay out my meals for the week to trim costs and shave cooking time. In the past, I’ve gone in and out of keeping up with my weekly set up.

But yesterday after cleaning out the fridge and discovering a lonely, molding piece of Havarti dill in the bottom of the cheese drawer I thought, I’ve got to get back in the practice! No one likes to throw away food, especially when it’s tasty cheese that I could have added to an alfredo sauce, a salad, grilled cheese, if I’d known it was there.

Here’s how I plan:

  1. Sunday night or Monday morning I look through recipe books for a few minutes for ideas.
  2. Then, I look at our calendar. I mean, what’s the use of planning a fancy meal if my daughter has basketball practice that night? Those are leftover planned over nights.
  3. Scan the grocery ads to see if there’s anything interesting on sale. (I also try to remember to peek in the fridge to see what’s gone uneaten too.)
  4. Now time to plot out the meals and write my list of groceries as I go. I usually plan two meals using leftovers–so if I grill or saute chicken breasts one night I’ll make extra to use in fajitas or sandwiches a couple nights later.

Okay, you’re still doubtful, huh? Let me tell you a few of the benefits (besides avoiding fuzzy cheese)–

  • I use more fresh fruits and veggies in the meal.
  • The kids can help me cook, since I know what I’m making.
  • My grocery bill is usually about 30% less than when I don’t plan (and I can pass by the potato chips without taking them; they aren’t on the list!).
  • Less panic around 5pm. I have all the ingredients on hand.
  • Pizza night. When I’ve followed my meal plan and trimmed our grocery bill, I can use some of the savings for the occasional night out/in.
  • No endless trips to the grocery store.
  • Yummier meals.

Sneak a peek at what I’ve got cooking this week–

Monday–Italian chicken & spinach roll-ups

Tuesday–Chicken nachoes (make extra sauteed chicken)

Wednesday–Weinerschnitzel & roasted veggies (make double on both)

Thursday–Stir-fry & potstickers (use leftover chicken)

Friday–Blue corn tostadas topped with roasted veggies (again, leftovers)

Saturday–Sandwiches (yup, I’m using leftover schnitzel inside)

Sunday–Eat whatever my hubby makes:)

See, I only have a couple nights where the meals will take a lot of time to put together, every other night I’m using pre-made (by me!) ingredients. Granted meal planning doesn’t always go, well, as planned. There are nights when you get home later then you thought, or you couldn’t find an ingredient at the store, or someone ate all of the leftovers that were actually planned overs. For those nights, I try to have a back-up, usually it’s grilled cheese, apples, and Top Ramen.

Do you plan your meals ahead or do you have a method for figuring out what’s lurking in the corners of your fridge? Please, share!

**Keep reading MKES, next week I’ll be announcing a new giveaway.

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