Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Monthly Meals…An Update

We are into our third month of monthly meal planning and I’m back with an update. I’ve had a few people ask how it’s been going and so I thought I would check back in. To be honest, I think this “spur of the moment, cook by the seat of my pants” girl is fully converted. I LOVE it.
That last little phrase is one I really, honestly never thought I would utter. But as we’ve gone on I’ve realized a few things that happen as a result of my monthly meal plan.
-making dinner is less stressful (note I didn’t say NOT stressful. It’s witching hour, y’all)
-we save money (because I’m not buying things haphazardly and then wasting them)
-we waste less food (our refrigerator is SO empty at the end of the month…it’s great!)
-it still allows for flexibility (we keep at least two days/week open)
-you grocery shop less (this one actually makes me sad because I adore grocery shopping but with two littles in the cold winter, it’s actually a bonus)
The first month we planned our menu for the month was the month following Meghan’s birth. We were blessed by so many incredible people and were brought so many delicious meals that I only had to make a handful of things. The bonus was that many of the meals could be postponed until November. So we’ve now successfully finished our first month and I just did the shopping for December. Yesterday the girls and I hit up Costco and Target for our staples and monthly needs. After this one big shop of the month I tend to run to the store once a week to replenish things like milk and get other things that may have been missed.
I’ve found that by spending a couple of hours before the month begins to plan the menu and walk through our kitchen with my master grocery list, circling what we need, has been so helpful. I have a list of 45 or so of our favorite meals documented that I pull our menu from. That way we  start each month with a stocked kitchen, meaning any meal on the menu for the month can for the most part be swapped for another (unless some random ingredient is needed). Plus it allows for me to plan our menu with grouped items. For example, if I have the menu planned out I am far more likely to reuse a leftover or ingredient and remake it into something else because I’ve purposefully planned a meal that sounds good. Also we have a leftover night planned into our week…usually Wednesday or Thursday. We are not huge leftover fans in general so whatever I make Monday/Tuesday is usually what is up for grabs later. I plan for this. Tonight I made this amazing Potato Leek Soup paired with a salad. Wednesday it will get paired with paninis and then be gone. Makes me feel better especially if I don’t want to or can’t eat it for lunch the next day. And the menu is posted in one of our cabinet doors so I can always reference it.
Since I’m usually an impromptu cook and we like to randomly go out as a family I worried that we would waste food. But I’ve found the opposite to be true. Because there are so many options for the month and we have two nights that I don’t plan meals for we can easily move and rotate depending on our moods. I’ve already swapped things because we had the ingredients or didn’t have them. It’s super flexible.
Also did I mention I’m less stressed during the most stressful part of the day. Seriously. I used to try and menu plan by the week but to be honest, it was just more of a headache because we’d miss meals, waste food, etc. Not too mention that every week I had to sit down and plan things out. Now I only have to do it once, I have most of the ingredients in the house for almost all of the meals, and the recipes I’ve been using are our favorites and are pretty tame in terms of prep/execution. I’m pretty certain Alex has enjoyed knowing that dinner is on the table, usually hot, and I’m not calling him to pick something up on the way home.
So there you have it. I’m a monthly meal planner convert.
And I LOVE it!

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