My meal planning strategy is facilitated by knowing what is in my freezer. I took the list of meals we prepared at OAMC and I printed a blank calendar from Outlook. I also opened our family calendar to see which nights we would need dinner as well as which nights we might not. I noted any evenings where one or more of us would not be home as that changes my cooking plans, and I recorded anything important on the no-longer-blank calendar. I then tried to complete the meal calendar by assigning dishes to the remaining days. A typical week looks something like this:
- Monday: Sweet Soy Chicken with Rice
- Tuesday: Mexican Torta
- Wednesday: Ekklesia (This is our church's weekly dinner--yay! No cooking!)
- Thursday: Chicken and Rice Wraps (My husband would night be eating with us that evening due to a meeting, so we would have something easy to prepare in small quantities. These are great just defrosted in the microwave like a burrito!)
- Friday: Pizza or Spaghetti (We eat this every Friday night and it is not a freezer meal)
- Saturday: Panko Parmesan Oven-Fried Chicken Salad
- Sunday: OYO (On Your Own) Night! We eat whatever we want, but it's every man for himself. Usually, this is my cereal for dinner night!)
I write any side dishes or ingredients that I need on the calendar as well as any thawing instructions, then I stick the finished chart on the freezer so that I can see it any time.
If you're new to meal planning and are unsure where to begin, may I also recommend SavingDinner.com? You'll find a link to it on the left side of the page. Leanne Ely publishes a free daily e-newsletter that provides recipes and helpful tips for feeding the family, and if you're interested she also has an enormous selection of freezer recipes for purchase that take minutes to prepare. If you need LOTS of help with meal planning you can purchase a weekly Menu Mailer where she gives you recipes and shopping lists for the entire week. Personally, I have purchased several of her freezer recipe sets including Chicken for the Freezer and Heart Healthy for the Freezer. The Moroccan Chicken with Honey Couscous is a favorite in our OAMC group. (Sorry for the advertisement, but I really do love Ms. Ely's products!)
So, that's what works for us! We eat well and we don't spend as much money at restaurants anymore...what works for you? Check out Crystal's site for more helpful hints!