When I wrestle with the vacuum, the machine wins. My sock drawer is full of lonely singles. I haven’t Windex-ed the bathroom mirror in a month.
But meal planning and budgeting is my thing.
On average, I cook for seven people a night. Sometimes my table has ten, sometimes only six. If I don’t meal plan, a lot of people starve. No, seriously. They just won’t eat. Or they’ll spend a hundred(+) dollars on Thai. Or they’ll have cereal. And there’s nothing more pathetic than the symphony of spoons scraping the bottom of a cereal bowl in synchrony at 6 o’clock at night. “Pass the Chex?”
So I plan. And I’ve gotten really good at it. You can, too. These hacks work for a family of two through a family of twelve. (Or … more? My condolences.)
How to survive in the
Wilderness Kitchen: Meal Planning Hacks for Every Cook
1. A Magic Box
This is my sanity.
For beginners: think of five meals your family loves and you know how to/like to make. Pick up a card for each meal. Write the ingredients down. You can always add to your stash as you expand your meal-making horizons.
I also have a master card of “Staples” — items I buy every week because we always want them and we’re always running out (Bagels, milk, cereal, yogurt, snacks …)
Do not fall into the trap of wanting to include the recipe on every card. It will drive you insane. Just write down the cookbook and page number. Then put it in your magic box.
File however you want. Mine is alphabetical. One day I might separate it out by category and color code it. Cough. Just like one day my kid’s socks might match.
2. A Calendar
Seriously. Get one. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Doesn’t even have to be real. Go digital for all I care. Just get one. You can even use one you already have. Mine is just an extra space in my regular planner.
I start my planning on a Monday during naptime. I go through my magic box, I pluck cards that sound delicious, and I write down the name of a meal for each day of the week. If I want to add a new meal to the box because I’m tired of tuna cakes, then I pull one from the internet or from my favorite cook book and create a new card to add to the magic box.
3. A shopping List
There are two ways to do this.
Using the meal card you pulled from the magic box, make a list of the ingredients you know you need. Some of these ingredients you will probably already have (sugar, salt, flour?) Sort the list of things you need according to category for ease of finding the item in the store (meat, dairy, canned, frozen, bread …)
Fast and lazy:
Put the cards you need for the meals you planned in your purse. Go to the store. Buy everything on the cards. Don’t forget to bring your “Staples” card.
|Image source: http://www.whealthysolutions.com/food-shopping-list/|
I don’t care how you make your list. But you are NOT allowed to go to the grocery store without some sort of list. Not unless you want to spend twice as much as you intended and forget half the things you need. Make a list. Even if you write it out on last week’s (yesterday’s?) Ralphs receipt, while idling your car in the Albertson’s parking lot.
Then, your first pass through the store, ONLY grab what’s on that list. Don’t grab the bag of Doritos off the end of the isle. It’s a supermarket trick to get you to salivate and gravitate. You are smarter than Marketing. RESIST.
Once you’re through your list, you can take a moment to go back and grab a few extra items still tempting your taste buds. This is because I love you. And because I always return to the frozen food section to get
a carton of ice cream a bag of frozen veggies. Organic veggies in biodegradable packaging.
Using these three things, you can plan ahead. Even if it’s just three days at a time.
Blogger for MOPS at GBC
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Do you have your own “meal-planning hacks” that you think might help some struggling moms out? Did you put any of Jessica’s suggestions into practice? What is your biggest struggle when it comes to meal-planning?
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