Nothing is more draining to me than coming home and asking, what is for dinner? After playing around with a couple different systems I have finally found a meal plan that works for my family. Using Found Time's method for organizing I have created a plan that combines ease and quickness with a healthy variety of meals. My first step was figuring out WHY I wanted a meal plan in the first place. What did I like and not like about my current meal habits? What did I expect from my new plan? What new habits do I want to introduce to my family? All of these questions affect the type of plan that I will create. Next, I identified what type of meals my family eats and doesn't eat. Are there any special dietary restrictions or preferences? What about my cooking habits and preferences?
I determined that the main reason that I wanted a meal plan is that I just don't want to figure out dinner every night. I live in a community where the restaurants are much closer than the grocery store and the convenience to eat out is very tempting. Slipping into this habit causing havoc on both my wallet and my waistline and I knew that I had to do something! I also came face to face with one of my weaknesses; I am lazy when it comes to cooking and any excuse that I can come up with to derail myself, I will. I knew that my meals had to be fun, easy and take less than 30/45 mins. The exception to this would be when I use the slow cooker. I do love it when dinner is ready when I get home! Another bad habit that I have to confess is that I tend to skip meals when I am busy; which I know, is detrimental to your health in several ways. In trying to live a healthier lifestyle, I have scheduled healthy snacks throughout the day so that I am able to maintain a consistent level of fuel for my body and avoid spikes in mood and energy levels.
Once I had a good idea of what I wanted I then developed my plan of action. This included taking a look at where I currently stored my recipes, both on and offline, and determining if I was going to continue to maintaine this system. One of the things that has not worked for me in the past is having several online “cookbooks”. I never can collect all the meals that I like from just one recipes site and let's be honest, I have no desires to retype all the recipes into preset fields on a particular site. Mealfire.com is a site that I found that allows you to create a unique cookbook compiling recipes from all of your favorite cooking sites. You can then schedule your recipes and create shopping lists. While I like organizing and collecting my recipes online vs using a physical cookbook collection, I do like to have the recipes I plan to use printed out. I keep them in a binder and store it near the kitchen for easy access. I pull out that week's menu and stick it to our message center on the fridge. This works great for my family because if the menus are easily accessible, then my husband will take turns with the cooking.
With a plan in place I was able to filter through my current recipe collection using the T.I.M.E. Method. I removed the recipes that didn't fit within my set parameters and only stored the ones that represented our new lifestyle and eating habits. I discovered that I really enjoyed cooking “rollover” meals. This is where you cook one large meal and use the leftovers to start other meals that week. By selecting 6 different rollover combos I was able to build a 6 week plan pretty easy. I filled the holes in each week with some family favorites. I had planned to create a longer plan but noticed that we started craving “that one dish” around the 6 week mark. This also fits in nicely with my coupon cycle which is every three months.
No system is perfect. We are constantly evaluating and tweaking our plan. As we try new menus we vote to add to the official cookbook or find something better.
Here is my plan, I would love to know what type of meal plan works for you?