Thursday, September 6, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning

The idea of planning a week's worth of meals in advance was one of those things that I always thought, "that would be great... in theory." But who actually has time to sit down and write all that out? And how do I know tonight what I'll want to eat on Friday? Do I even know enough recipes?

In fact, last summer I wrote in my Before 25 list that I wanted to start planning out meals ahead of time. But alas, a year came and went and I never got more than 24 hours ahead. I had all but given up on the hope of it all when I stumbled across a pin last month that has literally transformed our dinner habits.

Image found here.

The tagline was what caught me: Menu Plan Your Butt Off. It boasted healthy dinners planned in advance, complete with a shopping list, emailed to you weekly... FO' FREE. I proceeded with skepticism, but was quickly surprised by how well done the site was and, more importantly, how much easier it made my dinner planning.

Now... I absolutely love to cook. I really enjoy grocery shopping. I love lists, and am a fairly organized person. But for whatever reason, the act of putting all these things together and writing my own weekly meal plan felt so daunting. Shrinking Kitchen totally provided the jumpstart I needed to get moving with (healthy) weekly meal plans. I didn't care so much about the promise of dropping pant sizes (though, let's be honest, as a new mom I'd love to get back into my pre-pregnancy jeans!), but I did love how much fresh produce and wholesome ingredients went into these meals. And I was really pleased with the variety of foods... asian, southwest, cajun, crockpot... you name it!

After 5 weeks, I've become comfortable enough with the process of planning that I've begun switching out some of the suggested dinners with our family favorites to make it more our style. My hope is that, eventually, I wouldn't need the site anymore and will feel competent to tackle this menu planning business all on my own.

For anyone interested in joining up with the Shrinking Kitchen plan, here are some of the things I've learned:

  • These recipes make a lot of food. With only two adults to feed, I always have leftovers. We are able to make a lunch or two out of last night's dinner, or have guests without worry of changing up our normal dinner routine. 
  • Unfortunately, this is probably not a plan to use if you are looking at cutting back on your grocery expenses. Because of the quality ingredients, like lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, you're going to spend a bit more than you would on cans or frozen foods. I guess it's the tradeoff between ease and nutrition. I am currently spending about $100-130 weekly for groceries.
  • The menu plans go from Monday through Sunday with one night off to eat leftovers or go out to eat. Each Sunday morning you are emailed the new plan. That gives you about 24 hours to get to the store in order to have dinner ready beginning Monday.
  • Most importantly... these meals are tasty! I think I feared using a diet-based website because it might be bland, unoriginal, and totally not our style. But I've actually found some meals that I think will be favorites for a lifetime, long after I stop using SK. Some allstar dishes include (Sneaky) Cheesy Taco Macaroni, Slow Cooker Thai Chicken, and Mediterranean Veggie Pitas.
Are there any other meal planners out there? Have you found websites or cookbooks that have helped you to get in the habit? Let's share the wealth!

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