Do You Make A Weekly Meal Planner?

Emily - posted on 04/07/2011 ( 31 moms have responded )

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I'm a stay-at-home mother of 2... Ariel who is 5 years old, and Celine who is 17 months old. I admittedly didn't do any cooking growing up, but since I've become a mom, discovered I'm not too bad. What I need help with is meal planning. When I go to the grocery store, I do go with a list but it's poorly put together and I end up with a bunch of random ingredients that I can't do much with. What I want to know is... do you do a weekly meal planner? How do you design yours? The first thought that came to my head was maybe doing one week international faire and one week "main ingredient" where I have one ingredient used throughout the week, just prepared differently each day. What do you guys think? I'd like some feedback, just to get some ideas and maybe some of us can learn from eachother. Thanks all mommies who answer! :)

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Amanda - posted on 02/27/2012

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Every week I sit down with the laptop and our families favorite cook book, and grocery lists (we shop at Walmart and Sam's Club). If I know I'm low on any particular ingredient or item that is a weekly must have then those things get checked off first. If I run out of any spices during the week I leave the bottle(s) on the back of the stove where I know I'll see them and mark them on the list. The recipes I choose to make for the week I then go through the fridge, pantry and food storage to see what I need to get. On this weeks menus (which is flexible)::



Chicken Thighs w/ Green Beans

Meatloaf and Mock Tatoes

Low Carb Pork Chops

Matador Mania with Cauliflower Spanish "Rice"

Hamburgers and Dogs cooked in coconut oil

Leftovers night

Breakfast night



Back up meals:

Homemade chicken fingers

Mexican Night

Ham and Bean Soup

Chili



We usually do leftovers night on Wednesdays since that's our church night, and breakfast is always on Sunday after the evening service. The coconut oil I use is expeller pressed which lacks the smell and taste of coconut.



The back up meals come in handy when the weekly planned meals don't appeal to anyone on that day. It happens, my son is a very picky eater. We typically keep certain ingredients on hand all the time so I know that if there has to be a change in meal plan then I make sure there's an allowance for such a change. My son cannot seem to go each week without my homemade chicken fingers. We no longer have to buy them from the store(money saver there). If he wants them for lunch them I make enough the night I make them for dinner and set those aside for him.



I also try to balance out the meats we have during the week. This week we're having beef three times this week, to balance that out, I've added chicken pork to help break it up. If one week there a dominance of chicken or pork then I try balance it out the same way. In the past I use to insert meatless meals, but my Dad wasn't too thrilled with those nights. So I stopped putting them in the weekly plan.



A huge time saver I did this weekend was I went ahead and prepped the meats. Chicken thighs got their seasoning, meatloaves were made ahead and frozen, pork loin chops were sliced and will be ready for the crock pot. Just that little bit of preparation makes kitchen time a little easier. Have a great week!

Tammy - posted on 02/19/2012

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start small. Only plan one meal a day for the week; I started with dinner. This automatically planned lunches then as well. My kids eat school lunches and I pack my lunch for work. Lunch for me is always leftovers from the night before. I pack it as I am cleaning up from dinner and loading the dishwasher.



Once you are comfortable with that then you can start planning breakfasts and snacks.



Remember by shopping only once a week you are going to start saving money. The more you buy upfront on sale and with coupons the better your overall grocery budget for the month is going to be.



I now plan my menu out for a month and every month I am preparing meals only out of my freezer and pantry. I shop only the sales and that is my food for next month.



It took awhile to get there but my average grocery bill is $300 for a family of five + two dogs + two cats.

[deleted account]

I like the main ingredient idea. It can not only help you save money but it wont be the same ol' things all the time. I like making things that can be made into different meals later in the week. I often take a sirloin steak and thinly cut it, then cook it in a bit of oil (like a tsp) and salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne, a bit of oragano, and corriander. I can then make fajitas, tacos, quesadillas, etc. I normally get about 3 meals for my husband, my toddler, and myself.

I also to the lasagna thing, only I make two different types. My MIL makes one with cottage and swiss cheese... it's a bit weird, but good (her family is extremely German and from the great lakes, so their cooking can be interesting to say the least).

I also make turkey meatballs (I like it best with turkey meat it has more texture and isn't a golf ball or disintegrates). I can put it on pasta one night then in a lasagna or on pizza the next.

I make up pizza dough once a month and freeze it after the first rise. I just section it up into about 4" diameter balls. Then the night before we want pizza I put it in the fridge to rise and defrost. Then it will finish it's rise on the counter an hour before I need to make it.

I keep simple things always in the patrey too. We always have canned tuna, mac n' cheese (even though I can make it homemade), and soup. They are my Oh Sh*t fund.

We also try to have one vegitarian meal a week, it's mainly to save money (meat is so expensive).

Paula - posted on 04/08/2011

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My daughter and I work together and make 2 weeks of menus. We try to alternate chicken and lean beef. We mark the recipe source on the menu and mke a list from it. We are also extremely flexible. We may use the selected menu for Monday on Monday but do mark it off when it used so we know the ingredients are gone. We also make notes on which meat needs removed from the freezer. Since we use the same type meat in several recipes we can use it.

Jayce - posted on 04/08/2011

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I make a 2 week meal planner. Hubby and I are paid bi-weekly and are paid on the same days so we do our big grocery shop bi-weekly.

I put my plan together something like this: Mondays I try a new recipe or a favourite recipe that takes some prep time. (I don't work Mondays so have some extra time). Tuesday - Thursday I make things are quick and easy to prepare (I work those evenings and like to have supper made early because a) I take some with me for my break and b) so hubby and son have a nice meal while I'm not home.) Friday is leftover day. Saturday I call our 'junk' day. We'll get take out or have chicken fingers. Sunday I make a big supper - roast or a ham with all the fixings. (any left over meat from these meals can be used in recipes for my plan).

Anything I don't already have on hand goes on my shopping list. As I run out of anything during the week it automatically goes on the shopping list. I always have some staples on hand like hamburger and chicken (you can do so much with those), pasta, potatoes and sauces. This may seem obvious but I keep my weekly plans in a notebook that way I check back and make sure I haven't made meatloaf three times in one month.

This weeks plan looks like this:
Sunday - ham with scalloped potatoes
Monday - chicken enchiladas
Tuesday - fried rice (using roast left from last week. I froze the leftovers)
Wednesday - pork medallions w/ mashed taters &veg
Thursday - easy chicken pot pie

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Mary - posted on 04/21/2011

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Check out Barilla lasagna noodles. They are a bit pricy, but worth it. Then go to the Sorrento cheese website and look for a link for their "For the Love of Lasagna" cookbook. I am Italian and these recipes rocked my world. The Pumpkin and spinach lasagna is amazing!

Chris - posted on 04/21/2011

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I have a little binder of favorite recipes that I flip thru when planning out the week. That and what's in season or in our freezer help me jot down dinners for about 4 or 5 days at a time. Then i just jot down the stuff I need from the store for those recipes. I'm anal and divide the grocery list by section of the store so I'm not constantly doubling back around the store with my 3 yo and 5 month old.

Catherine - posted on 04/21/2011

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I plan the entire month out - fewer repeats & I make sure some of our favorites get in. Of course, it is flexible & not repetitive (no "Meatloaf Mondays & Taco Tuesdays" here). I make very few pre-prepared or box/package items & have come across a few tasty recipes... we do a lot of fresh steamed veggies (usually with ranch dressing for kids dipping). With 2 toddlers, I do very few "mixed" or casserole dishes. They like to see and identify what they are eating. (can you really blame them?? lol)

√v^√v^√♥ - posted on 04/21/2011

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I live by meal planning. We spend waaaaay too much just buying random stuff at the store. I stock my cabnets with rice, and potatos (a box of instant is always on backup incase there are no fresh in the kitchen), I buy canned veggies when they go on sale close to 50cents a can, and have a few frozen bags in the freezer, boxes of stuffing that can be made instantly along with the potatos, that way when you go to the store or have a week where you don't want to spend hardly any money.. you can buy whatever meat you want and have all the ingredients in the pantry already. I keep fish in my freezer too, to pull out and throw in the pan for dinner sometimes. And a big bottle of Yoshidas teriyaki sauce for when I want something simple I throw it over rice, broccoli, and sliced steak. If you stick to the basics and stock up for them it can be quite easy. You can make chicken sandwhiches cheaper than buying lunch meat when chicken goes on sale 99cents a pound this week we bought 10 pounds. I'll be making chicken soup, chicken sandwhiches, lemon chicken for dinner and freezing some for later. Basics are always good and easy :) then from there you can play around by trying to add roasted onions, bellpeppers and melted cheese to steak sandwhiches, or sauteed onion burgers with cheese.. or teriyaki chicken sandwhiches with pineapple slices. :) which would only require buying the pineapple slices ontop of the 'basics' (but since i make those pretty often i keep a can around when they go on sale too) Good luck!

Lu - posted on 04/21/2011

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First the introductions: I am a mom of three, ages 6, 5, 2, and I hate grocery shopping :-) I just have a list of our 15 or so favorite meals, then I sub one or two for a new recipe if I want. Once a month I look through all the cupboards to see what I need for those meals, and make a grocery list. I like to do it that way so I have the freedom of making what I want when I want. I only cook about 4x a week, so that will stretch for almost the whole month. The other nights we do left overs, or something easy that I can just throw in the oven (frozen pizza taquitos...) So I do one big grocery shopping a month, then I watch the fliers the other weeks for deals, mostly on fruits and veggies or on stuff that can be frozen, or if it's a really good deal I have the freedom of adding a meal to my schedule half way through the month. I like the freedom of knowing I have all the ingredients for those meals, but not being tied down to them. Here are some of the meals:
Spaghetti and meatballs
Stir fry
chili
chicken alfredo
pizza hotdish
green bean casserole
tater tot casserole
homemade pizza
honey chicken and rice
beef stroganoff
This week I tried a ziti bake recipe from allrecipes and we loved it, so it will be added to the rotation. I like to repeat our very favorites every now and then, but this way, I can go a couple of months without having to repeat a recipe. For example, we love homemade pizza (my recipe is so easy it only takes 30 minutes from scratch, no rising time), so I make it twice a month. That's what I have been doing the last year or so and it has been working for me.

[deleted account]

Hi Emily
I have tried many different strategies on this and the recent one I have tried seems to be the winner. First, list all the meals and snacks your family eats. If you need to, list all the ingredients for the meal next to each meal. If there are new meals you are wanting to try, list those separately with the ingredients. I usually cycle in one new meal in every other week. If it becomes a new favorite, add it to the rotation. You can also make a separate list of fruits and vegetables your family enjoys. This also helps with planning.
Next I go through and see what you have at home (I do it once a month) and take stock of everything needed to make the meals on your list. This may take a couple of days with little ones and you can always just do a quick inventory check if you need to.
Next figure out what meals you almost have everything for such as, you have taco shells and ground beef and cheese, but you need tomatoes and onions to complete the meal.
Make out a rough plan based on what you have - I try to do it for a month.
Next go through the sales flyers for that week and see what is on sale. If tomatoes and onions are on sale-score, you have stuff to do tacos. Using the sales flyer kind of takes the guesswork out of planning meals and it helps to keep costs down.
I used to make out a plan for the whole month and not pay attention to the flyers, but I found it saves me brain power and money to use them.
I sometimes make a big roast (on sale) and then use it for roast, then shredded beef tacos, then BBQ sandwiches. So you could do something like that too to stretch money. I sometimes will make a big batch of chili and freeze portions for quick meals for crazy nights. I also make up big batches of beans to use for bean burritios, chili and tacos (can you tell we eat a lot of mexican food??) You can do this with soups too - add salad and some bread and you have a meal. Theme weeks are fun. I found they don't work with all the family members in my house now that my kids are older but I used to do them.
Hope this helps.

Cherri - posted on 04/20/2011

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Hi Emily:

I did meal planning when I had children at home. I would just list out a list of meals for the week or two weeks (based on payday :)). I did not require myself to make the meal on a particular day. Just sometime during that time frame. It reallty helped when going shopping, because I made a shopping list at the same time as I made up the meal plan. I found it helped to save money and took pressure off - what to fix tonight.

Hope this is helpful.

Blessings,

Cherri

Sheilah - posted on 04/20/2011

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Every week before I shop, I plan exactly what is going to be eat breakfast, lunch and dinner; then from that I plan a list of what I need to make those items and try to stick to it. There are also a few sights that provide weekly meal plans. One I follow is Eat at Home on facebook

[deleted account]

I was getting meals and grocery lists from Emealz.com
They were really good, but I am not where I can shop and cook like I used to.

Ericka - posted on 04/17/2011

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Hey Emily...I never make a meal plan for the week until I look at the sales ads for that wk! I'm also a mommie of two and I love to shop smart! So usual I see what sales items I can make get and then go from there! Also I get the input from my boys and fiancee also! It helps balance out what's needed and what's not! They are really picky eaters:)

Christina - posted on 04/17/2011

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I used the no cook ones once they just seemed gummy in some spot and way ender done other spots. when I cook my noodles I cook them just until they are losing the rigged shape and then drain and soak in cool water so they don't stick drain right before I start putting it all together

[deleted account]

One thing to watch out for with the no cook noodles is that your sauce needs to have a lot of liquid. My MIL uses some no cook with her's, but since the sauce in her recipe is more like a paste the noodle's don't cook enough and are crunchy still.

Emily - posted on 04/14/2011

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No cook lasagna noodles?! "...and I think to myself, what a wonderful world" :)

Jennifer - posted on 04/14/2011

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i can never find coupons like that in canada, i can find like $1.50 off a pack of Huggies, or like $1.00 off 3 bags of Green Giant veggies, We never double or triple coupons here either. Canada gets the short end of the Couponing stick, thats for sure.

Emily - posted on 04/13/2011

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About the Lasagna, Target has a type of pasta noodles that you just lay in there uncooked and it cooks in the oven.. with a quick recipe on the box

Emily - posted on 04/11/2011

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@Christina Scott... No, I haven't seen that show. Unfortunately, I haven't had TV in the house the last few months. We've been doing the Netflix thing. But I'll have to check it out.

Christina - posted on 04/11/2011

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Emily I've been having fun in this chat!! thanks for starting it. I was wonderingif you or any of the others on here have seen the show on TLC called extreem couponing? and what are your takes on it.

Huana - posted on 04/10/2011

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we do things like Quiche which is really quite easy, spag bol, lasanga, roasts etc

Huana - posted on 04/10/2011

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We actually do a fornightly meal planner. I sit down with my cookbooks and a list of favourite meals we have compiled and make a list. I then go through each recipe and write down all the ingredients we will need to do it and that becomes my shopping list. It works well and we save money because we can buy somethings in bulk.

Emily - posted on 04/10/2011

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Yeah, I've never made homemade pizza. At least not completely homemade. I've bought store garlic bread and toppings and let the kids have fun with it, but that'd be great to make the dough at home too. Wouldn't it be a little more nutritious?

Christina - posted on 04/10/2011

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I like Brittany's idea pizza dough, have never tried this but would be great since I am all for doing most of the work once and reap the rewards later...always tastes as good but with half of the time spent on those crazy busy days.

Emily - posted on 04/09/2011

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@Christina Scott... I love your ideas! Lasagna is my absolute favorite food, but I have yet to make it. I'll have to try your idea for making them two at a time; I know it's a lot of effort for just one. My mom made it a lot growing up & I helped her, but I remember her always making 2 as well. Good trick! :)

Christina - posted on 04/09/2011

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I wanted to add to my post (I got company in the middle of me typing so when I read it today it seemed kind of confusing sorry.)
usually on Saturday mornings I start the weeks menus...I usually only shop once a month for the bulk of my order and then it is just if I am in town that is when I get the bread, milk or something I have forgotten that I may need.
with having a teenager and a 5 yr old we do do some type of pasta dish at least once a week...I am lucky both my sons love fish and I do cheat and buy the breaded fish fillets sometimes but they both like when I make it from scratch. When I do my monthly shopping trips I will take the next day and do my cook a freeze ahead meals...make ahead such as meatloafs, fry all the hambuger for my pasta meals and tacos (then when drained and cooled put how much I will need for such meals in ziploc bags and just mark (always date cooked food packages that go into the freezer...also if you are buying large quantities of meat because say steak or fresh chicken is on sale, buy it, break into to smaller packages and lable and date...sorry I got into this habit when I worker in restraunts, never have to wonder how fresh the food is then. When I make lasagna I always make an extra pan bake it the same as the one we are having and then freeze the second one, the other one I cut in half and freeze seperate.
we have tried to get away from take out-eating out alot..because it is just plain cheaper...I go to Copycat.com to get our favorite restraunt recipes like General Taos Chicken...Monteray Chicken (Chili's) (Olive Garden's) Soupa Tuscano (sausage and potato soup) tastes the same and way, way cheaper. has anyone tried the magazine cookbooks that are at the checkout counters at the store, love these...will clip the recipes that look or sound good and then ones that I have made from them...and put them in a sleeve type photo album...if just making it for the first time will rate them on how easy they were to make and if my family liked them...ones that no one seemed to like get pitched. that way I don't have 100 magazines laying around and taking up space.
Lastly my tips for breakfasts are quick on the go types during the week...cereal, poptarts, Muffins (I will bake like 2-3 batches at a time and then put 2-4 in freezer bags (date) and then the night before pull them out and there you have breakfast. the weekends permit I try to do a sit dow cooked breakfast. lunches are easy a sandwich or salad and some fruit. if anyone has any questions just ask...I have been at this for quit a while

Callinda - posted on 04/08/2011

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Hi, I sit down on a Sunday night and make a meal plan for all our meals for the following week. ( I just have a sheet with columns for the days down one side and breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner across the top). Then I shop on a Monday morning to get the weeks groceries. I wont lie - this does take quite a bit of time to do at first - but in the end the fact that it saves daily trips to the supermarket, it really pays off.

The first thing I do is sit down and work out what we have going out that week on the calender - ie are we going out to a party one night and therefore I dont have to cook, or do we have swimming one night which means a slow cooker recipe would be good?? Then I just fill in the rest of the nights, trying to do 1-2 chicken, 1-2 fish, 1 vegetarian, 2 red meat, 1 takeaway, etc to get variety. Then I think about breakfast next. So generally it will be one of each of these during the week: porridge, pancakes, omelettes, cereal & toast, quesadillas, and then saturday is always pancakes and sunday always a full cooked breakfast.
Then I think about lunches - most days is sandwiches so I just vary the fillings - things that will keep for less time are used first (eg ham, salad, etc) and then towards to the end fo the week it will be jam, honey, vegemite and cheese, etc.
AM snacks are always fruit and yoghurt, or vegie sticks and cheese
PM snacks are generaly always fruit and either homemade muffins, cookies and similar.

Basically as I am doing the plan I have my shopping list next to me. As I write down the meal, I check in the pantry/fridge to see what ingredients I need and add them to the list. So once you meal plan is finished, so is your list.

I then jot down on my calender things I need to remember for these meals (eg "thaw chicken overnight" the day before I need it, "make muffins" if I will be serving them the next day and things like that to stay on track.

As I said it takes a bit of getting used to, but in the end you will be glad that you can just shop once a week (or fortnight or month if you can plan that far ahead!) and you always have an answer for the "What's for Dinner?" question that I used to hate thinking about!!

Christina - posted on 04/08/2011

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Hi Emily,
I guess I am the first to respond. I do make a weekly meal plan...but I have to be flexible as I never know how many maybe here for dinner.
I start by making my meal plan...I see what I have for the recipe and what I don't goes on my grocery list...examples to follow. If I know we are having a family dinner with my older children and their families I try to do pasta on that night...goes further and everyone love pasta.
second I will try and think of something I haven't made for a while or if I want to try something new. (enchillad's scared the heck out of me the first time and I wasn't crazy with the recipe I followed so I twicked it with other ingredients that we liked and now I have one that pleases even my 5 year old.)
ok so here is how I do my menu and grocery list together.
this is just an example and I try to make enough that we can freeze and have in a pinch on a busy night.
Meatloaf, parsley potatoes, and green beans (have the hamburger in the freezer we buy a side of beef every year...have the potaotes cause they came from our garden...so this meal I will need to buy green beans.)
Rotissery chicken from the store. Mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing, candied carrots.(for this one I will need the chicken and carrots for the store...can make a somple stuffing with ingredients that I have on hand)
baked doggies, french fries and baked beans...(baked doggies as just a hot dog wrapped in cressent roll...take advantage of your oven being on and throw frozen fries in too!)
left over chicken from two nights ago...chicken tacos.
pasta night..just not on Wednesdays LOL they have a pasta bar at school that day. this is spiced up with salad and and garlic bread
soup and sandwiches is a favorite at our house. grilled cheese with add ins for the big people. ham, onions, tomatoes all work well have even use leftover sausage cut into thin circles.
stirfry....steak, stirfry vegetable mix and spaghetti noodles.

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