Being thrifty isn’t only about saving money, sometimes it’s about saving time and your sanity too. Like in Diane’s re-cap of our Meal Planning 101 LAB meeting a few weeks ago. (If you missed it and would like the handouts, I have them and will get them to you upon request)
On Monday November 12, we had the pleasure of learning about meal planning from Chris Manion. Even though I am not a cook, I knew that I would come away from the meeting with at least one good suggestion because I know Chris has excellent ideas. Little did I know how beneficial this meeting would be.
First of all, I must thank Chris for all the wonderful handouts she had prepared for us. It was great to be able to listen and enjoy Chris’ talk without having to write a lot down. We received a categorized grocery list, some great menus, a list of pantry-must-haves, and tips for getting started. I really thought that menu planning is for those who love to cook or are more sophisticated in the kitchen, but I stand corrected (well, sit, as I am sitting in my husband’s MSU chair to type this).
Here are the tips to get started:
1. Set a goal. This can be very simple, such as beginning to organize recipes or cooking 2 times a week. Write down the goal and the 3 steps you will need to accomplish it so you are more likely to take action. I will confess that I “broke this rule” because I did not write anything down. I did, however, get started, which I am proud of.
2. Make a plan. What will it take for you to make this work? Discuss your goal with other members of the family. Figure out what time of day is best for preparing the food. This was a light-bulb moment for me as I never considered that I could actually prepare the food hours before I need to cook it. (Yes, you can laugh at me.) Some moms like to prepare dinner during naptime. For those of us who like to nap while our children nap, the morning or weekends are other alternatives.
3. Get started. Just do it. Pick a few recipes that your family likes. Throw out some bad ones. I actually went through our recipes and threw out a huge pile of recipe cards that I was “going to try someday.” If I wasn’t interested in it, I threw it out. If it looked complicated, I threw it out. I found this to be fun and stress relieving. I also discovered that I had at least 3 copies of the try-it-someday recipes!
If you are really ambitious, gather all the recipes you like and put them in a binder with sheet protectors. You can copy the ones you like out of cookbooks or put the loose recipe cards in the binder with the clear photo organizer pages. I ripped a few pages out of a family cookbook for my binder (ssshh, my husband doesn’t know yet). If this seems like too much work, put post-it notes on your favorite pages in your cookbook for easy reference.
4. Make the Menu. This is not as complicated as it sounds. Simply pick a favorite recipe and note what side dishes, etc. go with the main dish to make a complete meal. Store-bought biscuits or salad are great additions to a main dish. Not everything has to be home-made. Once you have one menu, you can make more by again selecting main dishes and complementary side dishes. This is great for those of us who don’t like to think about what to throw together to produce a meal.
5. Planning Time. Set aside time every week to get organized – look through the ads, clip coupons, decide your menu for the week. Chris suggested at least an hour, which overwhelmed me, but I figure that I can do it in whatever time I would like. After you have laid out your menu for the week/month, do your grocery shopping based on your menu.
6. Stocking the pantry. Keep some basic staples on hand to make this whole process easier.
7. Cleaning tips. Clean as you go. Get the kids to help. Ask your husband for help. Hire a maid (actually, Chris did not suggest this, but I have certainly considered it at times. ) Do whatever small steps you need to make clean up less daunting.
One final tip that I’d like to add that has helped me is to set up a radio/CD player in the kitchen. Playing my favorite CD’s really heightens my motivations to work in the kitchen and actually enjoy it.