New Year's Resolutions: Meal Planning

Happy New Year! We Wayward Girls are mostly on the mend (I'm not sure who my immune system is trying to kill, but the virus is DEAD, so really, where is the off switch for this congestion?!), so we're about ready to throw ourselves into 2013.

Last year, one of my goals was to work on planning out our meals better, because who doesn't hate the 5 o'clock what's-for-dinner-oh-crap-that's-up-to-me-AGAIN scramble? For the most part, I did pretty well at the planning, and decently at the actual execution.

Basics of meal planning

In January, I blogged about my meal planning method. A quick recap:
  • Use a calendar
  • Plan for a month at a time
  • Write down where you're getting the recipes from, and consider focusing on 1-3 cookbooks at a time
  • Use themed nights: meatless Mondays, pizza Fridays, etc.
  • Incorporate leftovers

(There are more detailed tips in the post!)

Getting more creative

By the end of the year, however, actually planning the menus became something I dreaded, even if it was only a once-a-month chore. I tried two different tactics to help with this:

In September, I began tackling my Pinned dinner recipes:
Let's be honest: most of the recipes I pin only get that far. It was time to change that. I turned to my Savory Recipe board . . . which didn't have quite as many recipes as I thought. But I did have a couple collections of recipes pinned, so I managed to find enough to fill up my calendar.
This netted me some freezer meals--but also showcased a danger of trying out new meals that make twice as much: What if you don't like it?

Black bean & corn salsa

In October, I turned to Pinterest again. But this time, I wouldn't settle for any old "12 freezer meals" pins. I wanted stuff to blow me away. Huge lists. Soups and hearty winter foods. Healthy, low-calorie meals.

Shrimp Veracruzana,
which even my VERY picky 4-year-old
loved--and SUPER easy to make
And as usual, Pinterest delivered. In fact, it delivered me to, and their lists of 500-calorie meals. I went through several lists, including the 500-calorie, 30-minute dinners, 500-calorie vegetarian meals and 500-calorie soups. I found so many delicious recipes that I couldn't stop with just October--I planned out November and half of December, too, with a note to myself on where to pick up in January.

Can I just say how AWESOME it felt to be DONE with menu planning for the year? I pinned the recipes I put on the calendar and just had to pull up Pinterest to make my grocery list and get the week's recipes.

Menu planning made even easier

I can always go back to those recipes--and I'm sure I will--but right now I want to try something different. For years, I've subscribed to a service called Deals to Meals, where they look at the weekly grocery ads and plan really tasty menus around what's on sale. Oh, and did I mention no coupons?

Um, yes?

The service is only $5 a month. I eventually stopped using it because I just wanted to do my own thing (WAYWARD!), but I liked it so much that I continued to pay for the service. Yeah, seriously--and now they've expanded to all 50 states. For the next little bit, I've decided to pick up Deals to Meals again for a while, and give myself a break from menu planning--and maybe save a little more money at the grocery store.

How do you menu plan? What are your resolutions for 2013?

1 comment :

Just Jaime said...

Smart! I felt happy I thought of two dinners this week =)

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