Saving time and money with dorky calendars (food edition)

  So I think we already went over the point that I’m a total flake when it comes to practical things in this post.  Give me something creative to do and I’ll rock your world.  Expect me to pick something for dinner that night and…uhm…well, you probably just shouldn’t.

  It isn’t that I don’t have good recipes, I do!  (Don’t worry, I plan to keep sharing them)  It’s that on a daily basis I don’t think about eating until I’m hungry…and then I want it now.  Doesn’t work out so hot for balanced nutrition and what not.  Leads to a lot of dinners of potato chips and salsa…and that isn’t really the example I want to be setting for G.
“Balanced meals, whatever…give me MEAT.”
  So, because if I don’t plan ahead, we don’t eat so well, I get a little June Cleaver and I make up a menu every week.  I used to do it once a month, but I’ve found doing it weekly allows me to take advantage of the grocery store’s sales and gives me a better idea of how often I should be putting “leftovers” on my calendar.
  This is one of the calendars from before I went weekly:
Yup, color coded and everything.  Big dork, right here.
   Before I started the menus, I documented what we were eating, just to see how we were doing.  Turns out we really, really like beef and pasta.  Surprise?  So now I try to break up our weeks into different types of meals (as evidenced by the colored triangles). 
  I start by putting at least one (and I try for two) vegetarian meals per week.  It saves us money as well as being good for you (meat is pricey!).  I’m still working to find a large number of vegetarian meals we like that aren’t a nightmare to cook, but we’re getting there.
  So one or two vegetarian meals, then I add in 3 “white meat” meals.  Chicken, turkey, pork, they’re all good.  One night goes to beef and one night (ideally) goes to fish.  Then the whole thing gets hung up in our pantry where I can double check in the morning what I need to thaw and the Mr. can see what I had planned for that night.
Pizza.  I ALWAYS plan pizza…wait, that’s not the menu.
  Having the weekly menu works out in a lot of ways.  Both the Mr. and I are terrible impulse buyers, so this way we’re in the grocery store a lot less (meaning we’re spending less time shopping and we’re making a lot less impulse buys of cookies, crackers and other junk we don’t need).  It means I make a concrete plan for perishables, so less of our produce goes to waste.  We have spinach left over from salads last week?  Monday or Tuesday will be a recipe that uses it up.  It keeps us out of the beef-pasta rut, and best of all, it means nobody has to decide what’s for dinner at the end of the day.  Because god knows, after a long day of deciding “should I let the baby put that in his mouth or not?”, I really don’t care if we have stir fry or grilled chicken, I just want to eat.
  DON’T feel like if you make a menu you’re going to be locked into it and “what if we don’t want what’s on the menu, blah blah, blah”.  You can always ignore the menu and make something you’re craving that night.  If you look at the first menu you can see I cross things out and move them around all the time.  It isn’t a contract you’re signing in blood!  What it is, is a tool so that you can take one trip to the store a week and be good to go with food until next week, without having to think about it.
  Try it out and see if it makes your life easier.  If you’re looking for recipe ideas, check out my Pinterest.  Recipes we’ve made and liked are repinned in my finished projects folder.
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