Year-long meal plan

I feel like superwoman! I truly do. A year-long meal plan… YIKES! I hope you can read through this post. I’m telling you. It could change your life!

Truly I thought my friend Lindsey might be just a tad crazy when I saw her blog post called “How I meal plan for the entire year” that she posted back in January. But almost the moment I read it, I knew I wanted to try it. I was so inspired.

On a side note – With this system I planned dinners. Use leftovers for lunch. Stock my pantry for baking and breakfast foods. Keep a list of things that we run out of and are our family staples on a chalkboard clipboard to grab during my next shopping trip. I shop twice a month. Occasionally I have to ask my husband to stop for a missed ingredient on his way home from work – but this gets less and less frequent with each passing day. No my produce does not go bad. I plan my side dishes based on which produce might get tired first, and am still flexible in my cooking.

So far when I’ve told people I’m trying a year-long meal plan I’ve had a few recurring questions…
– Why?!
– What if the meal you planned doesn’t sound good?
– Can I see it?
– Are you sticking to it?

So here go my answers…
Why?
Why not? But in all honesty… why not?! I needed an overhaul. I wanted to make dinner at home for our family around our table – nightly. That’s a value I have and one I want to instill in my kids. I wanted to reduce stress and excess spending, and eat foods I like. So… why not? It’s worth a shot.
What if it doesn’t sound good?
So far that has only happened a handful of times. One time… I cooked what was on the plan anyway and it was delicious! The other couple of times I still cooked from the plan, but just borrowed/traded with another night of the week. I grocery shop for 2 weeks of dinners (14 dinners) at a time so there is some flexibility. Plus if I check the recipe in the morning and think about it all day it’s amazing how enticing and yummy that particular recipe sounds by the time I get cooking and have it on the table.
Can I see it?
Yes you can see it, here! Just keep reading…
Are you sticking to it?
So far I’m at about an 80% execution rate – which if you ask me is incredible. However, Lindsey cooks almost 100% of the time from her plan so she has me beat.

Now that those questions are out of the way here is why I love it…
1. I’m saving time. Each week I just look at my plan and write on a my weekly meal plan sheet what dinner will be each night. Occasionally I have made changes at this point – but rarely – but for example, maybe we now have unexpected plans or I need to cook for more people one night. I might trade which dinners I do which nights. Then I take those two weekly lists and flip to my Meal Ingredient List with my Grocery List in hand. I write my list and head to the store.

 

The list writing only takes me about 15 minutes. I double check to make sure that nothing on my list is already in my fridge or pantry.  (This saves me money – which leads to my next reason I love this system…)

2. I’m saving money! Like nearly $100 a month. I’m shopping 20 minutes away now, at Winco and am finding I’m saving a lot by doing so. I don’t have to be overly cautious there because as a whole their prices are just better. I am shopping bulk when I can, only getting as much as I need of certain things instead of buying a whole package and only using part. (The only thing I’m not really buying there are home goods, toiletries, or medicines – which I get at Walmart.) We were killing our budget with all the small stops at the store. Plus, I make a day of it and take my kids to fabulous local park there in town, or to get ice cream for doing such a great job doing our “BIG shop.” Then we head home for naps, and put all my groceries away. Plus since I’m cooking we aren’t eating out at all. Like really. Since we got married we had cut eating out way back, and even further when we had kids, but now my need to eat out has decreased because I’m cooking a variety of ethnic foods I didn’t know how to cook before and would have to “go out” in order to eat.

3. I’m having fun. I’m getting to cook new recipes, try new things, and overall just having more fun. Dinner is no longer stressful. I try to check the plan in the morning so I can pull out things from the freezer if they need thawing, and budget for how much time I need to cook dinner. I love ethnic food and Lindsey’s original list had all kinds of different foods on it – things I had never dared try at home. (I can’t wait until the Sweet and Sour chicken pops back up again! It was so good!!) And I love to cook and become better at it, so these recipes that are stretching me or teaching me new skills and terms really are helping me have fun!

4. We are eating a variety of foods around our dinner table EVERY night. Truly I think there are only 2 meals so far that I might not repeat or might choose to replace with something else and we have yet to repeat a meal and we are over 50 days in. When I sat down staring at 12 blank months and had to fill in the days of my 365 day calendar I thought there was no way I’d fill all the days, in fact I doubted so much that some of the meals I penciled in more frequently then the table suggested. Then in the end I had to go back and erase some things I had written down too frequently to fill with our tried and true favorites. Plus in all actuality we really were only eating chicken and now I’m successfully cooking beef, pork, fish, and some fun vegetarian dishes too.

5. There are leftovers for my husband to take to work or for me and the boys to eat the next day – which helps cover lunches too.

6. It’s easy! The initial planning stage took a bit of up front time, but honestly Lindsey had done the hardest part of collecting tried and true recipes and compiling an awesome Meal Ingredient List that will become your best friend if you give this a shot. It has all the ingredients for each recipe/meal with side dishes listed there so making your grocery list is easy. She shared her family’s ratings of each meal and how frequently they like to eat the meal.

So to get started

 

I reviewed her list, and edited it some.

I put each category in alphabetical order, added my favorite recipes, removed a few I knew our family would not be interested in, and then started printing.

I printed 5 separate things.

1. The Meal Ingredient List (Print 1)

This is also where you will find links for all the recipes!
2. The Grocery Shopping List (Print 24 – 2 per month or however frequently you plan to shop) – this format has really helped me expedite my time in the grocery store and helped me not forget necessary items. I take it with my clipboard of staples I need to remember to buy.

3. And a Year of monthly calendars, to pick landscape print this AND this or for Portrait .pdf here (Print 1) – they are just darling by “Short Stop Designs” Updated for 2018!

4. A Weekly Meal Plan {printable} – I got this from “The Happy Housie” and her post about meal planning.

 

5. The Recipes – from individual links found on my Meal Ingredient List.

I put together my notebook.
1. I put the monthly calendars in page protectors first.

 

2. Created tabs for these categories:
– Weekly plan
– Grocery List
– Ingredient List
– Fish/Non-meat
– Chicken
– Beef
– Pork
– Pizza
– Soups
– Breakfast
– Sides
– Baking
3. I put recipes behind the appropriate tab and alphabetized them so they’d be easy to find.
This notebook is now my best friend. I even take it with me shopping in case I want to buy in bulk and need to know a specific amount, or want to double check my list before I head into the store. I pull it out in the morning to check for ingredients, foods to thaw, and to budget my time and plan according to how long the recipe takes.
I started adjusting to this way of living and cooking.
 
I learned quickly to check the recipe in the morning. This helps wet my appetite for the meal, helps me be prepared, and allows me the freedom to fill my day in any way I want knowing what will be for dinner and how long I’ll need to get it on the table for my family.
I no longer want to eat out all the time. I used to want to eat out so I could have Japanese, Thai, Chinese, and Mexican food. Now I’m cooking it! I used to want to eat out because I was so stressed thinking up something to cook that I had all the ingredients for, sounded good and would be ready “in time” but now those things are out the window. It’s not stressful to cook dinner so I don’t need to eat out as much. This is so nice, and makes dates even more special. (I do still insist on eating at Pho TnN for Vietnamese food!)
I’m adding as I go…
Lindsey has been at this 3 years. And in anticipation of doing it again next year I am writing down our family’s ratings, which meals we cooked and crossing out if we didn’t cook the meal (like the 4 days I ended up in Reno on a surprise trip – i just crossed those out so I knew I didn’t stick to the plan those days), and noting how frequently we’d like eat each meal so that when I go to make my plan in December of 2015 I’ll have our own family’s thoughts and preferences noted.

 

Friends – I dare you! Double dog dare you. Try it! Start with a month… (But you really do need to go BIG or go home. A week at a time just doesn’t give you the same freedom. I’m telling you – try it!)

 

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3 Comments

  1. Alex, this is awesome! I'm so glad it has worked well for you and that you are able to make it your own too and refine the system to fit your family! And it gets even easier the longer you do it. We should totally reconvene at the end of the year and swap new recipes that our families enjoyed. Hmm, maybe we could have a meal planning club or something!

  2. Wow, I'm impressed! I need to try meal landing in general, and the saving money part got my attention – maybe I'll give it a try. Maybe not a whole year at first though – baby steps! Haha!

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