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A Meal Planning System that Works

Sep 14, 2020

This post is by Christy Hinnant.

Proverbs 31 tells us that “An excellent wife… rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household…” and yet, over the years the way that we do that has changed many times.  One way I can do this is by planning, and that planning I do in the wee hours of the morning keeps the food on the table and helps me to not lose all sanity.  

As a mom who works full time, my mornings are RUSHED to say the least.  But Hello Mornings has given me a game plan, year after year, that on *MOST* days keeps me not only on my knees with my Father, but also keeps me organized for the day ahead.  (I still haven’t figured out the “Move” part of God. Plan. Move. other than the fact that I have to move at the speed of light most days… lol!)  

Planning not only for the day ahead, but for the month ahead has been a skill I have honed over the years, and it is VITAL to not only my sanity, but also to the finances of our home.  I have figured out how to plan our meals for a month - based on events that are already on the calendar, when paydays fall, and then, when the weekly sales ads come out, I can also look at what the grocery store has on sale (especially meat) and see what I should buy for the weeks to come and just stick in the freezer to save a little dough.

So how does it work?  First of all, please know that I am NOT one of those meal planners who puts everything into nice Tupperware and has servings all placed out and cooks a million things on the weekend.  Kudos to anyone who can do that!  That’s just not me.  (Mostly because our weekends are just as busy as our week days, and I “ain’t got time for that!”)  What I do instead is a written plan on paper (or you could do it digitally if you prefer).  I look at the calendar of events for the month ahead, and plan accordingly.  

I started this planning system many years ago by first making a list of all of our favorite foods that I cook.  The list has changed and grown over the years, but the heart of it has stayed the same.  I have our favorite beef, chicken, sausage, pork, and seafood dishes listed out, and I keep that list in a folder with our monthly meal plan calendar.  I write all of our events on the calendar, as well as paydays.  Then I look through the list and plan some crockpot meals during the week, and some longer prep meals on the weekends (assuming I don’t have a big afternoon event that day).  I plan more expensive meals that make lots of leftovers for right after payday, and then freeze half.  Later in the month, or the beginning of the next month, I put those freezer leftovers as a meal.  I also plan one night each week for leftovers, and a couple nights a month to get pizza delivered.  

Once the plan has been written, IT IS STILL FLEXIBLE!  Some days I get home and cooking is just not gonna happen.  Some mornings, the crockpot just doesn’t get started because everything falls apart.  But, by having a monthly plan, and shopping each week, I have the ingredients already on hand for any of the other meals I’ve planned for the week.  And this prevents us from eating out too often, or calling in for pizza too much.  (Which saves TONS of money!) 

The months that I don’t plan, or that I try to go week by week, we spend a lot more on groceries.  Because we’re shopping every couple of days instead of weekly, and we often pick up *wants* instead of NEEDS on those extra grocery trips!  How often have you found yourself at the checkout counter, and the cashier says, “did you find everything you needed?”  To which you reply, “and then some!”  It’s way too easy to overload your shopping cart with extras - especially if you have little helpers who are adding things for you.  (Or maybe you’re like me, and YOU add more extras than your kids ever ask for!!)  But by planning monthly, I can shop sales more effectively, use in-store coupons more effectively, and I also don’t usually over-buy and then not end up using something.  If we do end up with a meal that doesn’t get prepared for some reason, the calendar is written in pencil, and I can erase another meal and plug that one in so that we don’t waste ingredients.  *Side note - if your local grocery store offers an option where they shop for you and you pick it up, that is also another way to SAVE MONEY… because you aren’t walking all over the store adding extras to your cart… you have to stick to your list!*

So this all sounds great, but how do you plug it into your Hello Mornings time?  Well, at the end of every month, it’ll require a little more time than usual.  I usually do it on a weekend and sometimes it’s not in the morning at all.  BUT - when you get to your HM time in the morning, by already having a monthly plan, you’re able to look at the day ahead, the week ahead, quickly scan your pantry and fridge, and be prepared for what you need.  Some days when I have time, I will quickly pull my pantry items needed for that night’s meal and set them next to the stove.  That keeps me on task when I get home from work - because I remember what is on the plan without even looking at the calendar.  

Where do you put the plan?  You could put it into your regular day planner on the monthly calendar (I usually do so that I keep everything together), and/or you could put it on a sheet that you can hang on your fridge so that your family isn’t bugging you to know what is for dinner.  I try to do both.  Find what works best for you!  But rather than re-inventing the wheel, here’s a link to my “Family Meal Plan” calendar for 2020 so you can just go and print these sheets off and get started right away without having to create anything or buy a calendar!  I keep my calendar sheets for the previous months and the ones not yet filled out in a folder along with our favorite meals list and it lives in the kitchen so that I can easily locate it.  I can look back at previous months for ideas as well - especially if I’ve tried a new recipe that we liked and I forgot to put it on the master list of meals (which happens!).

I know this plan isn’t foolproof (what is?), but it helps our family a lot, and I hope that you find the ideas helpful as well.   I pray that you’ll find a way to tweak this planning idea to work effectively for you and help you as you strive to become a woman of God as outlined in Proverbs 31.  Keep planning, keep growing, and most of all, keep believing that YOU, my sweet sister, are an amazingly beautiful daughter of the King!  He loves you even when your meal plan falls apart, and your kids hate their dinner, and your hubby ends up working late so his has to be reheated in the microwave.  He loves you when the food sticks to the crockpot (those liners are amazing for that, by the way!) and you feel like everything is falling apart.   He. Loves. YOU.

Here’s a link to a printable calendar you can use for your own meal planning:  bit.ly/mealplancalendar.

 

Christy Hinnant is wife to a wonderful man for almost 12 years and mother to three kids - about to turn 8, about to turn 6, and one that just turned 2.  She is a Special Education paraprofessional in a small town near San Antonio, Texas who has been a part of Hello Mornings in some capacity since 2014.  One who accepted Christ at a young age, her life has not always been easy, but she feels very blessed to have been sheltered under His wing through every storm.  Christy is a blogger who doesn’t always have the words to say, or the time to write them, but hopes that when she does have the time and the words, that they find their purpose in glorifying her Savior.

Photo by Nathália Rosa on Unsplash

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