At the end of last year, I decided to be a marginally responsible adult; I downloaded all of our credit and debit card transactions for the year, sorted them into categories, and made a huge pivot table so I could figure out what was going on. My initial reaction was, I’m hoping, a normal one, when I stared at the numbers in disbelief.
After the initial shock wore off, I decided that it was time to take charge of two of our highest spend categories: Eating Out and Groceries/Toiletries/Other Household Goods, aka ‘The Walmart Bucket’. It turns out that Duke’s House is single-handedly keeping both Walmart and our local restaurants in business. It was time to make a change. In that vein, I have started doing this crazy thing that other people have reportedly been doing for years. I have been meal planning.
So far meal planning has been working. For the most part my grocery lists have been quite accurate. I can only think of one instance where we needed to go back out to the store for one more item and we have been avoiding weekly trips to Sam’s Club, which we all know can get expensive in a hurry. In short, not only is meal planning working, but it is going really well.
When I plan our meals for the week, there are a few critical factors that I keep in mind:
- We usually get home from work, more or less, at 6pm. Dinner must be on the table by 6:20.
- The meal must be Kai-friendly.
- Bonus points if it can be frozen. (I can make a double batch and have less work to do during a future week.)
- Dinners that can, in large part, be cooked or prepped on the weekend are a plus.
- All meals must be “from scratch”. No processed foods allowed, with the exception of “good” lunch meats three times per week.
Sounds simple enough, right?
I didn’t think so at first, but it is going really well so far. Most weeks, I have been able to cook double batches of about four of our dinners for the week on Sunday then freeze them in two portions, one for later that week and one for the future. Kai has been much more open to eating foods than I expected her to be. She has tried and loved all kinds of things from Chicken Curry to Tofu Pad Thai to, Chris’ all time favorite, Fish Tacos. There has only been one night so far that I just could not get dinner on the table before Kai went to bed (don’t worry, we fed her something else) and that was a result of me being at work too late, not the meal I chose for that night.
(If you are super curious, click to enlarge.)
I am still working to expand our breakfast and lunch items, but I think I have the dinners solidly in place. You’ll notice that not all of the lunches are populated, the basic plan is to have turkey, chicken, roast beef, veggie (usually mashed white bean), and peanut butter (except for Kai) sandwiches with fruit (and veggies for Kai) each week for lunch. Our breakfasts are super boring, Green Monsters for me, bagels for Chris, and either a bagel with sunbutter or a bagel with ricotta cheese for Kai. As I get more adept at planning, I think I can expand the breakfast and lunch menus some, for now, I think we’re doing pretty well with it.
For the first time in years, I finally feel like we are able to eat “real” foods without me sacrificing entire evenings to making dinner and the next day’s breakfast and lunch. It has been pretty amazing so far. I will do another post to get into the how, for now, here is a peek at our menu from the past two weeks.