Tuesday, January 28, 2014

All Things Food and Meals: Part 1

Deep breath...meal planning.  Sometimes I find this task to be super simple, other times I feel burned out and resist having to do it.  But, in our family, it's a must.  Insert groan.  I do all of the meal planning, and every weekend I ask all members of the fam "any ideas for suppers this week?".  I usually get one answer from Peanutty; "ummm...tater tot casserole!". Yay (said with a sad kind of enthusiasm)!  While I love the occasional TTC, Peanutty could hammer that down every single night if I made it. 

Once I ask if there's any kind of ideas for suppers (I do sometimes get ideas from Hubs but not too often, he eats anything I cook), I then take a quick look at what is already in the inventory.  I check the deep freeze to see what kinds/cuts of meats - frozen veggies - butter stock (we only use butter in this house - kids are allergic to margarine, and I heard one time that margarine is the closest thing to plastic...true or not, we don't use it) - shredded cheese - and already prepared freezer meals.  Then to the pantry, cupboards and fridge.  I start there, then form a few meals out of what we already have and/or meals that only require a few items to be purchased.  If I don't have grand ideas, then I hit up this pretty lady:

A meal idea binder.  In here you will find an array of meals that our family will eat and enjoy.  Even though there are a couple hundred ideas in here, we find that it feels like we just had it and are in need of something new.  In comes...da-da-da...PINTEREST.  Oh how I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest.  I pin a few meal ideas here and there, try them out, if we like them, we print off the recipe and slide it into the binder.  If it's not one we're so wild about, I simply delete it off my 'Food' board.  In this binder you will find ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas are separated out into meat categories: beef, chicken, pork and seafood (we don't eat much of this but the occasional shrimp scampi never hurts).  There's also a section for dessert ideas (LOVE making it, don't care to eat it that much), and a section for marinades/spices.  In the very back of this binder you'll find two double-sided folders.  They contain our grocery list sheet, meal calendar template, and coupons that need to be clipped.  Here's a glimpse of what our meal planning station looks like:
Allow me to break it down for you:
This is the clipboard that we keep our meal planning/grocery list on.  ALL of this meal planning station is attached to the side of our fridge, and very easily accessible.  No excuse for not writing down that you're out of peanut butter...which reminds me...anyway, on this paper we write down our meal plan for the week and there's also a space for your grocery list.
This is what it looks like under the list.  I have now upgraded to a plastic envelope that is reserved for coupons that we plan to use for the current list.  It's easy to grab and go.  On a side note, I also mark items on our grocery list with a little circled 'c' to remind me that I have a coupon - I've been known to check out without using my coupons because I forget I have them.
And here is our weekly meal calendar.  It has a place for you to write down breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner for every day of the week (I've never planned snack...we just keep a variety in the house because who really wants to HAVE to eat a specific snack because it's on a list?).  Instead of busting out a new sheet every week, I picked up a black frame from the Dollar Tree for $2.00, put the sheet inside it, and then purchased strip magnets from Hobby Lobby for $7.00 a roll (but if you get on their site you can usually snag a 40% off coupon for one item...this was before I had a smart phone though and I didn't even think to print one off before leaving home).  I attempted to use the magnets but I didn't get one that was strong enough to hold the weight of the frame, so I used some 3M hook adhesive - minus the hook.  I had a few extra laying around and decided to use it instead.  Worked like a charm.  We now use dry erase/wet erase markers on the glass of the frame.  Why do this extra step of the weekly meal calendar?  There are some days that Hubby is home before I am, so he just takes a peek at the calendar and starts cooking.  It's also a great reminder for school lunches, sometimes Peanutty wants school lunch, sometimes he wants a packed lunch.  We go through the school lunch calendar on the weekend and then map out which days are which so there isn't confusion...we wouldn't want him to have to eat at school on Breakfast Bake day!  See, dodging bullets!

You may (or may not) be wondering where I got the lovely printable grocery list and meal calendar sheets...well, we all know I didn't design them because posting on this blog is hard enough!!!  I actually purchased (don't judge me) these off of Etsy.com, here is the link: 


This site has numerous helpful templates for all sorts of organizing!  Love the colors and style of them as well. 

If you noticed, I titled this as being a Part 1.  Well, my meal planning, grocery shopping and actual meal outcome is a few steps.  So instead of making a super long post, I'm going to break it up.

*Side note:  Target has Washi tape in their dollar bins.  The Target I went to had only 2 rolls left in it, but if you're lucky, maybe you can grab up a few rolls for just a few bucks!*

**Another side note:  I really do need to write peanut butter on my list.**

***And last side note:  I have not figure out how to rotate pix, so please be patient - or turn your screen.***


  1. I have to know what tator tot casserole is...

    1. You asked, I answer!

      In an 8x8 baking dish layer:
      1 lb. browned and seasoned ground beef (we use a little onion, garlic salt and powder, onion salt and powder...but simple salt and pepper would work)
      1 can of cream of chicken soup spread over browned meat
      1, 2 cup bag of shredded cheddar (you can use less but we like it cheesy)
      Frozen tater tots

      Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Make sure the tater tots are nice and crispy!

      There you have it cuz!!! Delish!

  2. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. I already do most of this, but I have snagged a couple ideas I will be sure to use. I love the notebook filled with meal ideas and recipes, I never thought to do something like that. Such a great Idea. I also really LIKE you "menu". I usually type out a new menu every two weeks, however this is a far more cost effective way to keep track. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I'm just happy someone is getting some ideas! That makes me absolutely giddy!!!

  3. So...Jesse and I have completely crazy/busy/opposite schedules. The days he is off, I work at Winn's, and I get fed at both jobs, and he works the night shift, so his "meal times" are awkward. Therefore we are saving a lot of money on food. However, there are some days that we are home together. And, there are days that I can prep or he can prep and we can eat that when we are home or take it to go. Although we hardly get the chance to eat together, this will help us be more efficient with the food that we DO have at home! This kind of thing can work for anyone :) I will be creating this over the weekend, with my own little twist that fits our lifestyle. Love this idea.