a busy mom’s guide to: meal planning .and. august’s giveaway winner!

First things first…lets reveal the August Giveaway Winner! It’s been so fun reading everyone’s favorite things to bake, thanks to everyone who entered. My friend Jessica said next time, I need to ask everyone to post the RECIPES to these yummy sounding treats. And I heartily agree!

And the WINNER is…

Jennifer Jordan!

Sweet Jennifer, message me your address and I’ll get your goodies in the mail this week! Congratulations! Hope it inspires you to try some new creations.

{I used random.org for anyone who’s curious how I decided}

And on to Menu Planning for the Month…

. . . . . . . .

I find it a bit hilarious that so many of you asked me to do this post. I am certainly not an expert meal planner…but I’ll tell you what I’ve learned from the past few months of doing it for my family.

After too many nights of rotisserie chicken tacos, rotisserie chicken and pasta, and rotisserie chicken sandwiches, I decided I needed to actually THINK about dinner {{gasp}} more than 5 minutes before sitting down. Ok, maybe that’s a bit exaggerated {but not much, right Ben?}. Besides that, we were tossing out so much food that had gone bad: veggies that looked yummy in the store, yet I didn’t have the right ingredients to cook them, or a pork loin or salmon with no purpose.

What a waste! How are we supposed to be teaching our children to not eat one bite of a banana before throwing it away, when I’m tossing out half of the contents of our fridge? And what a terrible use of money, too.

A monthly menu. Too ambitious for you? Nah. Just try it.

Step 1:

What’s already in your fridge? Go take a look. Before every grocery shopping trip, look in your fridge and see what’s in there and what you need to get rid of. Make room for the new items rather than allowing the old ones to just get shoved to the back.

Step 2:

. . now, here’s the trick that might take a little getting used to . .

Grab your monthly calendar with all your craziness already listed on it, and also print out a blank calendar.

I subscribe to the JDC | Monthly Collection and use the printables she sends me every month, but there are so many options out there: both cute and basic {yet still super cute}. Make sure you post it somewhere conveniently close to the kitchen, such as on your fridge or pinned to a Command Center, like I use so you can refer to it easily.

With your calendars side by side, see what you have going on. For example, Mondays Ezekiel has Spanish after school, then Ben & I switch cars and he takes the kids to Anton’s soccer practice and I run over to my boxing class. Ben & the kids get home just before 7 and I don’t get home ’till around 7:30.

So…that night, a crockpot dinner is imperative. Go through your entire month like that, making sure if you are wanting to do a blackened tilapia on the grill, that you have time for it.

Step 3:

Now go find your recipe box, cookbooks, or {my personal favorite} click around on Pinterest and see what you’ve already pinned and have been wanting to try. I never thought I’d be able to plan an entire month because I didn’t have enough recipes for variety. But posting on Facebook asking friends for their favorites {like I did the other day}, and looking online, or in those dusty cookbooks on your shelf, you’ll easily find enough…don’t worry.

{If an entire month intimidates you, just set a menu week to week. That’s how I got started}

Don’t forget to schedule a night a week for leftovers, or a meal out if you like.

Step 4:

Make sure you have a shopping list and pencil next to you as your mapping out your month, so you can make up your list right then and there {a weekly shopping list, obviously. Don’t buy the entire month’s food at the beginning of the month}. Remember to double check and make sure you have the spices, vegetable stock, etc. that you need.

Every Sunday or Monday morning {or whenever works best for you}, firm up the grocery list for that week. Don’t do what I did for years and think you’ll just remember everything because nothing is more annoying than having everything needed for a yummy dinner except the crushed sage {which is the main flavor in the dish}. I say that from experience.

Rather than using the cute shopping list from JDC {linked above} like I did for a long time, Ben and I now use an app on our iphones called Cozi. Cozi is FANTASTIC and has simplified my life greatly. Rather than chancing accidentally leaving my grocery list at home, or Ben calling saying he has time to run out for me and spending the next 10 minutes trying to text it all to him, it’s all there on {{both}} of our phones.

I have my list for Costco, the neighborhood grocery store, the Container Store, Home Depot and a few others. All separate, and all able to be seen and edited by both Ben and I {there are also “to do” lists and a calendar on Cozi. Haven’t had as much success with the calendar feature for our family, sadly…but the Shopping & To Do lists make downloading the app worth it for sure}.

. . tips . .

a few ideas to help make life even simpler & streamlined:

. if it’s a crockpot night, get your slow cooker started in the morning when the kids are eating breakfast or as they sit down for lunch. I always set mine on LOW {partially because of our high altitude} so it’ll cook all day and be perfect when we’re ready to set the table for dinner.

. use clear tupperware {glass is my favorite because it doesn’t stain…we use these} so you and your family can see what’s in the fridge.

. if you know you’ll be tight on time, make your pasta, rice, or quinoa beforehand and place it in the fridge. Or get a rice cooker and set the timer.

. when you get home, WASH & CUT THE FRUIT! I have thrown away so many pineapples, watermelon, and celery because I didn’t take the time to prepare it to be grabbed from the fridge and eaten. As sad as it is, my family just doesn’t eat it if it’s not able to be quickly snatched and consumed…perhaps yours is the same way.

. put the healthy snacks in front so they’re easily seen {especially by the kids}. I put the carrots right next to the hummus to remind them to grab it together and n.o.t use ranch every time {the small containers are for school lunches, the big one is for at-home snacks}.

. when returning home from Costco, remove the food from the big huge containers so they’re more user-friendly. Granted, we have a second fridge/freezer in our garage where all the excess is stored, but no one needs a year’s worth of bacon bits taking up precious real estate in the fridge. Maybe it’s silly, but I like a pretty and organized fridge. Stresses me out when there’s even a to-go container in there.

. if you’re using a handwritten list when grocery shopping, write it in the order you walk through the store {fruit first if you go in that door, and around your normal route} so you don’t go back and forth, having forgotten something.

. when planning your menu, think about what food is best when super fresh. For example, last week I should have made my fajitas with red & green peppers before the garlic chicken and brussels sprouts because the peppers ended up a little wilted & the brussels sprouts are hearty enough to stay a day or two longer.

. don’t forget to go over your menu plan with your spouse before everything is set in stone. They might remind you {like Ben does me} “ummmm you’re serving quinoa like every night. I’m kinda over it” Make sure you get his feedback, if he’s interested.

. . . . . . . .

Go to it! You can totally do this. Seriously, if I can…you can. Work on it some night after the kids go to bed and you’re cozying up to your husband on the couch. That’s when I get my best work done!

{I’ll be posting some favorite recipes on my Facebook Fanpage this week…head over and become my friend if you haven’t already!}

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4 Responses to a busy mom’s guide to: meal planning .and. august’s giveaway winner!

  1. Jennifer Jordan Sep 3rd, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Eeekkk!!! I am absolutely giddy!! <3 Thank you!!!! And thanks for this post, too! I am going to have such a busy school year with a baby, a half day kindergartner, and a full day 1st grader. :)

    • hugs & punches Sep 5th, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

      I’m so excited for you! I’ll get it in the mail!

  2. Martha Garcia Sep 3rd, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Thank you! I need to get organized. Now with a family of 5 I needed to get organized. I just subscribed to Food on the Table which is a cool ap. And I plan to use some of your tips too to get me started! Thank you!

    • hugs & punches Sep 5th, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

      yay Martha…5 now…haha you don’t have a CHOICE but to get organized! Your head might spin right off your head otherwise. Can’t wait ’till I feel like I have the grasp on organization that I want. sigh. I’ll go check out the app you were talking about. Sounds cool

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