This week I decided to take a step back in the Dinner Time Decision process
and take you 'behind the scenes'.
Each Monday, when I publish my menu plan for the week, I'm giving you answers to MY meal time needs but it may not solve the needs of YOUR week. I always share the 5 questions I ask myself, giving you insight as to how I came to my decisions for dinner, but really anyone can make a fast and easy menu plan by answering the same 5 simple questions.
So this week...I'm not giving you a fish, but teaching you how I fish *wink*.
CLICK HERE for a printable meal planning guide
Also known as: Dinner Time Decisions
I have a simple set of questions I ask myself before I commit to a meal plan each week. These questions are designed to save me time, money and sanity. Here they are:
- What's in my freezer?
- I have learned not to assume I know the answer. There have been times I've forgotten what I had in there and bought things unnecessarily. When working with a fixed grocery budget, this is a BIG deal!
- When I look into a freezer of frozen chicken, beef, pork or fish, I know I have food but don't always know where to start when planning meals. My seasoning blends partnered with the recipes on the blog give me choices. I know I can search for recipes using a specific blend and find CHOICES and IDEAS for dinner time decisions!
- My friend Tiffany always says, "The most expensive food in the kitchen is the food that goes to waste". I agree completely and usually that expensive food was bought ON SALE! If I don't use it, it wasn't a money saving grocery decision, so I make it a habit to check the fridge each week when planning a menu to see what leftovers might be on their last leg, or what produce I bought on sale the week before that's about to go bad.
- Once I know what I have on hand, I can review the grocery store ads and see what's on sale, looking for things that I know I need now or in the near future.
- VERY IMPORTANT STEP! I can plan all I want but if I can't follow the plan it was pointless, which leads to last minute 'change of plans' that typically cost me more money than I needed to spend on dinner if I'd thought ahead a little. Things I look for on the calender to guide my decision making:
- days that I need dinner to be ready when I walk in the door (slow cooker meals or something from the fridge like an entree salad or sandwich meal)
- days I have time to cook (use these days to make Cook Once / Serve Twice recipes to plan ahead for the future)
- the family schedule... who is home, who is gone and who is coming over? (it's important to know who and how many I'm cooking for ~ so I don't over or under prepare!)
Five simple questions
and I'm ready to make my
Dinner Time Decisions for the week.
Next step is to gather the recipes so I can compile a grocery list.
- Using the answers to 1,3 and 4 above, I determine the flow of entrees.
- 2 nights of chicken, 1 night of pork, 2 beef nights, vegetarian meals? The answer is driven by what I have and what I can afford (or want) to buy.
- I choose the recipes offered by the links below based on the seasoning blends I have on hand.
- If my calendar says I have time to cook: I'm going to go to the category list on the right side of the blog and choose any of the following links:
- "dinner's in the bag" (beef, chicken or pork) ~ these recipes will let me make dinner tonight and put a second batch of the same recipe in a freezer bag for dinner in the future.
- Cook Once / Serve Twice ~ these recipes give ideas for cooking extra tonight so I can make dinner in a hurry another night
- Fill the Freezer ~ just one more category that shows recipes I can make tonight and have extras to cook once / serve twice or put another dinner in a bag.
- Look at the Meal Trail ideas linked here and use those trails to drive my decisions.
- If my calendar says I will need dinner in a hurry: I'm going to partner up a meal from the list above OR I'll just search for meals I can put in the slow cooker that morning. (use 'slow cooker' in search tool OR click the slow cooker link in the category list)
KEEP THIS IN MIND:
A meal plan doesn't mean you are chained to it...it just means you have a map for the week,
but things may happen that require you to take a detour.
The 5 questions you answered to put together your meal plan (top of this page)
give you an idea of options you have if a detour is needed.
Just in case you are inspired to give it a try yourself,
CLICK HERE for a printable version
of this process and use it to
make your own Dinner Time Decisions!
I'm linking up with other meal planning blogs this week. See the list of places I like to connect here.
Like it? Love it? Made it? Made it better?
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