Yesterday’s post was a good “vent” for me. Thanks for reading!
After I hit “Publish” I spent some time in my binder getting things in order. It felt good to get meal plans figured out, and shopping lists started, especially since Chris planned a trip to Port tomorrow. We were waiting on confirmation from a friend about a certain errand before he set a date, so it was one of those things in limbo. I was able to see how the system I worked on for meal planning and shopping worked and I’m excited to report that I love it! I know a lot of people are meal planners, or are wanting to get going in that direction, so I thought I might share the pages that I put together for my binder and explain how I used them. (Printing tips and tricks below.)
Weekly Menu Page
This is where it starts. I work through each day and fill in the meals I want to make. I don’t often use the lunch space as most days we eat leftovers, but wanted to include it for when we have visitors and I have to plan more both for cooking and shopping.
Once I have all the meals filled in I can look over all the meals and use the shopping list section on the right to make note of any ingredients or food items we need to buy for the week.
We have a small chalkboard on our wall. It’s purpose is to be a place where anyone in the house can jot down items we need to buy or put on the market list as we use them up. Because we can’t just run 5 minutes down the road to grab that missing thing to make supper, I need to keep a regular inventory of stuff and take advantage of trips into town when we go. One side is marked “store” and is for things we buy in an actual store, while the “market” side is for the stuff Yonese buys each week when she goes to the marche. All of the stuff on this list was transferred to the page in my binder, because the chalkboard is the first place to write something down. It’s usually in the process of cooking something or as we walk by.
At the bottom of the Weekly Menu page is a small section where I can make notes about what I want to prep in advance. I’ve been working on this concept over the last year to give us more variety in some areas, without having to spend all my time in any given day working on something. For example, tortillas. It makes more sense to me to double the batch and spend an extra 30 minutes at the stove cooking them and portion and freeze the extras, than it does to try and remember to start making them at 3 pm when I’m already tired from the day. If I do a bit more work at once, then freeze the extras I can simply look at the white board on our fridge (more on that in a minute) and take the tortillas out of the fridge – cutting my dinner prep and cooking time by about an hour or more for any meal needing tortillas.
Today has been a “prep day” for me and it feels SO good to finally get some of this stuff taken care of. I find it’s easier for me to spend an entire morning or day working on stuff, then be able to just pull from it for the next month than to try and find the time to do a thing or two each day. You know, the mixer is out so lets mix everything that needs to be mixed, or the oven is on so lets bake everything that needs to be baked. Today alone I’ve made:
- 4 rolls of cresent roll dough to freeze (idea is that I can pull one out, defrost and roll out just like the Pilsbury ones)
- 1 large ziploc of hash browns, pre-cooked and seasoned (so I just pull the bag out, take out what I want, and bake them for an easy breakfast add on)
- a double batch of tortillas (to portion into meals, then freeze)
- pancake batter for breakfast tomorrow, in the fridge and ready to go
- homemade syrup
- a double batch of banana, coconut and chocolate chip muffin mix to make 4 dozen mini-muffins (great kid snack) and a bundt cake for my ladies Bible study tonight
- started soaking beans to be used in making dinner for the next two nights
It’s a lot, but it also means easier mornings and evenings for a while, so it’s worth it.
I’m loving the Weekly Menu pages because it’s a place to work on stuff for a week at a time, rather than having multiple lists in different places.
When I use this page the first thing I do is make note of any special days on the calendar that might affect what we eat that day. For example, if we have visitors coming for a certain number of days, I write that down so I can account for several things.
I don’t always cook the same types of things for our family as I do when we have guests. I might have Yonese cook some Haitian meals so they get to experience that, and that means extra things on the market list. Maybe it’s a birthday with a special birthday meal. Maybe we know we’re not going to be around for an evening and I don’t need to plan supper for that night.
After that I go and write all the planned meals in their places. Because Thursday is market day we have a “leftover night” on Wednesday where we clean out what’s in the fridge. It means less wasted food and I have a better idea of what we’re truly eating in a week and adjust the market and shopping list accordingly. Thursday is my ladies Bible study, so Chris cooks that night. It’s usually something simple like baked potatoes, which we all love. It means I don’t have to worry about dinner and I get a night of not having to make a meal, which is a treat.
After all the info is on the page I copy it onto my whiteboard calendar that is on our fridge. This way everyone knows what’s for dinner, Chris has a reminder right in front of his face when it’s his day to cook, and I can glance at it through the day and take meat and things out of the freezer if needed. I can also walk over to it before we go to bed, or first thing the next morning and know what we’re having for breakfast without having to do a lot of mental gymnastics.
Master Shopping List
As I’ve mentioned, we have to be more deliberate about planning our shopping trips. The Master Shopping List is what I use when we do a big grocery run into Port au Prince. Over the years I’ve learned which stores typically stock which items, and we’ve narrowed things down to our favorite, convenient store in Port. Yes, there are some that are more easy to get to, but they don’t carry much that’s different from what we have in our area. There are nicer stores, but they’re harder to get to and more expensive.
When Chris was first doing the shopping runs he would come back with half the list and then tell me that he wasn’t able to get the rest of the stuff. I initially thought that it was because they didn’t have that item, but then started going with him and realized that the stores he was shopping it did have those things regularly. The problem was that I was just giving him a big list, and he gets overwhelmed in tight spaces with a lot of things to think about. Having to look through an entire list and pull out the items in one aisle was too much for him after driving in town all day. Once I figured that out, and I knew the general layout of the stores we shopped in, I started writing up the list by aisle so he could just cruise, grab what was needed and get out. It was amazing what was all of the sudden available! ;)
The truth is though, the organization helped me too. And, I’ve stuck to the same system for years now. Most stores are laid out in a similar way, so you should be able to use the list where you are too.
Printing Tips & Tricks:
If you have an inkjet printer, set it to photo printing and select borderless printing. This should push everything right out to the edges rather than giving you that white band around the edge.
So that’s what I’m doing. I feel a bit more together today, which is always nice. Now I need to go roll and cook 4 dozen tortillas before I head out the door.
Have a great afternoon!