Thursday, June 13, 2013

What's For Dinner?

Today, I thought I'd share one of my very favorite tips when it comes to dinner.  Dreaded dinner.  Well, it's not so dreaded anymore, but for a lot of years, it was.  Dreaded.

For the first several years of my marriage, I didn't cook very much.  And when I did cook, well, we ate a lot of Totino's pizza and Hamburger Helper. 

Then, my husband got his first job out of college, which didn't pay very well, and I was staying home with our beautiful daughter.  We didn't have money for going out and we were sort of burnt out on Totino's. 

I decided to try making a few more recipes from scratch.  But, making dinner every night meant I had to decide, every day, what we were going to eat.  Ugh!  I really didn't mind making dinner (most of the time), I just really hated trying to figure out what to eat. 

Finally, I decided to make it easier on myself and make a list of foods we all liked that I could use to help me pick.  Over the years my list has grown and changed and this is what it looks like today.

The last time I updated it, I put each meal into a category depending on what sort of food it is (chicken, beef, soup...) to make it easier to find and vary our meals.  I keep it on my fridge so I don't lose it and so I can make changes when I need to.  This is one of the best ideas I've ever had when it comes to meal planning.

And these are the other two.  To save money, I go to the grocery store as little as possible.  I shoot for once every two weeks (except for milk runs), which means I have to pick dinners for the whole two weeks at once, that's where the list on the right comes in.

By the way, I love these little yellow post-it pads (I've written about them before), they are AMAZING!  I use them for my dinner lists, my grocery lists and I have several pads floating around my house for any random notes or messages I need to jot down.  They even come in different colors (although I like the yellow myself).

As I make each meal, I cross it off so I can easily see what I've got left.  I don't always make it through my list of meals for a variety of reasons (we have left-overs, go to a friends, I decide at the last minute to make pancakes instead), but having it helps to narrow down my options and as I chose these meals before I went shopping the last time, I know I have all the ingredients I need to make them.

The list on the left is my running grocery list.  While we make meals throughout the two weeks, if we use anything up (or, ideally, get close to using it up), I add it to my list so I know exactly what I need to get without tearing through my cupboards or trying to remember (anyone who's met me is laughing at that last one).

These 3 lists have turned dinner making and grocery shopping from an onerous chore into something much easier.  I still don't always want to make dinner, but at least I don't have to agonize over what to make and then hope I have ingredients for it. 

Plus, as an added bonus, this gives me an easy way to try out new recipes as I plan out our menu!  I love to find fun cookbooks and websites that have simple and YUMMY food my family will love.

How do you plan for your meals?  And even better, do you have a "go to" cookbook or website for favorite recipes?  I would love to check them out! 

Happy cooking!

1 comment:

  1. I have a couple sites I like to go to for meal ideas. I used to be a vegitarian and have also discovered my body doesn't like gluten, so I like to go to I can choose gluten free meals, vegan, etc. It's great! I also like to use , and They all have nutritional information which I love. Hope you like!


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