When I was younger, I wanted spontaneity and excitement. These days I pray for what some may consider boring; a scheduled routine. The older I get the more I find that keeping schedules of almost everything has simplified, made more productive and has increasingly made my life less stressful. I’d like to share some of my ideas to save you some time.
Being the person in our home responsible for grocery shopping and meal preparation, I found that making a six week schedule has saved me a tremendous amount of time. Well, O.K. I can’t take full credit for itΓÇª My sister began using a convenient yet healthy, catering service. In her case, it was perfect. For a single person it worked out to be cheaper or at least equal to eating out all the time. In my case however, I was preparing for a family of four and the catering service did not have a “family plan price”. We wanted to eat healthier as the service provided, but it would end up being more costly than preparing our own meals and that did not fit our budget. Hence, it is important that we get more information from reliable sources and websites online. There are some tips and essential recommendations about nutrition in the Internet. We just have to look for the right platform.
I asked my sister to save the meal slips that came with her food. I thought, I may not be able to mirror exact portions, but I could prepare the same variety of meals. And so it started; I would make the meal for that particular day with the same side dishes. If it was something I was not familiar with, I would look up a recipe for it in a cookbook or even easier, I would just Google it! Let me tell you, it will take a little bit of trial and error. My family can still tell you the first day I made red beans and rice! They called my sister to give her a sarcastic, yet comical “THANK YOU!” for giving me the idea to make it. Let’s just say that one didn’t work out so well! Since then, I have made adjustments to work well for us. Our six week diet has less cheese than the original, and in some cases I have replaced certain things. But in the end, I worked out a six week cycle of meals and recipes to call our own. I have kept the same balance of food groups that the catering service used (minus a small portion of dairy due to the elimination of some cheese). We now have fruit as a regular part of our dinner, which, I think, has caused the decreased desire for a dessert by all.
Creating your own six week rotation of meals will take some time, but in the long run the time and stress it will save is tremendous! Here is what to do. Start with a basic plan for one week. Write out a dinner for each day keeping in mind all food groups. I included some type of fish as a meal at least once a week. I would suggest using the USDA’s recommended daily amounts of each food group as a guide. You can find that guide at www.MyPyramid.gov. Try new foods, maybe something ethnic that you have always wanted to try. You can always make changes if they don’t work out. In our case I came up with six weeks of meals and for this article that is the number I will discuss. The basic idea is to come up with a meal rotation for whatever number of weeks your family is comfortable with (minus the number of times you plan to eat out). Keep in mind whatever you choose, that is how soon you will be eating the exact same meal again. For those 42 meals, print out the recipes and put them in order of, week one, week two and so on (minus the no brainers like hot dogs or something). I keep all of mine in a three ring binder. Also in the binder, I keep a grocery lists for each week that I made in accordance to the recipes. It is a good idea to type and print these each day or as soon as possible so you don’t have a pile of work at the end and if you have made any changes you will not have time to forget them. You may want to save these on your computer as well, so that you can just print one off each week.
Now I don’t have to think of “what am I going to be making this week?” and “what do I need to buy?”. I just print off my grocery list and only have to add a few things. It also keeps me from unnecessary spending. Another way to keep from unnecessary spending at the grocery store is to not shop hungry. Shopping when you are hungry is a sure way to end up buying a bunch of unneeded and usually unhealthy snacks.
ANOTHER TIME AND MONEY SAVER
If you are a family that seems to regularly have leftovers that don’t get eaten; here is another way to save yourself time and moneyΓÇª Think of what you usually have leftover after a particular meal. Let’s say, after having spaghetti you usually have leftover meat. The next day you could have tacos. You would already have the meat browned. Now just heat up and add seasoning and you have taco meat. Of course you have to keep the meat separately from the sauce when you prepare the spaghetti or this won’t work and you may have to cook slightly a little more meat to have enough leftovers to make a full meal of tacos, but you get the idea. Another idea is maybe you have leftover meatloaf. Make spaghetti the next day and you won’t have to make meat for the topping. Break up the meatloaf and put it on the spaghetti. Always make sure you store things properly and I would not use something for more than two meals. Maybe you have leftover sauce from spaghetti, and you will be making homemade pizza next week. Put the sauce in a Ziploc and freeze it. The next week, defrost it and add a little tomato paste to thicken it up and, whola!, you have pizza sauce. Put some creativity into it! The time and money you will save in the long run will make your efforts worth while.
When making your unique dinner plan, consult with your doctor regarding any special dietary needs or things you, or anyone in your household, should avoid. After getting your dinner schedule in line, you can apply these same ideas to a breakfast and lunch plan as well.