Weekly Planning Basics

6 May

In March of 2011, my husband’s brother came to stay with us (a story I won’t go into here).  How was I going to feed three people on the food budget for two people?  First – cut back on expensive extras.  Second – plan ahead!  Our two-person household had always been fairly indulgent when it came to our food purchases.  We would get take out, go out to eat, or run to the grocery store for something prepared when we were in a bind for dinner.  No more!  With three of us here, I needed to take the food budget pretty seriously, while still maintaining a good level of quality.  Also, I just can’t cook every single night of the week.  Sometimes I am an Active Cook (I’m actually making the meal right then) and sometimes I am a Passive Cook (I’m reheating or finishing or whatever, but I don’t think it counts as ‘cooking’).

I opened the kitchen desk drawer (another story I won’t go into here) and pulled out a blank weekly planning pad with magnetic back that I had picked up at a Michael’s store in the $1 bin many moons ago.  Okay.  Got a planner.  Got a space for each day of the week, got an extra space for notes.  You need to use this in coordination with your family or personal appointment calendar, because the meals have to fit your life.

A few obvious first steps:

  1. Write the date on each day of the week.  My planner didn’t have a convenient spot, so I just wrote it in the corner of the block.
  2. Look at your appointment calendar.  Transfer over anything that will impact meal preparation or meal time.  No impact?  Don’t worry about it!  What I add:  holidays, vacation time, husband’s weekly figure drawing studio, my monthly French MeetUp, any professional meetings that take place in the evenings, evenings out with friends, ticketed events such as concerts.

Now, take a good look at the week:

  • Are there any days when the family will need to eat separately?
  • Are there any days when there is a tight window between work and an evening event?

Those evenings when people are eating separately or there is a limited amount of time for dinner are perfect for Loved Overs or Planned Overs.  If there is an unencumbered evening one to two days before that tricky evening, that would be a great time to make something from the Planned Overs list or a recipe that will generate enough Loved Overs to last.  If the days before are equally complicated, try a Frozen Over.

By focusing on the complex dates and what you need to make those work, you can work backwards into which nights you need to be a Passive Cook and which nights you can be an Active Cook.

Here is an example two-week schedule at my house. As you can see, I am an Active Cook 2-3 times per week and the rest of the time, I am a Passive Cook. 

When my planning pad finally ran out and no more were to be found, I got this great FREE menu planner download at The Project Girl. The grocery list on the right hand side is useful for advance planning, but I use an app for my weekly grocery plan – more on that to come soon!

Sadly, the super-cute form didn’t show up so well in the scan to .jpg, but follow the link above to see it in all of its glory.

So…  What’s for dinner?

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