Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Meal Planning by the Month {Meal Plan March}

We've meal-planned since we first got married. Sometimes we meal-plan by the week and sometimes it's by the month. We've gotten into a good groove recently and I thought it was time I shared it with you!

Here's what we do:

  1. Look at the calendar. Before we think about recipes, we look at the calendar and mark all the nights we are out, are busy, etc. 
  2. Check out our recipes. We keep a running list on our pinterest board of recipes we'd like to try. I look through these and try to find at least 1-2 new recipes to try that month. Then I go to our tried and true recipes and pull out a few from there also. 
  3.  Add recipes to the calendar. We start to add some recipes to the calendar with consideration of who is home and what we have going on. I try to do leftover-heavy meals at the beginning of the week so that we can have leftovers for lunches.
  4. Fill in meals. Once we have a handful of meals on the calendar, I try to fill in additional meals with like ingredients. For example, if we're having something with beans in week 1, I'll add a recipe that uses beans for week 2 so I can make a big batch of them. 
  5. Create grocery lists. We have found that it works well for us to go to Costco once per month for the big stuff (meat, frozen vegetables and fruit, and canned vegetables) and then do Sprouts or another grocery store for produce once a week. Once the recipes are on the calendar, we make our lists of what we need to buy at Costco and what we can buy at the grocery store. I will even make lists for each week and add to them as we run out of things. 
  6. Go shopping! This is where I get flexible. If something is on sale that we use a lot, but I didn't plan for it, I'll buy it and adjust my recipes. A lot of our recipes can be made with chicken or turkey, so we will buy what is on sale. We don't meal-plan for sides, so I buy whatever produce is on sale that week and that's what we eat! 

Here's what that all looks like in our life:

March is a pretty crazy month for us because of Easter, Spring Break, and other events, so we tried to make things as easy as possible. Every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday and every Friday is Pizza Friday. Here's the breakdown:
Tacos - We're rotating between ground turkey and fajita chicken with beans, salad, salsa, and whatever else - chips, tortillas, etc.
Pizza - We make our own crusts (gf and regular) and sauce. We always have the ingredients on hand for pizza. We'll buy some cheese and top it with whatever we have in the fridge.
Mexican Fries - We love this recipe and adjust things to our tastes. This is the perfect meal to have after tacos because it uses a lot of the same things.
Sausage Green Bean Casserole - I make a family favorite green bean casserole and have for years. We usually use ground turkey, but a few weeks ago I made it with sausage and it was a hit! The base is sliced potatoes baked, toped with green beans, onions, mushrooms, sausage, and a cream sauce. We used to use cheese, but we've tried to eliminate dairy, so now we do a ghee and tapioca startch seasoned sauce.
Sausage and Spaghetti Squash - I'll make a simple sauce with tomatoes, garlic, and sausage and serve it with gluten-free pasta and spaghetti squash. Can't get easier and everyone loves it!
Fried Rice - Jarrod makes an incredible fried rice. He uses whatever meat and veggies we have on hand. We have made some changes to this one over the years, but the basics are there.
Curry Chicken and Rice - I discovered doing Whole30 how much I LOVE curry. I found a delicious recipe on instagram that uses cashews to make a thick and delicious sauce. I plan to serve that over chicken and rice.
Turkey Lettuce Wraps - We buy turkey in bulk and make this recipe with turkey instead of chicken because it's easier. It's a GREAT recipe that everyone in our family really enjoys!
Turkey Chili - This is still one of my favorite chili recipes and I make it all the time. I plan to double it to serve for Easter lunch with the family as well.
Chicken Stir Fry - Jarrod's been making stir fry for years and has perfected the art. He doesn't even need a recipe anymore. He uses meat and whatever veggies we have with a delicious sauce. He used a chart like this to figure things out.
Broccoli Chicken Casserole - This is a new recipe for me, but I'm excited to try it!

As you can see, we do a lot of chicken, turkey, and some sausage. Here's what our grocery list looks like:

  • Big bag of frozen chicken
  • 4-pack of ground turkey
  • Frozen broccoli
  • Canned organic tomatoes
  • dry black beans
  • Cheerios (for the kids for breakfasts)
  • Eggs (3 dozen, mostly for breakfasts)
  • Sweet Potatoes (mostly for breakfasts)
  • Lunch meat (For lunches for the kids)
  • Spinach (for smoothies and lunches)
  • Yogurt (for the kids lunches)
  • Carrots
  • Coconut oil
  • Apples (for lunches)
  • Brussels Sprouts (for sides)
  • 8 links of fresh sausage 
  • Onions
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Mushrooms
  • Green beans
  • Milk
  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Olive oil
  • Cashews
  • Seasonings
  • Bananas
Jarrod and I eat sweet potato hash and eggs for breakfast almost every day. The kids usually eat toast with peanut butter or cheerios for breakfast. Lunches for Jarrod and I are salads or leftovers and the kids get leftovers, sandwiches, or healthy muffins with crackers, string cheese, yogurt, and fruit. 

We tend to cook on the weekends and save the easy stuff for during the week. We aren't afraid of leftovers or eating similar things a few nights in a row. 

Do you meal-plan for the week or the month? Do you grocery shop frequently or try to get everything done in one trip? What works best for your family, your sanity, and your budget? 
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