I have been meal planning for at least seven years. I realized this the other day as I was sitting down, yet again, to plan another week’s worth of meals.
To be honest, in recent months, I’ve kind of started to hate doing it. Okay, so I don’t know that it’s ever something I’ve truly enjoyed doing (nor anyone else who isn’t OCD for that matter), but there have definitely been times when I haven’t minded it as much as others. This summer was definitely one of the more negative times. With the start of B’s school and less time to work on things like meals plans, I’ve actually come to kind of loathe it.
Still, since I’ve been doing it for so long, I can’t really imagine not doing it. Chaos would rule in my house and we’d never have anything to eat or wear and everyone would be running around naked with bugs in their hair, grunting at each other. Okay….that’s obviously an exaggeration and I’m sure to people who don’t meal plan or don’t cook for a family, it seems kind of silly to even have a post about this. But despite the fact that it’s a pain to do, it saves me money in not buying a bunch of food that I may or may not cook that week, as well as time since I don’t need to figure what ingredients I happen to have available to figure out a meal each day. And time, as they say, is money. Or at least, spare time is hard to come by in this house!
So as much of a hassle as it is, it’s a necessary hassle and I’ve been trying to come up with ways to make it easier.
I’ve written in the past about how I use Plan to Eat to make meal planning so much more efficient and easier than it was before I started using it, but it was still time-consuming….well, more time-consuming than I wanted my time to be consumed. I’d get my plan down on Sunday night (sometimes Monday morning just before leaving to go shopping) and feel all kinds of accomplished, only to have that feeling completely replaced by resignation when I had to return to it again the following weekend. Week after week. Month after month. It was like laundry or dishes or housework of any kind….just never done.
But then I started thinking about the fact that it HAS been done. Literally. I joined Plan to Eat on June 4, 2010, which means I have six years of completed meal plans at my disposal. So why am I making it harder on myself than it needs to be and trying to come up with brand new meal plans (which aren’t actually all that new because I use our favorite recipes repeatedly all the time) each and every week?
Enter Plan to Eat‘s Menu option, found in the Planner section. I’ve also written about this specific little tool that PTE came out with a few years ago that I use to enter in breakfasts and lunches each week (because I’m too lazy to come up with new options in those categories other than a great once in a while). I just make a Menu with my standard breakfast and lunch options and then drop it in each week while I’m planning suppers.
Recently, however, I’ve looking back at meal plans for months from the last year and making those Menus by themselves. So, for instance, October of last year, I looked at what the first week was that started on a Monday (because I have Mondays as the start of my week in the calendar), and made a menu from that date for the next four weeks.
Then I moved to this year and dropped those weeks into my planner and I suddenly had an entire month of planned meals.
That’s it. A month of meal planning with a click.
I have definitely altered some recipes, stopped making others, and found a lot of new ones that I’ve added into the rotation since last year, so some tweaking is usually necessary, but I have a good framework from which to get started and, worst case scenario and I fall into a bottomless pit of busy-ness, I at least have something planned for a given week. This makes meal planning a lot less time-consuming than it used to be!
(Please note that this is not a sponsored post. PTE had nothing to do with it….I just love this tool a lot. 🙂 If you’re hesitant about spending money on a meal-planning site, PTE offers a 30-day free trial and [usually] every year on Black Friday offers a 50% discount on renewals, which brings it down to just $20 for the whole year!)