Other emergency meal examples include spaghetti or other types of pasta, soups, and breakfast foods like eggs, pancakes, waffles, and baked oatmeal.2. Independent menu planning. This is where I fail every time I try, but other people do this with success and claim it has revolutionized their life and their food budget. Some people use Google calendar for this, others use spreadsheets (find a free template at the bottom of this Unclutterer post), and some people just create a paper grid and fill in the meals. However you do it, highlight the winning recipes and get rid of the duds so you don't repeat the meals no one likes. What I've heard is that most of us repeat the same 21 meals most of the time. Picking out your standard meals, maybe supplemented with one or two new recipes a month, sounds really easy. Creating a systematic way of doing this is where I fail. But here are some tips to help you:
- Always menu plan at the same time every week (if planning weekly).
- Create a generic shopping list with items that you get every time you shop (milk, bananas, etc.) and fill in the rest of the shopping list based on your meal plan.
- If it works for you, create a basic framework of meals. For instance, Meatless Mondays, Chicken Tuesdays, Pasta Wednesdays, Slow Cooker Thursdays, and Clean-Out-The-Fridge-Fridays. Then it narrows down which type of meal you need to cook.
- On busy nights, plan for quick meals.
- Cook once, eat twice. For instance, plan for Roasted chicken on Tuesday and then chop the leftover chicken up and give it new life in Chicken Fettucine on Wednesday.
- Maybe you want to meal plan based on the food you need to use up. If so, I use www.allrecipes.com because I can put in an ingredient I want to use up (like cilantro) and find recipes that include that ingredient.
- Mark off the days that you won't be home. This is a no-brainer, but I think this is one of my main problems: We don't need all the meals I plan. One solution is to only plan for 4 to 5 dinners a week to allow for other plans that may pop up unexpectedly or lots of food leftovers.