Family and home

Quick and easy nom nom planning

600px-USDA_dinner_croppedBefore every payday I sit down and plan the meals for the upcoming weeks. Strangely enough, I enjoy it. At one point I used software that would allow me to drag and drop meals onto a calendar day, and it would then create the shopping list for me. I still like that, but have found it to be a little too robust, tedious, and constrictive.

Before I share those programs, my first question to you – do you plan your meals? If no… why not? Believe me, it doesn’t have to take any time, and the positives are great:

  • Saves money – you won’t be tempted to go out to eat, you’ll spend less on junk food, and you won’t have to buy things randomly at the store. PLUS, you can use coupons and sales to your advantage – planning your menu around them.
  • Saves time — you will eat at home, and will spend less time trying to find something to eat. Even better are crock-pot and casserole dishes that allows your to get in, get things done, and eat something great.
  • Better for you than eating out — you choose what goes in, you choose how it tastes, and you choose the portion sizes.
  • Eating out becomes a special occasion instead of an everyday thing.

So, how do I plan for nom nom time?

  • Spreadsheets are one of my favorite friends. For header fields for meals I use: Meal type (dinner, snack, dessert), Time to prepare, Time to Cook, Changes (made to original recipe), family rating, and a link to the recipe.  Alternatively (and a lot better), instead of having a link to the recipe, save the recipe in its own folder in your Google drive for easier access and review. On that page, create the list of ingredients at the bottom — this will make it much easier for you to copy and paste ingredients to the spreadsheet that contains all of your shopping ingredients.
  • Another spreadsheet I use is a master shopping list. This includes things that need to be stock in my household and range from toilet paper to soy sauce. Majority of the items are meal items that we need in case of an emergency, or lunch and breakfast items that we get each month. Each item has a column that includes the brand that we like, and a column for quantity needed. Finally, each item is separated by store and aisle.
  • Another tool that I love to use is Yummly. Yummly is a web app that searches the web for recipes matching exactly what you want or need. From there, you can get a shopping list, and add those items to your master list for that month. This is usually for special meals, or two out-of-the-ordinary meals I have each month.

What next?

  1. Move all items to a master list, list by store, and then by aisle. Add approximate prices.
  2. Look through coupons at this point (or prior to searching for meals), and create a column that indicates which brand you have a coupon for, and the price off.
  3. Add the meals to your calendar. Since you have a repository of meals in a spreadsheet that you like, just drag and drop to your calendar. Be sure to plan easy dishes for busy nights.

This all gets easier over time, and you usually don’t have to go out to the web to get new recipes. The most time consuming thing will be to get everything onto the final list, but since that contains just your meal items, it should be fairly easy — especially if you are making the same meals over and over.

What about you? Any great ideas for making meal planning, fun, quick, and efficient?

Keep calm and nom nom on!