Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cooking Class & Meal Planning

Last week I had the privilege of teaching my very first cooking class! I got to talk about make ahead meals and meal planning for busy families, which I am all about! In the next few days, I'm going to cover some of the topics discussed, but in a bit more detail. We talked about Meal Planning, Crock Pot Cooking and Freezer Meals. Today's post is going to be covering meal planning. This is the most important step when it comes to making your dinnertime more of a joy than a burden. What exactly is meal planning? For me, it's taking stock of what I have in my pantry, fridge and freezer. From there, I browse the weekly circulars to see what's on sale as far as meat and produce, and I build a menu for the week based on that! Meal planning is fantastic for a number of reasons:
  • It takes the guesswork out of your meals, and takes your busy schedule into consideration ahead of time. You aren't standing in your kitchen every night, searching your fridge and pantry trying to throw something together for your family. Instead, you have a week's worth of meals planned out, based around your schedule. Wednesdays, for instance, are a busy day for our family. So I plan something easy for us, like leftovers, homemade pizza, a crock pot meal, a freezer meal that doesn't require a long cooking time, etc. Tuesdays I usually have more time to cook, so I may make something a little more elaborate on those nights.
  • You only have to shop once a week! Which will save you time, and money in a few different ways. This way you aren't running to the grocery store many times a week, which limits impulse buys and duplicate purchases because you aren't sure what you have at home. You can also get the best deals by making meal plan around the weekly circulars that come in the Red Plum. In our area, they come with the mail on Tuesdays, and we get ads for Albertsons, Safeway, TOP Foods and QFC. The most frugal way to meal plan, is to see what's on sale at these stores (you're looking for big ticket items like meat, poultry, seafood, ect.) and plan your meals around those! For instance, if chuck roast is on sale, plan to have pot roast. If chicken breasts are on sale, your options are endless, but you could make chicken Parmesan, chicken enchiladas, chicken Caesar salads, etc.
  •  Another great benefit of meal plans? You aren't getting stuck in a rut and eating the same things every week. I know, it happens sometimes. You fall back on old recipes because they're easy and you can make them without putting too much thought into it. Downside to that? You get sick of eating those same things week after week. Meal plans leave you more room for creativity. I'm not suggesting you plan seven brand new recipes you've never cooked. Maybe introduce one or two new ones at a time. This will also give you a chance to do some freezer cooking, which is tomorrow's topic!
I hope you'll give menu planning a try. It may take a little bit of time at first to get started, but once you do, you won't go back!
~Haley

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