I spent a lot of time in Poland recently on studying, exams, paper work for potential employee, taking care of my grandparents and all other things that made me quite busy then. The person, who is responsible for meal planning and shopping list at my home, is my mom. She doesn't have any kind of paper planning lists, she just knows her game plan. My mother works typically from Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm. My dad's working schedule it's simply unpredictable. Ok, there is some schedule that they have at work every month but it can be one day from 9am to 7pm, from 3pm to 9pm, from 10am to 9pm, sometimes he has two days off in the middle of the week, he works in the weekends very often but then he has his Monday off and so on. There is no rule in making schedule like this, only the amount of working hours is important, they can't exceed it. So, as you can see, meal planning can be quite tricky. My mom doesn't cook every day. She does it two or three times in the week. When she's back from work she eats what was prepared earlier. My dad eats at home when he's early enough but mostly he takes his lunch box to work with what my mother cooked. My dad's working system gives her some flexibility, she just wants to be sure there is always something we can eat at home when she's at work or he can take it as his lunch box.
I came back to France this week and me and my boyfriend are trying to find our routine again. We live in a small village so when the fridge is empty, we don't have any shop nearby to find missing product. We try to shop once a week. We don't write down things we need to cook dinners during the whole week. We're typical example of people who do their meal planning while shopping. And I want to change that. We don't have problems with putting too much groceries into the troley, no, it's not about that. It's about time and comfort. I feel like we spend just too much time there wondering: "ok, friends invited us for dinner on Friday evening so we don't eat at home but we'll take a bottle of wine with us. Ok, so let's go there to grab one. But wait, on Thursdays guys are coming, we'll be working in the garage so maybe something fast for dinner like pizza? Ok, let's take it." And when we're back at home I think about next week when I won't try out this new recipe I wanted because I didn't add list of ingredients to our shopping list. Why? Because our shopping list had nothing in common with meal planning. And I want to change that. With this strong will to improve our planning skills, inspired with blogs about time management and organizing, knowing it's the first step to save money because personal finance bloggers write so, I sat down with a piece of paper, pen in my hand and list in my head of things we like to eat and things we want to try out. So easy! Why haven't I done that earlier?! I wrote down days and then... I stuck. We go shopping on Fridays. I want to cook something super-extra-you_can't_even_imagine on Thursday but then I realise we don't have fresh products that are required because it's almost one week when we did groceries and I can't use frozen stuff to this super_extra_you_can't_even_imagine dish. Ok, so I'll cook it on Saturday. No, I can't, we meet with friends. Monday! Yes, Monday looks great... not any more, I have my on-line classes in the evening, it means I need something quick on Monday and Wednesday. But on Mondays and Thursdays boys have their garage-meeting so I'll be cooking for more than two. Next question: should I plan breakfasts too? Or what if we cook something and leftovers can't be eaten next day for lunch because it will taste like a crap? Should I plan to cook something extra? I could go on with this conversation with myself but then I realise I spent 20 minutes on that already and I'm with nothing except list of days and dishes that are crossed out. I thought that maybe I should check my Google Reader and get rid of all these blogs which washed my brain telling me that meal planning takes few minutes. Seriously? Maybe it takes few minutes but not at the beginning. After big cup of tea, internet searching, with cook books on the table and more time on brain storming, I made it. My very first written meal plan. Let's say it's "basic version". This meal plan contains only dinners. Of course, I'll write down on our shopping list things for breakfasts or some snacks but right now it's really basic. It's dinner plan based on our evening schedule, considering my afternoon classes, my boyfriend's activities, eating out, hostessing guests at home. I planned when I have time to try out a new recepie, when I don't have any time and it's just pizza from the oven, etc. My first rule of my new meal plan is that it has to be doable. I can't stick to it if I planned something I don't have time to cook, right? It's a new experiment for me. For us. If it'll work out I want to add more to this planning like breakfasts, snacks to take to work, lunch box, brunches on the weekends. To make it even more sweet, I will use eye-candy printables from Pinterest. And to stay accountable like in finances, I want to share it with you, it'll motivate me to stick to it. I don't write too often here so I don't want make posts only with my meal plan but I'll share it on Facebook and I'll post some pictures there too. So wish me luck! I have never thought that meal planning can be so challenging! ;)
How much time do you spend on meal planning? Do you stick to it? Do you make shopping lists? Any suggestions more than appreciated!