Lets Get Organized : Meal Planning

 I always think of getting organized when school starts.  When our children were in school our year went from September to September.  Now school starts in some parts of the country in mid August.  Our schools here start this week and all my friends who teach or have children at home are beginning that organization process.

When my children were home and still in school time was a very important factor as well as stretching the food dollars as far as they would go.  We didn't have computers or the Internet least of all cell phones.  Today staying organized with all the electronics makes life so much easier however there are a few basics that never change.

When I shopped for food I would buy enough to last a month.  To buy enough food to last a month for a family took quite a bit of planning.  The savings were well worth any time that I spent in the planning stage.  Today I shop once a week for food and once a month for cleaning and other supplies. 

It is estimated that Americans throw away into the trash over $600.00 in food per person every year...that comes from poor planning or no planning at all.  Many American families eat out in fast food or chain restaurant's three to four times a week.  Compared to those families who cook at least six times a week the savings are tremendous to these families.

I have to start with a well organized pantry so that I can take a quick look at what I need so I can prepare meals without always having to stop and run to the store.  Or worse yet to stop by the Grocery Store on the way home from work and wonder up and down the isle trying to make a decision what to cook for dinner that is wasted time and money.  Different regions and different cultures will have different food items in their basic pantry.  Whatever your cooking taste and recipes are, stock your pantry around your  families personal taste.

Stock Your Pantry

Lets Get Organized: Meal Planning at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
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Then make a food plan, try starting out with one week. 
If you want you can set up a spread sheet on the computer or visit one of the on line sites that let you plan your menu and then print the grocery list from the menu.  I recently visited the http://www.kitchenmonki.com/ site.  They offer a great service and its FREE.  Another tool is just a plain piece of paper or a calendar.  I use a calendar and  I keep it  year after year, so when I hit one of those times when I just can't think of what to have, I just look back on some of my old menu's and I am inspired all over again.

Start with Sunday then make a plan for breakfast and dinner for Sunday through Saturday.
I rarely include lunch as most workers or school children eat in the cafeteria.  If  your workers and or school children are taking a sack lunch, then you would want to include that in the plan.

Next look at all the recipes on your plan and begin to make your grocery list. 
Take the list to your pantry and your refrigerator and put down just the things that  you will need to complete the weeks menu's and any staples that need to be replaced.  Some people keep a running inventory of the pantry and the refrigerator/freezer. I keep a running inventory with dates of the food freezer to guard against having products go bad as a result of freezer burn or falling into the deep "freezer well of no return" only to be found years later.

When the grocery list is complete, look at your coupon book, go online and look for coupons.
One of the stores that I like to shop has recently started an on line service that allows you to make a grocery list from the week end sale items.  It is categorized according to departments and will print any coupons that will match your list items, this makes shopping very easy.  I tried it last week and just loved the efficiency. I only use coupons for the products that I use. It has always been my feeling we really don't save any money if we are buying something that we will never use just to use the coupon.

Now we are off to the Grocery Store with the list and the coupons.
Stick to the list! Stay focused and don't be distracted by all the wonderful goodies that are not on your list.  This is where you can really save money. If you see a new product that you would like to try, jot it down on a note pad and incorporate the product in next weeks food plan. Make it a fun experience because if you have planned you won't have to come back for a week!

Tomorrow Watch for "What's For Dinner Next Week"...see you then!

Peace and Joy
Miz Helen

Miz Helen
Miz Helen

Cookbook Author, Recipe Developer, Organic Gardner.


  1. As you can imagine this just brings back memories. I have used this in my own life and taught it to my clients. Thank you Mom for all the amazing things you deposited into my life.

  2. I am also so grateful for the time you've spent helping me learn how to plan meals...it does get easier over time. Now I can put together a decent meal with whatever I have on hand. It doesn't replace the methodical planning but being disciplined enough to do it the 'hard' way for so long has really paid off.

  3. Boy is this a good one for me right now! Have you been following me around in Kroger, as I walk the aisles with no list and I plan the week's meals in my head?? Sometimes I can sit down on a Sunday and plan at least through Wednesday, list and all. That works for up to 2-3 weeks then I'm back in the same old rut again. One of my challenges is carving out the time to cook. I can't wait to see the menus tomorrow :-).

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Miz Helen