As a wife and a mother, cooking a balanced, on-time meal everyday has been a challenge. So, I started to analyze what I could do to make my problem disappear. And in the process, I am eliminating wasteful over shopping and making tastier meals.
My secret? I create a weekly dinner plan. I start by thumbing through my recipes or searching for new ones online. Then, I go into the Excel spreadsheet I created (I know that sounds...well, anal, but you have to believe that it makes everything easier) and input information.
My spreadsheet has 3 basic sections.
There are columns for Monday - Friday and space in each to type in the planned main dish and side dishes. Under that there is a shopping list section. This only includes the items that I need to purchase, after I've gone through and checked my pantry for items that I might already have on hand. This stops me from buying another pack of ranch mix when I've already got one. And the last section has a place for notes for each day. I might type in food reminders or make notes about library books being due. It helps minimize my need to have additional planners.
I always try to be sure and include at least 2 days of dinners using my crock pot. No rushing on those days! After my son is off to school, I come home, get the meal assembled and forget about it.
I find that using a meal planner helps me make sure I'm including enough vegetables and getting enough variety in our diet. It has also helped me save money and time.
Once I've input the information into the spreadsheet, I print it off and go shopping. Then, I hang the plan on the refrigerator door. I put all of the recipe cards that I'll be using for the week on my counter and I'm set.
As Martha would say: Meal planners. They're a good thing.