a peek inside the fishbowl

11 Jun, 2012

Nine things for Operation Trim: #4 – planning the family feedbag

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Challenge me, challenge you|parenting|Recipes and Food

I have always been a terrible meal planner. This will appear doubly ironic to people who know me from my involvement with Recipes.ca. I truly wish I was the kind of person who sat down every Sunday morning with the weekly grocery store flyer and the laptop and planned the week’s meals, but I’m not. I also wish I was the kind of person who was disciplined enough to set aside time every week to make a couple lasagnas and stews to freeze for emergency dinners. But I don’t. But I am trying to be better!

As part of Operation Trim I am going to sit down TODAY and plan a menu for my family this week.

Meal planning is smart. It saves time in the long run; time spent wondering what you’re going to make for dinner, and time at the grocery store. For me, this is time I would much rather be spending elsewhere. Meal planning also saves money because you’re able to take advantage of weekly sales and use up food that’s in your fridge (e.g. a double flank steak recipe made for dinner one night will make great steak fajitas the next.) And meal planning is healthy too. It prevents me from doing things like throwing my hands up in the air (and the apron on the floor) and saying things like “I give up” and “let’s have pancakes for dinner again” or “let’s order pizza.” Not that I have ever said ANY of these things. NO SIREE.

But don’t take it from me. I put the message out on Twitter to see what real meal-planning tweeps have to say about this, and this is what they told me:

  • @run21mom: “As a working mom with three under four I need to to keep my sanity…and it limits meal time tears – theirs not mine :)”
  • @GiuliaDoyle: “I’m a meal planner so I can grocery shop more efficiently and plan meals that generate lunches early in the week.”
  • @Vanityproject_J made a good point about special diets: “Ugh! Used to be a meal planner, then life got hectic & I got lazy in that dept. new food allergy with DD means I have to go back.”
  • @paulajroy: “I find meal planning makes for more varied & balanced meals. Easier to plan several meatless meals per week too.”
  • @alannabanks: “If I didn’t we would be eating scrambled eggs or salad every night for dinner.”
  • @racheljonat: “Saves time, money and sanity. Nothing worse than 4pm and no plans, or groceries, for an evening meal.”
  • @ailiesomerville: “If I don’t my week is a mess. I plan meals and write a list based on the supermarket aisles. Tonight – homemade BBQ pizza.”

This is why I’m going to spend a few minutes right now and figure out what I’m going to make this week.

Monday (tonight) get-out-of-the-apartment-and-have-a-PICNIC-dinner: cold sandwiches, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, fruit
Tuesday: chicken finger wraps, tossed green salad, tomato/basil salad
Wednesday: homemade breaded fish sticks, green bean/hazelnut salad, brown rice
Thursday: Asian noodle salad with shrimp
Friday: Homemade bacon and pineapple pizza, cut up veggies and dip

THERE. That wasn’t so hard.

Edited to add: I realized I need to plan my lunches as well! That’s next.

I would love to see your meal plans too! Care to share? If this inspires you to write out a meal plan on your blog please leave me a link. You can also leave your actual meal plan in the comments below.  And I do urge you to join me over at Recipes.ca and upload your favourite family recipes. Help make our collective meal plans a little better! Thank you!

12 Responses to "Nine things for Operation Trim: #4 – planning the family feedbag"

1 | Kelly

June 11th, 2012 at 10:21 am


One of my favourite things? Leeching off others’ meal plans ;) Perfect menu for this hot week – thanks!!!
I often see someone post about WFD and formulate my plan from that. I LOVE Twitter!!

2 | Nadia

June 11th, 2012 at 12:33 pm


I love planning meals. So much more efficient. Being home on mat leave certainly helps. What I do is try to plan just 2-3 days of meals at a time. I find it easier and less of a commitment. If plans change I don’t have all this extra food to worry about going bad. Tonight – breaded and baked fish fillet w leftover very delicious moussaka (eggplant, tomato layers) in oven. Check out the video recipe at http://www.dedemed.com. I love to go there for inspiration. Dede makes everything seem effortless.
One tip is PC blue menu butter chicken sauce. It’s so easy. Just sauté chicken add the sauce and make some rice and dinner is ready in less than 20 min. And yes I cheat this recipe by adding mushrooms and peppers for nutritional value. Bon appetite.

3 | Misty Pratt

June 11th, 2012 at 12:49 pm


One issue I have with meal planning is that I always go a little “crazy” and pick super awesome (but super complicated) recipes. I also don’t factor into the plan a night for leftovers – which is essential when you’re cooking more than your family eats! My goal is to begin thinking about dinner as soon as I wake up. So that even if I’m off to work, I can take something out to defrost in the fridge. Or if I’m at home, I actually have time to plan and prep the meal :) Maybe one day I’ll actually sit down on a Sunday as well and plan a whole week!

4 | Fiona

June 11th, 2012 at 1:34 pm


I’m a dedicated meal planner because if I don’t have a plan for dinner by 2pm, I give up. I glance at the flyers to see what’s on sale and kind of make my decisions based on that but mostly my decisions reflect our after school activities and work commitments for each day.

When I make my grocery list, I write what we are having that week on the back of the list (and also what I need to make for kids lunches). I keep these lists in a drawer (with the takeout menus no less!) and then when I need some inspiration, I rummage thru my old menu plans and the grocery list on the front twigs my memory about what we need for each dinner. A family really only needs about 5 weekly menus to rotate around and give lots of variety. So if you can do it 5 times, you’re all set.

Having said that though, when we were renovating our new house and moving, I did go to a Supperworks location and make up 12 entrees that I used 2-3 times a week and the rest of the times we ate ‘bits and pieces’ until that busy time of our life was over. I can feel your pain!

5 | CampingGirl

June 11th, 2012 at 5:08 pm


I meal plan every week. I hate going to the grocery store so my motivation is that if I plan well I won’t have to go back until next week.
To make it easier for myself I have the same thing for breakfast and lunch for a week and then switch up dinner.
My next goal though is to use the flyers to help me plan with sales in mind.

6 | Krista (@kristahouse)

June 12th, 2012 at 2:08 pm


I check out the flyers every week for my local grocery stores and my eyes gloss over. It’s never really clear what is on sale or what they are just promoting. Most of the times I rely the yellow stickers in the store. Sad but true.

7 | Lynn

June 12th, 2012 at 2:13 pm


I’m a super dedicated meal planner and my planning is a lot like Fiona’s. I have a 4-week schedule (she’s right though – five weeks would be better) and I just rotate through them. Occasionally I’ll try a new recipe, and any of this week’s dinners can actually be made on any given night depending on what we have on, and what I remembered to take out of the freezer.

Although I technically have four weeks’ worth of recipes, we follow this format:
Monday – alternate between soup/biscuits/cheese, and pizza
Tuesday – pasta of some form
Wednesday – Mexican of some form (fajitas, tacos, chilli)
Thursday – Grill/BBQ/oven roasted meat and potatoes
Friday – crockpot day
Saturday – takeout, or the kids occasionally prefer to have leftovers or sandwiches (I know, they are weird)
Sunday – breakfast for dinner (pancakes, waffles, or french toast with bacon and sausages, fruit salad)

And that’s that!

8 | Kaitlin

June 13th, 2012 at 9:45 am


Jane Maynard’s This Week for Dinner blog is super helpful for this, I find (http://thisweekfordinner.com/)

We don’t meal plan night by night, but we plan what we’re going to have, so at least there are things in the fridge to make those things…

9 | suze

June 13th, 2012 at 11:17 am


I try to plan a week’s worth of meals at a time, but sometimes it goes off the rails…

This week was/is:
hamburgers & salad
mac & cheese (and salad)
chicken caesar salad
pork chops on the BBQ, some sort of veggie
meatballs and rice (I get it ready in a casserole dish and the babysitter pops it in the oven at 4:45, and she turns on the rice cooker at the same time)

Also, my kids eat the same thing for lunch every day for a week and then they have the option to change. If I run out, they eat bagels and cream cheese. I keep bags of bagels in the freezer).

Something I did that really helped is I wrote a list of all the meals I could think of that my whole family will eat. I posted on the inside of a cupboard and when I’m stuck making the menu plan, I look at it.

I also took all those loose recipes I ripped out of magazine and printed off the internet that don’t require turning on the oven/stove and put them in a separate binder of “summer cooking”. Because we don’t have A/C either…

10 | Nine things for Operation Trim: #5 - Hello breakfast, goodbye bread >> a peek inside the fishbowl

June 13th, 2012 at 1:12 pm


[…] trying to be better at planning meals (see post number four), and as part of that I am trying to focus on (1) eating proper breakfasts again and (2) bidding a […]

11 | Tarah

June 14th, 2012 at 7:11 pm


I do the same thing Fiona does. Check flyers for sales on Friday/Saturday. I fold a piece of paper in half. One side is weekly meal plan, the other is grocery list. I haven’t kept my menu plans in the past but I will now! This was our meal plan this week:
Sunday: Homemade burgers (with homemade wholewheat buns) green salad
Monday: Spaghetti and meat sauce (sauce made ahead and frozen), Caesar salad
Tuesday – veggie sandwiches on Jim Lahey No Kneed Bread (you must make this!)
Wednesday – Grilled salmon, brown rice, broccoli
Thursday (today): Southwest turkey meatloaf, dairy-free scalloped potatoes (baked potato slices with onion, garlic, oil, s&p), green salad
Friday: Homemade pita pizzas
Wednesday –

12 | Nine things for Operation Trim: #6 - Perchance to sleep >> a peek inside the fishbowl

September 20th, 2012 at 11:03 am


[…] Post #4 was about meal planning – And you know what, I’m still terrible at it. […]

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