At the end of January, I took a long hard look at our freezer (and our budget) and decided that we were about to embark on a month of intense meal planning. After all, we had a deep freeze filled with lots of pork and beef and all kinds of things that I had cooked along the way and frozen for busy nights. And, we had all kinds of kid food: chicken nuggets, fish sticks, potstickers and it kept adding up. I figured we had at least two months of main dishes at least. So, I sat down with my dad (for those of you that don't know he lives with us and feels that cooking is his mission in life) and explained how the month was going to work.
We were going to take inventory of the whole lot, print out a monthly calendar (I found a cute one here) and then make a solid plan. One that we'd look at the day before and not make any changes. That way we:
A) wouldn't spend much on groceries in February (we had a limited budget due to me just starting a business)
B) would use the older food in the freezer first to get rid of it and
C) wouldn't have much waste for the month
(A little background here: my Dad is notorious for changing things last minute, taking random food out of the freezer without telling anyone and going to the store every day and buying stuff we don't need because it's a hobby. All three of my goals avoided these situations. Also, we have what I like to call the “late night tennis situation.” A couple nights a week we need easy food like soups and casseroles because I walk in the door after 9. This plan solved for that as well.)
The first week was great. While we had a couple of swap outs and a substitution, we still stuck to the overall plan. Then the weekend hit. I went to the basement to take out some salmon and low and behold, my Dad had taken out steaks (why he thought that Sunday was the next Saturday I will never know but he did. Maybe he needs a big calendar on his wall). So, I sat him down, drew the red line through the week before and tried again.
The next week was worse (note the Wednesday with multiple scribbles. I tried to get us to eat the leftover steak in a creative way. I have no idea what we finally ate that night or if we actually did). And then the third week, I quit in the middle after coming home from tennis the night before to find my Dad mad that no one was there to eat the fancy meal he was going to fix even though it was supposed to be a casserole night (BTW, it was 9 and I had no intention of eating any food at all).
So, long story short, our meal planning adventure was an epic fail. I've discovered that you can't teach an old dog new tricks (my Dad cannot stay away from the store and if it's a cool new product and he has a coupon it's like grocery store crack) . He's not regimented enough to follow a plan and that's the way it's going to be. Now, if only I can get him to look a couple days out. That's this month's challenge.
How do you plan your meals? Do you use a meal planning service?