Making a Plan, Following a Plan

| March 16, 2009 | 5 Comments

Before I headed off to the grocery store on Saturday, I did something I don’t normally do … I planned out our dinners for the week and made a list of whatever we were out of for those meals. Did you catch that? Yep, I meal-planned for the week.

I’ve toyed with meal planning in the past, but it just didn’t stick then. Maybe I wasn’t ready for that level of organization, but I certainly had a treasure trove of excuses … I wasn’t sure what I would want on Friday on the previous Saturday. It takes too much time. It makes grocery shopping harder. Oh yea, I can be the queen of excuses.

But the thing that I found this time was that it was really easy to plan meals, focusing on the foods that I know I have and building from there.

At the grocery store, my bill was about 75 percent of last week’s (not even counting the extra trip or two I made) — and that is with having to purchase dog food for the month, which is not a small expense.

Now we are two days into the meal plan and I have stuck with it so far. What I love is that meal planning takes the mystery out of what’s for dinner. There is no last minute scurrying to figure out what I can pull together … it’s just there and planned. How easy is that?

Now, switching gears just a bit – If you watch Oprah, then hopefully you caught her episode this week where Cat Cora, Curtis Stone and Tyler Florence helped families cut their grocery bills. One of the techniques that Cat Cora emphasized was planning meals and making a list of what you need. She also focused on cooking from scratch and utilizing leftovers in other meals. That is something I definitely do at home and it was gratifying and even eye-opening to see how much she helped one Florida family save. That family was using frozen food and the microwave to craft nearly all of their meals.

Full stop there. Before I was married, I ate frozen food … a lot. It was easy, fast and took like no effort. Except, it also delivered little taste and did nothing to challenge me or my tastebuds. So, I have been where that family was. It’s not a pretty place. So, it was nice to hear that Cat Cora was able to help them.

For Curtis’s part, he tackled a family that ate take out nightly. Oh yea, I have been there too … back in college. I shudder to think how much money I wasted on take out (especially easy things like wraps, egg salad and sesame noodles). Seriously. For that family, the cost of cooking what they ate was a little more than 10 percent of what they had been saving. Ten percent.

Obviously, not everyone can have a famous professional chef show up on their doorstep and help them figure out how to cook. But chances are you do know someone who does know a thing or two about getting around the kitchen. If you needed help with your taxes or an oil change, you would ask, right? Well, why not your cooking?

I don’t want to leave Tyler out … and his family had a unique scenario – the family he helped just didn’t like the mom’s cooking. She needed some help learning how to cook good food that her family would devour. He showed how to cook ahead easily and create several delish meals at once. It worked well for the time-pressed family.

Oprah has all of the recipes from the celeb chefs up on her website.

Category: Budget Eating, meal planning

About the Author ()

Sarah Walker Caron is a writer, editor and recipe developer who loves to create delicious recipes the whole family can enjoy together. Her work has appeared in countless publications including iVillage, BELLA NYC Magazine, Yum for Kids magazine and more. She lives in Maine with her two food-loving kids.

Comments (5)

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  1. maris says:

    Oooh I missed a good Oprah. I can’t wait to read about some of the meals you’ve planned!

  2. Amanda says:

    why can’t we all have a chef show up? seriously that would be perfect! I have definitely started to learn how to use what I have and plan before I hit the store or I just buy all kinds of fruits and veggies and can’t possibly eat them all!

  3. Kara says:

    I’ve been planning my weekly meals (and snack) for the last 2.5 years now. Before,I did the scramble around thing, too, and wound up eating out or eating junk because it was what was available. At this point, the idea of not having time to plan is something that makes me shake my head. The amount of time and energy I wasted in figuring out what I wanted at the last minute, driving to the store for things I needed but didn’t have, or driving to a restaurant and spending 2 hours eating a meal … craziness!

    And besides that, planning ahead helps me save $$ on my grocery bill and helped me lose 100 lbs.

    It’s all good.

  4. Candelaria Silva says:

    Okay, I’ll try shopping with the menu in mind although I do really well on saving $ when shopping. I buy one or two special items at every grocery trip – I do not go to the grocery store between trips. As long as I have garlic, onions, peppers and the spices and other condiments I’ve accumulated I can pretty much come up with some tasty and nutritious dishes!
    what an Oprah for me to miss. I usually have it on in the other room while I’m working in my office. I must have been out…in public…with real people…
    thanks.

  5. Sarah Caron says:

    Maris and Candelaria – It was such a good show. Wonder if you can watch it online …

    Amanda – All fruits and veggies, yep, I might have done that now and again too!

    Kara, I am in awe. Congrats on that loss and good to hear that it really does work in the long run for someone!

    Thanks for the comments!

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