Last year, I shared my system for keeping track of menus and the recipes that I use frequently. This has proved to be an invaluable tool for me, especially when I'm trying to focus on healthy eating habits. Since I started the Game On! Challenge again last week, I thought I'd revisit last year's post and show you what works for me.
When it comes to sticking to a grocery budget and having healthy food choices, I realized that if I was going to accomplish my goals, I needed to plan our meals carefully. Admittedly, at least once a year, I try to follow a menu. I've known for years that this is the way to do things.....I just have a hard time following through with my own plans. Having a menu was the way my mom stuck to her grocery budget for HER ENTIRE MARRIAGE. My mom is super, super organized and lives for routine. (Hmm....maybe the reason why I am super, super unorganized and live for spontaneity. Funny how that works.)
So I made a special binder. Binders help me feel like I'm in control.
I filled it with all kinds of handy tools.
I plan my menus for two weeks at a time. This is partly because I do two big shopping trips a month. Above is a sample of the menu for our family meals, below is a sample of how I plan my meals during the Game On! challenge. I really do eat breakfast....I just hadn't finished the menu plan for this week when I took this picture.
I used my Mac's spreadsheet program to make most of the tools for my menu binder. It took a little time, but now I have them saved and can print them out any time I need them. Here are some of my other planning tools.
Clockwise, from top left:
1. I have a section in my binder where I store recipes that are family favorites.
2. I also have a place to keep master copies of my menu calendars, shopping lists, etc.
3. One section of the binder has info on the the special diet guidelines I am currently following.
4. Another handy tool is my pantry list, which helps me keep track of all the food items I store in my pantry, storage room, refrigerators, and freezers.
When I plan each two week set of meals, I look first at what is on my pantry list that I can use, then I plan my shopping list. This is a picture of last week's list. Would you believe I spent less than $70 on two weeks worth of grocery items for my family? I'll have to spend a little more on fresh items (milk and salad vegetables) next week, but most of what I purchased this week will last into next week. That's what happens when I have a list of all my pantry-stocked foods available as I plan out the menu.
So, my diet is going great, because I have everything planned out and don't have to sit and think, "Hmm, what can I eat right now? Oh, since I can't think of anything, I'll have eight of these cookies, since they are handy." Tell me you've been there, too.
Have you found a way to keep tabs on your family's meals? I'd love to hear what works for you!
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