Friday, October 10, 2008

Notes on meal planning...

The whole meal planning/shopping/saving money thing is such a big issue for so many of us right now that the Moms 2 Moms group at my church did a workshop on the subject ("Meal Planning and Your Time in the Kitchen") and opened it up to non-moms as well.

The speakers,
Veronica Lyts and Shawna Stapleton, presented such good info that I asked them (as well as organizer Charlotte Richardson) for permission to post my notes and their handouts here, and they agreed. The information was targeted toward married women, but most of it applies to anyone who cooks and shops for food.

So here are my notes and links to the handouts and some pics just for fun...


I. Introduction (Charlotte Richardson)

Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 call on women to be keepers of the home.

Proverbs 14:1 says "The wise woman builds her house..." "To build" is to love and serve our families and let our homes reflect the work of God in our lives.

Home is the center of family life and memories, and the kitchen is the center of the home. It’s where people gather - meals, hospitality, chats around dinner, etc.

A few notes on the workshop:

  • Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. Just learn!
  • Don’t plan to implement everything. Some things may work now, others may work better later. Some suggestions may not serve your husband and family. What works best for your family in this season of life?

On the subject of hospitality, she read the story of The Good Napkins” from the Girl Talk blog.

II. Planning Meals

Hebrews 10:24

"Benefits to Meal Planning" handout

Planning meals in advance helps you:
  • Save time.
  • Eat more healthful foods.
  • Be prepared to extend hospitality or take a meal to someone in need.
  • Honor God with your time and energy. This also honors our family.
  • For more, see handout.

When you plan, you may need to allow more flexibility, depending on your family’s schedule and husband’s preference.
(Don't overplan - allow time for spontaneity!)

Put recipes in three-ring binder or photo album by category.

Keep in mind what’s on sale when you plan.

Keep a couple "go-to" meals on hand for days that don’t go as planned, i.e. frozen ravioli and marinara sauce in a jar.

Keep a well-stocked pantry – make your own list of items you want to have on hand. If your husband likes to cook, get his input. Sample pantry items checklist.

Veronica's system:

  • Fills out a weekly meal plan page.
  • Keeps all in a binder.
  • Keeps past plans for inspiration.

Shawna's system:

  • Keeps a list with multiple stores she frequently visits on the fridge.
  • Has a checklist of things she likes to get at certain stores.
  • When something is running low, it goes on the list.
  • Writes what’s on sale at each store on a list for Wal-Mart price matching.
  • Makes monthly meal plan with different types of food on different days of the week (salad Mon., pasta Tues, etc.), blocking out "flex" days that won't be planned ahead.
  • Finds items from monthly plan that are on sale.
  • Transfer those ingredients to other list.

III. Grocery Shopping

If you’re struggling with money, ask someone close to you in a similar life circumstance (same number of kids, etc.) how much they spend. Maybe they have suggestions for saving money or maybe you're setting your budget unreasonably low.

Where to find grocery deals:
  • Mid-morning is when items are usually marked down for clearance at grocery stores.
  • Clearance items (especially baked goods) might be in another section of the store.
  • Bakery clearance stores, i.e Oroweat, have great buys. Coffee cake and pastries can be frozen for later and are good to have on hand.
  • Produce markets, i.e. Sunflower.
  • Local farmers' markets.

IV. Food Preparation

Time-saving food prep tips:

  • Chop extra bell peppers and onions. Store in airtight containers in freezer or fridge.
  • Grate cheese and add a teaspoon of cornstarch to keep it from clumping when frozen.
  • Double or triple recipes (especially soup, chili, enchiladas, etc.), and freeze for later. Line your container with foil so you can pop it out and bake it.
  • Put frozen beef in oven (covered) overnight at a low temperature. Shred, bag and use for burritos, BBQ sandwiches, tacos, etc.
  • Look the day before at meal plan: Do I need to thaw anything for tomorrow?
  • Meat thaws faster on a cookie sheet.

How to flash freeze food (so each piece is frozen individually):

  1. Put food on a cookie sheet.
  2. Freeze 1-2 hours.
  3. Put into airtight container/Ziploc bag.

Great things to flash freeze:

  • Fruit (i.e. berries), chicken breasts, sausage, etc.
  • Cookie dough (in cookie-sized portions) - Bake cookies from frozen by adding a couple extra minutes to baking time.
  • Bell peppers - Cut into rings or slice.
  • Meatballs - Prepare as usual, bake on a cooling rack for 20 minutes, let cool, then freeze.
  • Onions - You can chop in food processor, then scoop out and freeze in "little piles."
  • Pesto, pasta sauce, broth, etc. - Save empty quart jars, fill part way (from bulk container or when making your own) and leave lid loose until frozen.

V. Recommended books

VI. Tips from Participant Q&A

Recipe inspiration and organization:
  • Organize a recipe swap with friends.
  • On your meal plan, write the cookbook page for each item or make your own index of favorites.
  • If you only use a couple of recipes out of a cookbook, copy them and donate the book to Goodwill.
  • When you want new ideas, list interesting recipes from cookbook with page numbers, refer to it when you need inspiration.
  • Type up recipes in Word - easy to search, easy to save online or emailed recipes.

Recommended sites:


  • American Discount Foods - go there first since they carry a different mix of discounted items from week to week and may or may not have what you're looking for. Produce arrives at 3:30 pm.
  • List what's in each store aisle of your favorite grocery stores, print off a list before you go and check items you need to streamline your trips to the store.

Food prep:

  • Cook a large amount of hamburger at once and freeze in portions.
  • With a friend, pick 3 or 4 recipes and each bring half of the ingredients. Spend an afternoon cooking to have meals ahead of time.
  • Roaster pans are good for bringing someone a meal.
  • Kids can eat the same meal as rest of family most of the time. Sometimes ingredients need to be "packaged" differently, so they can pick them up.
  • Make apple cinnamon pancakes and freeze any leftovers for snacks (on their own or with peanut butter.)

When you don't have a lot of space:
  • Store infrequently used items (large dishes or bulk food items you've put in smaller jars) in on shelves in garage.
  • Put spices on lazy susan or in a drawer
  • Put staples (beans, pasta, etc.) in labeled Rubbermaid bins (next size up from shoebox) or in jars on the counter

Cleaning up:

  • Holy Cow products (you can buy 3 products for the whole house).
  • Hot water and soap work great too.
  • Crockpot liners keep food from sticking to the crock.



Photos by me.

Handouts by Shawna Stapleton and Veronica Lyts. Used by permission.


  1. Thanks for getting permission...and posting this online!! I've really enjoyed reading it and looking through the handouts :) So helpful!!

  2. Glad to do it...and glad you enjoyed it! :)

  3. thanks for posting these. i also found a website that does the ad comparisons for you every week called Sister Savings. has some great tips and she lists all of the weekly ads saving in pdf format so that you can just peruse them and see what store saves you the most...

  4. Sioned: Thanks for the link! Looks like a helpful site.

  5. Stephanie this is a great post!!! And the verses are an incredible bonus!!!
    Thank you so much!!!

  6. Just mentioned it on Twitter---will refer to this post often :)

  7. Lisa: Glad to pass along the info and happy you found it helpful! Thanks for the Twitter shout-out!


What do you have to say about that?