Friday, 4 October 2013

Day 4 - Planner McPlannerson

Ok... are you guys ready? The next 3 posts are the heart of the menu plan. Everything else is just tips & tweaks to make these things work. So you ready? Have you figured out what kind of planner you are and how long in advance you want to do your planning? Ok, grab you tools and here we go.

So the first thing you are going to need is a planner. Basically a place to write down your outline. On day 2 I had you choose what tool you wanted to use for this. There are basically two styles: lists and calendars.

A list is, well, pretty self-explanatory. Write a list of the foods you would like to eat, for your specified time frame. You can assign days of the week, or not. If you crave flexibility, just a list of 7 dinners is a great way to start. If you crave structure, assign days. If you like routine, you can even add theme nights. We'll get back to themes in a second. Check out these printables if that's your thing, or just grab a piece of paper, or your dayplanner. Make sure you are writing your list in something that is already part of your life. You don't need a new notebook, or a fancy binder, just use what you have around you already.

A calendar, is also just a calendar. The basic difference is a vertical list or a horizontal calendar. But it is harder to have the same level of flexibility with a calendar... but not impossible. Enter the mighty pencil. Haven't used one since grade school? You can probably steal one from your kids. If you are using a computer, well, you have the delete key, and even copy & paste. One of the most important things to realize with a calendar is that you will probably move stuff around. Some days you just really won't feel like what you had planned, or life will happen. Or you'll get a last minute invite to dinner. A meal plan shouldn't get in the way of these things.

Which brings me to a great point. Never plan for 7 dinners a week. You will have leftovers, go out for dinner, make something up from pantry food you found, finally getting around to eating that casserole in your freezer. Or you will just have pancakes for dinner, because this was a miraculous week and none of that happened. I generally do 5 or so, and add notes for times when we already know we are going out, and also include my leftovers in my plan. For instance, last week we had ribs, and since there are two of us, no way are we going to finish 2 pounds of ribs in one sitting. So in my plan I just noted leftover ribs for dinner the next night. Sometimes you plan for leftovers, and it doesn't work out. This is a good time to use your pencil and skip on to the next night, or bust out the pancakes. During this series I will help you get some better ideas than just pancakes for nights like this.

Ok... so back to themes. At one point in my life I felt that if you didn't have a Taco Tuesday in your life, then your menu plan wasn't really a menu plan. But as I would add themes to my planner I found that there were WAY too many great foods out there to just limit it to 7. I eventually went to theme months and would use up to 20 themes for the month. But that was crazy. So I stopped. And so now I have just 5 themes: Chicken, beef, pork, seafood, vegetarian. One meal from each protein a week. Simple. You can adjust these proteins to your way of eating. If you are vegetarian, perhaps try eggs, lentils, beans, soy, vegetables.

And that is all it is. An outline of foods you plan to eat this week. A rough sketch drawn in pencil.

Are you ready to write down your first outline?


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