Thursday, March 25, 2010

Meal! Organization!

After writing my post about our crazy grocery shopping attempt, I felt inspired to share how we do the whole grocery shopping/dinner meal planning thing at our house. I love sharing ideas and getting ideas from fellow friends and bloggers, so I thought I'd toss my routine out there, in case someone, somewhere might find it helpful!

Firstly, let me introduce you to the main unit of organization in our home: Our refrigerator.

Before having Cub, I was set on keeping a very clean refrigerator surface. No loose papers. No magnets. Just clean and smooth. After I had Cub, I realized how much time I spent in the kitchen and found that this clean and smooth surface was just the place to begin organizing my new life as a stay-at-home Mom. I'll get the clean and smooth surface back in sixteen years or so (in the meantime, I'm looking forward to many drawings, pictures, and You're Great! ribbons finding their home here).

What you see is a massive calendar (that was a gift, thank you, Chick-fil-A coupons are always appreciated!) where I write out everything. EVERYTHING. If it isn't on the calendar, it doesn't exist. Next to the calendar you see a pink magnetic notepad where I keep a running list of items we need. I try to keep it updated as we run out. Before I make our shopping list, I stand at the calendar and survey the upcoming week. I've mentioned before that we don't have a pantry, so I have to be careful to keep just the right amount of stuff in our cabinets. Meal planning is a week-to-week job for me! For example, this week, I knew we'd be home Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. My husband's birthday was Tuesday, so I knew we'd be eating out. I'm heading to the lake for a weekend with three wonderful friends on Friday (YAY!!!), so I knew I wouldn't need to cook that day, or for the weekend (but I would need to leave some frozen goods for the hubby). Thusly, I had roughly three dinners to plan. A pretty simple week.

On any given Monday, this is what our kitchen table looks like. I sit down with my notepad, a pen, and my coffee, and I pop open the laptop to search for recipes online. This way I can very quickly type in something that sounds good (and also search by the person who made it, like, say, Alton Brown), find a recipe, and read reviews on said recipe. That way, if it's a terrible recipe, I've been forewarned!

Very handy, indeed. Once I have made out my menu, I make another list that gives the specific ingredients I will need for each meal.

After I've divvied up the ingredients, I combine that list with the running list I keep on the fridge. I reorganize the items so that they are in the order I will find them in the grocery store. For me that means produce first, then meat, then dairy, then boxed/canned goods, then frozen.

It might sound a tad excessive, but I'm telling you, the more work I do at home, the less work I have to do in the store! And with a one year old in tow and limited space in my cabinets, I'm all about shopping efficiently!

After I've made my list, I check my coupons (clipped to some small folders ... on the fridge!) to see if I have any I can use. I'm not a hardcore coupon user, so I do not plan my meals around them, but if I have them I use them. I am a hardcore coupon user when it comes to diapers. Luvs mails me coupons every month and I don't buy diapers without them!

If you turn the corner on our fridge, you will see these coupons as well. These are for ... well, according to this picture, primarily Chick-fil-A, but also for local restaurants and such. Sometimes a drive-thru kind of night is just necessary. We eat out maybe once a week, or we'll go to the nearby city for a date, but try to eat at home most of the time, as it saves money and is healthier, too. We ate out way more before we had Cub and I gained several pounds in our first two years of marriage! After Cub, we ate at home more and both my husband and I lost weight. So, while I still like the experience of eating out, I've also learned the value of knowing exactly how much salt I'm putting in my food!!

So, there you have it! Once the list is complete and the coupons are collected, I'm good to go.

(And, just for laughs, here is a picture of the three wonderful friends I will be with this weekend. The four of us have been a tight group for 14 years now. This is at our senior prom [NINE years ago], before I discovered tweezers.)

(Also on the fridge.)

Have a lovely day!


  1. Same route through Reasor's for me, too. ;). And Alton Brown? He is nuts...but I kind of love him on Iron Chef! ;). Have fun this weekend with your pals!!

  2. Silly question for the day: Where did you get hooked up with Luvs coupons? I get Huggies coupons all the time, but Luvs is what I buy (because they're still cheaper than buying Huggies with a coupon, and they've worked just fine!).

  3. I found it through their website! I don't know if it was a promotional offer or what, but somehow that's how I signed up. Good luck!!