Meal Planning with Ashley

I love to cook!  It is definitely one of my passions.  Although, I do not love (excuse me...even like haha!) going grocery shopping... Which I am sure most of you out there do not enjoy either, especially when you have little ones.  I also loath the daily routine of saying "what do you want for dinner tonight?" and the answer that most inevitably returns is "whatever you what, I don't care".  Not only is this annoying but is stressful because not only do you have to cook, but you NOW have to come up with something to make.  Then to have finally decided on something only to find that you do not have some of the ingredients for the dinner you have now started. ARRR!  Or in my past experience... cleaning out the fridge to only discover that I now have to throw out half of the fresh produce I purchased at the store because it wasn't used in time.

My resolve... Meal Planning!  What is meal planning you ask?  Well, you plan 1-2 weeks of meals at a time and take inventory of what you have on hand so that nothing is wasted.  Now here's the basics:  Sit down with your family and brain storm some meal ideas for the upcoming week or 2 weeks, whatever you find works best for you.  This works great, everyone gets a say of what they would like and no one can say they didn't have a choice, and everyone is aware that they need to give some imput.  Once you have these meals written down, organize your meals so that you have some variety.  Use what you have!  Keep in mind that you want to use your produce in order of expiration.  For example:  You will want to make sure and use your strawberries before you use your apples or oranges.  And the important kitchen rule... First in first out! 

Now that you have written down your meals for the week, it is time to write your shopping list.  I go through my recipes one by one and look at what the ingredients are, then inventory my kitchen again and see what I need for each recipe (I know this seems repetitive, but it is so important.  This way you don't miss anything) thus resolving the issue of finding that you don't have something for a recipe that you have started.   Then you can go shopping!  Shopping days are stressful for me, and I feel tired by the time I have gotten home, so we usually do pizza on shopping day.  Awww... a moment to relax after all that hard work :) The beauty of this method is that it is flexible and you can personalize it to your needs.  If you have a meal planned that doesn't fit into your schedule that day, just switch one day with another.  Or even better, your hubby takes you out to eat instead... just bump your days and you have one less day to plan for next week.  I have found that to make my life less stressful I do meal planning.

This is the template I made to 
organize my meals and shopping list: 
(I made this document with some cute fonts that I downloaded onto my computer, so they might not come up on your computer with a cute font... but the cool thing is that after you download the template you can change it around to any font that you want!)

Menu Planning
(I use to post our menu planning sheet in our home before I made my menu board, that way everyone knows what to expect for the upcoming week)