How I Plan My Meals

I used to be a person who ate out a lot. And if I wasn't eating out, I was picking up take out. It's how I gained a lot of weight back in the day. Though I'm not much a culinary expert by any means, these days I prefer home cooked meals. To find recipes and meal ideas I read a lot of food blogs.

Choosing Recipes: My criteria for choosing recipes are:

+ I have to know what all the ingredients are. If I never heard of it, I'm not making it. + The list of ingredients needs to be modest. I'm not going out and spending a fortune on something that requires 1/4 tsp. + I have to be able to modify it to be gluten-free.

Saving Recipes: When I read a recipe that meets my criteria that looks easy enough and tasty, I tag as "Recipes To Try" in my Google Reader.

Sometimes I also pin recipes to my Healthy Eats Pinterest board.

Planning the Week: At the end of each I block out some time on my calendar (usually about an hour on Friday afternoons) to plan next week's meals. During this hour I peruse my collection of tagged and pin recipes to see what I feel like eating the next week.

Once I've selected a few recipes I look at my Google calendar for the following week and see what days I have lunch/dinner plans. Then I count how many meals I'll be home for. Once I have an idea of how many meals that will be, I revisit the recipes I picked to see how many servings they make. This will determine if I need to make two vs. three dishes.

After deciding how many dishes I'll be making I schedule the meals on my calendar, like this:

I have a color-coded "Menu" calendar so that the meals stand out from other appointments.
I have a color-coded "Menu" calendar so that the meals stand out from other appointments.

Blocking Out Cooking Time: When the dishes have been identified and the schedule set, I block out cooking time on my daily To-Do List on the days that I'll be cooking. If the dish requires something be marinated for a long period of time, or something needs to be defrosted I also add it to my To Do List and schedule it in advance for as much time as is required. I absolutely hate when I start a recipe then realize I never defrosted the meat, or it needed to be marinated for 2-3 hours earlier.

Grocery Shopping: The last thing I do in my planning hour is to go through each recipe and make note of what ingredients I already have.

I use Evernote to make a list of the ingredients that I don't have. The great thing about Evernote is that I can create my grocery list on my laptop or iPad and it automatically syncs with my iPhone. So when I'm at the store, I just pull up my list and check things off as I find them.

Grocery List in Evernote
Grocery List in Evernote

And to further show you how Type A I am, I also organize my grocery list according to the store's physical layout.

Depending on my weekend schedule, I schedule time on my calendar on either Saturday or Sunday morning for grocery shopping. My personal preference is to shop when the store first opens so I can avoid all the people who cannot control their screaming kids in public. (just kidding, not really...)

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I realize this is quite an involved process, but I've been doing it for so long and it's become second nature - and it works for me.

And I've found that having a process to follow keeps me on track with eating healthy meals. It keeps me on a regular eating schedule and it's also efficient - it saves me time and money.

So, any food blog recommendations for me to add to my Google Reader? Or any meal planning tips of your own to share?