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Meal Planning...The Basics

"What should I cook today?" Do you find yourself asking this question? If you answered "YES", be assured that you are not alone. Just google the question and see for yourself as to how many women out there ponder on the same thing on a daily basis. No doubt, cooking is a priority task for most mums (whether or not you are a working mum or a SAHM is irrelevant). However, is there a possibility that asking yourself this question everyday is not really a good thing? What if I told you that there is a way of getting around this daily dilemma, AND still have a wonderful home cooked meal (cooked by yourself, of course!)?

Well, there is. And the best thing is, you will find that the approach that I am about to tell you will not only save you the daily stress that accompanies "that question", but that it will also save you time. Yes - I am going to give you tips on how to be an efficient Meals Planner!

Here are my tips:

1. Print out a large Day-to-Day boxed calendar for the month. If you have Visio, this can be easily done. Otherwise, just draw it up on a large piece of paper. This is your MEALS CALENDER. {We will come back to this calendar in point # 3}

2. On a separate piece of paper, jot down all the 'meals' that you can cook. For example, spaghetti bolognese, grilled chicken, Caesar salad, crumbed lamb chops, chicken curry, prawn stir fry, etc, etc. Of course, if you are an excellent cook, your list is going to be very, very long (which is a good thing!). [I would even suggest that you save this file in soft copy (if possible), which would make it easier for you to update in future.]. This is your MEALS MASTER LIST.

3. Once you have completed the MEALS MASTER LIST, then the fun part begins. Using the Day-to-Day boxed calendar, start filling in the boxes with meal ideas from the list. I usually make sure that when I am doing this, I spread out the different types of meals over a reasonable period. For example, if I had put down Tuna Pasta Bake on 5/12, I will not put it on the calendar again for 2-3 weeks after that day. This way, you will avoid cooking the same thing again too soon (unless of course your family really loves a certain dish that they cannot do without every week - we have one of those too ).

4. Keep the MEALS CALENDER on your fridge, because you don't want it to go walkabout after all the time and effort you took to prepare it!

5. Whether or not you do your grocery shopping on a weekly or daily basis, it doesn't matter. Either way, once you have the Meals Calendar ready, you will save time preparing a shopping list.

I have actually found that this approach has also saved me money, in the following ways:

When I am grocery shopping (with a copy of my meals calendar handy), I may purchase non-perishable products, which are on sale in the week, knowing that I will require them in the coming weeks. (If I didn't use the Meals Calendar, I may not have taken advantage of the sale) In the instance of perishable food, with aid of the Meals Calendar, I only purchase items that I NEED and not have food sitting in the fridge unused (and eventually thrown away). Let's face it. There are some days where you just 'can't think of what to cook' and end up buying out. With the Meals Planner, you will notice that you will 'eat out' only when you had planned to do so.

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Article Source: Sumitra Rudra