With four growing kids, including one who has special dietary needs, and the price of groceries through the roof thanks to COVID's ongoing supply issues plus the war in Ukraine, our family has recently returned to meal planning with a vengeance.
And by vengeance I mean, four kids and a husband with loud and sometimes very angry opinions about what goes in the fridge and on the table.
(I have earlier written about how little I care about the complaining. When I get the old blog posts up on the site, you can read all about that.)
Questions about what we're eating for dinner start at breakfast, which I hate, so I have recently started listing our dinners on my Google calendar, and sharing it out to the family group I created, so everyone will leave me alone. That calendar also gets broadcast on our kitchen Dakboard. (I'm obsessed with the Dakboard but we can discuss that at another time.)
For the last few years, I've been planning our meals in Plan To Eat, the best app ever because you can import recipes straight from the web, and Plan To Eat will let you plan them on a calendar, and sort them into a grocery list. This is GAME CHANGING, because I love reading about food on the internet but I no longer have any interest in printing recipes and storing them in binders that take up space. I want everything digital, accessible on my phone, and easy to share with my family. That's what Plan To Eat delivers.
(Yes this post contains affiliate links to Plan To Eat, but truly I can't say enough about how much I love this app.)
So here's what we do:
Every week, I get the New York Times food newsletters and import recipes I want to try into Plan To Eat. Gaga sends me recipes that are Crohn's friendly, and I import those to Plan To Eat. All those funky Instagram recipes? They go to Plan To Eat too. It's incredibly easy to import recipes, you just add the link to the app, and Plan to Eat does the rest.
On Fridays, I build our calendar out on Plan To Eat -- breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. The more robust the calendar, the more robust the grocery list. And seriously: when you trust your grocery list, the less you spend at the store.
We have some basic rhythms to our week, which help ease planning. Taco Tuesdays, Kid Date Thursdays (we take one kid out to dinner each week and let the rest order in), Shabbat Fridays (generally roast chicken), Date Night Saturdays (the kids eat leftovers or cook for themselves).
Then I add the dinners to our Google Calendar, which I can also do using the Plan To Eat calendar feeds.
Once the plan is completely calendared, I use Plan To Eat's shopping list, and cut/paste it into an Apple Note. Then I check our pantry and our fridge for anything on the list we already have and delete it.
I clean out the fridge on Saturdays, and Mr. Big (Ideas) uses the shared Apple Note to do the Sunday shopping at our local farmer's market and Trader Joe's. Whatever he can't find, we pick up over the course of the week -- and because we can share the list, we know what's still outstanding if one of us has time to duck into the store.
Does this keep us from picking up things that we don't need? No. Because we are human, and Mr. Big (Ideas) has never seen a new product at Trader Joe's he didn't want to try. I try to go with that flow so he can't come at me with all the duplicate spices in our (very organized if I do say so myself) spice drawer. Marriage is about compromise, isn't that what they say?