Meal Planning Tips

Meal planning pays off.

There’s a bit of time and effort that goes into planning what the family will eat for the week. To get the most out of your time and food budget, you’ll want to put a little time in planning your menu. Many of us have easy access to grocery stores and markets which allows us the luxury of picking up dinner ingredients daily. The problem with making stops daily is that it becomes easy to pick up extra items.  “Do those cookies look good.” “What a deal on dishpans.” “Look at that handy dandy gizmo gadget.” Now, I’m not against impulse purchase. Believe me, some of the coolest things I’ve bought were purchased on a whim. A look in my cupboards and closets will testify to an inordinate accumulation of *stuff*. I’m afraid many of those purchases turned out to be a waste of money, since I rarely use them. That’s the big trouble with impulse purchases. They throw a monkey wrench into your budget.

Mind veer: what is a monkey wrench and why is it a bad thing?

Planning out the menu for the week will help you economize your grocery shopping. For one thing, you’ll make a single trip to the store and be able to purchase all the items you need. For another thing, you’ll limit the impulse goodies since you’re only exposed to the temptation once.

How to Plan Meals

Things to consider while you’re planning meals should include your family’s schedule, food preference and how many meals you’re planning. Many families have a busy week. Take into account work schedules, sports and after-school activities and the amount of time a meal will take to prepare.  Does your family enjoy casseroles or avoid them like a plague? My kids had a built in aversion to any food with the word “salad” in the name.  Do you need to have portable meals? Are you going to have sit down meals or eat on the run?

  1. Decide how many meals you need to make.
  2. Determine what foods will be served at each meal.
  3. Identify how you can turn left overs from Monday into a new main dish for Wednesday.
  4. Write it down.

Some people are able to plan out a week’s worth of menus in their heads. I admire them. I need to have things written down, or I forget them. Let me tell you, a hungry family is not something I’m willing to face without a plan!

Tip:  Once you have the menu mapped out, you’ll want to compile a list of ingredients. It’s efficient to use similar ingredients in several meals. This will make your shopping and prepping simpler.

Writing it Down

I’ve found there are a few ways to track your meal planning. The simplest is a piece of paper stuck to the front of the fridge. Another easy way to plan is to use a section of your calendar or daily planner. I picked up a free calendar the other day with the intention of using it for menu tracking.

Microsoft Office has some very good templates on their website for people who want to use Microsoft Word or Excel. The download process is quick and simple. Search for “planners”, you’ll see all kinds, from classroom to meal planning. Highlight the document you like and click the download button. You can use these planners in the electronic version then print completed forms or if you prefer to print several blanks, you can fill in the spaces with your pencil.

Bottom Line

You’ll feel more in control of your grocery shopping, your budget (time and money) and maybe even eat a little better if you spend the time to map out a menu for the week. Remember, this is a plan and not a law. If you feel like ordering a pizza on Tuesday, that’s fine. You can shift the menu items from Tuesday to another day.



The Starving Students’ Cookbook – Review

Cookbook Review

The Starving Students’ Cookbook

This handy little book was a gift my daughter received for Christmas. She’s planning to head off to the big world of college living in the fall and her brother decided she needed a head start, apparently.

I finally got a chance to look through the book this weekend and I’m telling you, it’s a fun, educational book. I wish I’d had a copy back in 1985. Might have made dorm living a little more …. Well, just a little more.
The Starving Students' Cookbook by Dede Hall

The recipes are short, require some basic and easy to find ingredients. The idea seems to be “feed college students meals that remind them of home without straining their budget”. The recipe for Cheap Roast only requires 3 ingredients and a length of aluminum foil. This recipe can be found on page 102 of the book and here. You can’t get much simpler than that.

The hints and tips sprinkled throughout the book are also good-to-know information. Reheating Macaroni, Rice, or Pasta on page 146 is something even home cooks can learn from. I’ve met a few new on-their-own-homemakers who would toss leftover pasta since they didn’t know what to do with it.  Tips like the Handy Hint on page 94 “Don’t dump grease from cooked meat down the drain! ~Drain grease into old can and discard when solidified.” I’m sure the dorm maintenance crew will applaud that bit of sage advice!

The author does understand college students, that much is evident. She realizes that coffee is one of the things that makes universities the world over keep functioning. Viennese Coffee on page 183, instructs readers on how to manage to survive a late night study session for the cost of a single coffee shop beverage. The recipe provides a whole pot of steaming cinnamon coffee, perfect for sharing with roommates.

Another nice feature I found: each recipe has a pictorial guide for equipment required. The Viennese Coffee recipe has a coffeemaker. The Angel Pasta with Olive Oil & Garlic shows a picture of a sauce pan and skillet.  In the space conscious world of dorm and apartment living, students can decide on recipe choices based on the kitchen supplies they have on hand.

I recommend this cookbook to college students, newlyweds, fresh out-on-your-owns, and everybody who’s learning to cook or looking for some simple, convenient recipes! You can click the link below to purchase your very own copy!

How to Boil Water

This would seem like an easy enough task. Put water in a pot. Put the pot on the heat. Wait. But there are ways to make it even easier!


Some of you took a chemistry class back in high school. And you probably thought “I will never use this stuff.” Guess what?! Chemistry applies to real life.

Water will boil at 212 degrees Farenheit or 100 degrees Celcius. That is a standard chemistry rule.  If you want to read more about this process, click here. However, when you add salt to the water, you create a solution. The salt changes the water just enough to allow a lower boiling point.

That means that your water will boil faster. This is a time saving technique you’ll want to use when you are preparing pasta, rice, vegetables or other foods.

Time Saver

Watching and waiting for plain water to boil is an exercise in patience. There’s a lot of truth in that old saying that “a watched pot never boils.”  Honestly, it will eventually boil, but you’ll feel like you’ve waited For-Ev-Er. To speed this process up for those of us who are in a hurry for things (especially me with food). Simply add a teaspoon or so of salt in the pan of water and set the heat to high. It will seem like no time at all and the bubbles will be rolling away.


If you are watching your salt intake, then you’ll not want to use this tip.  You certainly don’t want to add salt to the tea kettle or the coffee pot. …ick… I don’t think salt flavored tea will be the next trendy beverage.