August 20, 2012

Lesson 34: A Meal Plan (Back to School Series)

West End. The best college dining hall in the entire country.

I know you very loyal graduates of universities other than Virginia Tech are mentally arguing with me right now. You can stop doing that. If you look here, you will see, that the years I attended VT, West End actually was rated the #1 dining hall by a variety of sources.

Aside from their lobster and prime rib options, West End had an addicting pasta station. Seriously, I think there was crack in the fettuccine alfredo, (along with three portions worth of noodles and a billion calories).

It was a dismal day at the end of every semester when I realized my Hokie Passport (our student id's) was out of dining hall money and I was on my own for food.

I distinctly remember putting globs of peanut and jelly onto a plate (no money for bread), mixing it around, and eating it with a knife.

I didn't even have a spoon.

In seminary, there is no dining hall, and since moving here Mark and I occasionally long for the simple student days when delicious (though questionably healthy) meals were provided for us.

In the months before my wedding, I acquired ten cookbooks either as gifts or from the discount shelf at Marshalls. Mark and I have traveled a fair amount, and so I was very excited for us to experiment with cooking international cuisine.

Unfortunately for Mark, all my desire to cook quickly went to the wayside the instant I pregnant. Which was essentially instantaneously.

Almost one year ago, Mark and I moved to Clover, SC. In this house, I endured six months of pregnancy, delivered a baby, and completed 17 seminary credits.

I have also cooked dinner three times.

Every time was some form of spaghetti.

I found out a month ago. Mark doesn't like spaghetti.

I realize this isn't great (or even remotely close to good). But, in the spirit of organizing our family to go back to school, I have decided to create a meal plan for us. Many people (who were consoling me over my lack of cooking) have told me that the meal planning and grocery shopping is the most difficult part.

Mark mostly agrees. He is almost always happy to cook if I have the ingredients for him and tell him what to make.

However, I need to play a part as well.

My goals are small. I scheduled meals on the calendar for Sunday -Thursday. I am making myself responsible for at least two of them per week. If this month succeeds, we'll try for another.

I started this month off very easy! I only put up recipes and meals that we already know how to make. If it goes well, perhaps we'll branch out a bit.

This is the original ghetto copy of the calendar.

It looked manageable, so I invested in a really cute calendar that I will happily hang on the wall (in the corner of the laundry room).

A few things of note:

1. I color coded the days. Blue for Mark. Red for Katherine. Yellow for days that we both have a part to play.

2. I set it up so we eat a chicken dish only once a week. We really like chicken, but we often get stuck in a chicken rut. This way, we won't overuse those recipes.

3. Various levels of difficulty are decided each day based on our schedules. So, Sunday, we are always home in between morning church and night church. Thus, I have assigned myself to make a soup every Sunday. They usually require a little more time, but having them will give us something to eat for lunch all week long.

Also, Thursday nights, I have to meet Mark in Charlotte to swap the kids so I can go to class, and we'll be eating dinner up there together. So, most Wednesday's I have a crock-pot scheduled for dinner. Then, Thursday, I am responsible for putting together the left-overs that we can reheat and eat at school. 

4. There's a great pizza / calzone place near our house. Kids eat for $1 on Wednesday nights. We have one "break" night on the calendar. It'll be something to look forward to.

5. I plan on grocery shopping once a week on Wednesday evenings. I'll have been with the kids by myself all day Tuesday and Wednesday and will enjoy the break. Having a meal plan will allow me to know exactly what to buy for the week!

6. Spaghetti is only on the menu once for two reasons.

             a. Mark doesn't like it. 
             b.If the meal plan fails ... spaghetti is the back-up!

Lesson Learned: It's not West End, but hopefully, it's an improvement!

Keep Reading!

Also, look what my friend just sent me a link to! Go Hokies!

Here's a really cute, simple idea for a menu board!

Finally, if you are more of an ambitious meal planner, check out this over at Healthy Kitchen Guide!



  1. Reminder to myself to try this one from The Abundant Wife ...

  2. I do a meal plan (by week) and one shopping trip, and it helps a ton. I actually really like the idea of doing a whole MONTH'S plan! And speaking of delicious West End, I assume you've seen that it's about to get one-upped?


    1. My thought with the one month thing is that I won't always have to think about it every week. There are a lot of weeks where I realllly don't want to!

      Also, yum!

  3. Katherine,
    One thing I do to save money is build my meals around what is one sale each week at the grocery store I typically use. That way my shopping list is easy to manage along with my meal planning and budget! Although I only plan out one week at a time, if big ticket items such as meets are buy one get one free or another big special, I go ahead and get extra knowing it will be used. Happy cooking!

    1. I think this is a really good idea. I think at first, I want to try and just get meals made! Haha. Once that's in order, and I know which recipes are easy, etc, then we can start trying to coordinate ingredients!

      Sometimes Harris Teeter has B2G3 chicken breasts and we stock up!!!

  4. We eat too much spaghetti around here too. Usually I'm the one who gets tired of it though!

    I'm also a also a once-a-week shopper/meal-planner. I sit down once each week and check out what I have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. I flip through a cookbook, or enter my ingredients into (which you should definitely try if you've never done it'll find out that you are able to cook hundreds of recipes from food you already have in the house!). Then I make my grocery list. I try to use some ingredients multiple times, like I'll do chicken all week or tomato-based dishes.

    Do you have a crockpot? I need to get better about utilizing mine, but I experimented with it some this summer. If you don't care much for cooking, you might really like just dumping in the ingredients, and then coming back hours later to find it ready to serve! Plus it keeps your house cool in the hot summer months. :)

    Don't feel too guilty about not cooking much...I almost never do laundry, and we cloth-diaper our kids, and hang our laundry to dry. It's great being married to a guy who doesn't mind pitching in. :)

    1. I need to check out! That sounds genius!

      Amen to the awesome husband comments!

  5. what a great idea.... Thanks for sharing at Share It One More Time....


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