Many moms find it hard to get to the grocery store every week or every other week with their busy schedules. On the other hand, shopping once a month makes for a big shopping trip that can be overwhelming. By planning your meals three weeks at a time and doing a shopping trip that encompasses all you'll need, you can limit your trips to the store and take the headache out of feeding your family.
A Cache of Recipes
The most important aspect of three-week meal planning is to have a cache of recipes ready to go. Mark the pages in your cookbooks that contain your favorite recipes; organize your recipe card file or create your own recipe book that contains all of the recipes you turn to repeatedly. If you're tired of all the old standbys, print new recipes from Internet websites, encase them in sheet protectors and store them in a three-ring binder that you can keep in the kitchen.
The key to successful meal planning, like so many things in life, is organization. Print or purchase a calendar specifically for recording your meal schedule. Use a pencil and fill in each square with all of the meals you'll need to prepare. If the kids eat lunch at daycare during the week, you can skip those. On the other hand, if you need to pack lunches, pencil that in as well. Reference your favorite recipes, and work them into the rotation without repeating them too often.
Before you even consider hitting your local grocery store, create a comprehensive list that includes all of the ingredients you'll need for the next three weeks. Reference your meal plan calendar and recipes to ensure that you leave nothing out. Frequent one particular grocery store and create your list in a way that mimics your path through the store. You're less likely to forget items and have to go back for them when you create a list that follows the store setup.
Many moms like to prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them for future use. Set aside a day or two every three weeks to prepare some of your main dishes ahead of time. Choose recipes that freeze well like lasagna, chicken noodle soup, tuna noodle casserole and beef stew. Place the servings in airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags, and mark the date on them. Store them in the freezer, and pull them out on the appropriate days to cut down on your time in the kitchen. Wash and tear salad greens, slice cucumbers, shred carrots and prep other salad veggies to make a few days of salads at a time. When dinner comes, all you'll need to do is heat the entree and serve salad with creamy dressing.