Feeding a family takes planning – especially with a CSA subscription. Here’s an overview of how I plan our food on a weekly basis.
Sunday: Check the CSA menu and online store
Usually, updates to the weekly menus and online store are available by Sunday afternoon. The CSA menus are just for getting an idea of what might come. There’s simply no way to predict what will be available, so I’ve learned not to make hard plans from this list. It’s good for getting my brain going, though.
If I really want to make sure that I get something on the list, I order it from the online store. The deadline for store orders is Monday noon. I also love browsing the store and am a sucker for trying most anything new.
Wednesday: Pick up and lay out veggies; prep and plan
The biggest aid to my meal planning is taking pictures for this blog. Laying out the produce makes me look at it all and consider what I’ve got. My best meal planning occurs somewhat unconsciously while I’m arranging herbs on the table.
I also try to do a bunch of prepping this day. At least, I try to get one thing done. This is actually a trick I pull on myself. If I get one thing done, I’m really likely to keep going and get several things done. And I think it’s way more efficient to do lots of prepping in one batch with one kitchen cleanup at the end. If things are already washed and ready to go, I’m so much more likely to use them. (More about Wednesdays.)
After I’ve put the produce away, I sit down and make my little weekly planning sheet. (Sometimes, this part won’t happen until Thursday or Friday.) Here’s a bad picture of one.
At the top is a makeshift calendar. I add all the schedule stuff that will affect meals, like a lunch date, going to the gym, or being out of town. It’s really helpful to look at a whole week in advance. For example, last week, I noted that we would be out of town all weekend. So I knew we had to eat up all our lettuce before Saturday. This week, it’s possible my step-son might visit sometime after Sunday, so I’ll need to be ready with some extra food.
On the right, I make a list of what the food I have and ideas for dishes and what would go in them. Once I have some meal ideas, I add them to the calendar at the top on the days I think we’ll eat them. If I need to cook stuff ahead of time (for lunches if we’re working away from home, for instance), I mark out the time for cooking those, too. Contingency planning is also smart here. I think about what dishes can be put off should something come up during the week. Something always does.
Planning can also lead to more prepping. Today, for instance, I cooked some rice and took half a dozen shrimp out of the freezer in preparation for shrimp fried rice. (I also could have chopped a bunch of ingredients.)
On the left side of the sheet is my Kroger grocery list. We spend about $100 a month there. (Although lately it’s been less; I can tell because we haven’t had any Kroger gas discounts in the past few months. I would guess we also spend around $50 a month in groceries from other places, mainly Sam’s and Amazon.) A lot of that $100 is milk and cereal because we like the expensive stuff and eat a lot of cereal. Onions and lemons often make the list, too.
Thursday: let’s go Kroger-ing… and possibly to the Powder Springs farmers’ market
I like my paper planning system because I can tear off the part of the paper with my grocery list and take it with me to Kroger. I tend to go grocery shopping Thursday after I’ve seen the week’s produce and had a chance to think and research ideas a little. Sometimes I won’t make it till Saturday, though. I used to try to go shopping on Wednesdays to reduce the number of errand trips, but it never worked. I always ended up going out again anyway and sometimes regretting what I purchased Wednesday.
Later this season, the Powder Springs Farmers’ Market will return. It’s Thursday afternoons, which works great for me because it’s Thursday (after I’ve already seen my weekly CSA delivery) and in the afternoon (I don’t play well with others early in the morning). I hit the farmers’ market before the grocery store. Kroger’s always the last stop so I can make sure I have everything before heading home.
That’s pretty much my system that’s evolved over the past few years. If you like the planning sheet idea and don’t want to make your own, here’s a template you can download and print.
Weekly food planning (PDF)
Weekly food planning (Word)
(But you might be better off scribbling your own until you find what works for you.)