I saw a post on Facebook the other day from a woman who does all her meal planning for the year in December. Yep, you read that right. For the YEAR. How amazing, and incredible, and terrifying! I would love to be able to do that. But I don't even know where to begin.

Well, I didn't know where to begin. So I did what I always do when I have a potential planning opportunity - I went to Pinterest. I found many explanations on meal planning but the most helpful one (the resourceful gals) suggested instead of starting with brainstorming and searching for recipes, but to start with an inventory. Everything you have in your "pantry." I write that in quotes because she also included household, pet, and personal supplies on her inventory. It was so simple and obvious when I looked at it that way!

She also made the inventory to include things that she didn't have on hand, but that she usually does, or would like to. So for example if she was out of wipes, she still had them on the list because they belong in her house. It gets better. Instead of having to go through your house regularly, since your inventory includes what you currently have and what you would have if your house was fully stocked, all you have to do is print it out each month and highlight what you need. After your shopping trip, you re-print the list and highlight as the month goes on, and as you run out of things.

Her list didn't have a space to write numbers, but given my love for excel, I will have that too, so I can keep track of what I do have. Plus, when I go to the store if I see a great deal on something, I will know what I have in stock already and how much I should buy to get us to "full capacity."

Next, she took her list of everything already in the house, and basically incorporated the pantry challenge into it. If you are unfamiliar with this challenge, it basically is just the idea of putting off going to the grocery store until you absolutely have to, and using up what you have on hand in your pantry/fridge/freezer already first.

Thirdly, (I think?) she wrote down a list of meals her family enjoys, and pulled out a calendar. Not a cookbook, but a calendar. She started allotting the meals to days, going by her schedule. For her, this meant no lunches for her kids during the week because they would be eating at school, and simple breakfasts for the family.

For me, some things I would need to keep in mind are:

1. Monday-Friday are long days and I need to utilize quick meals, freezer meals, and my crockpot.

2. I have to buy extra of anything my boyfriend eats because he will not adhere to any kind of scheduled eating or meal plans. He will eat the meals of course, but will not, say, avoid the cheese blocks because I plan to shred them later in the week.

3. Going along with #2, he will avoid foods that are labeled and bagged. So if I plan crockpot meals and put them into gallon-sized ziplocks at the bottom and back of the fridge, he won't pull stuff out of them.

4. I am hungrier in the morning than any other time of day and calories are burned more efficiently then as well. I love the phrase, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper." So if I reallyyyyyyy want pizza, I'm not one to label foods "good" and "bad." I will just eat the pizza for breakfast/lunch instead of dinner.

5. Carb control. I HATE counting calories. This is why I love the idea behind eating Paleo. However, I LOVE carbs. I don't really want to spend a lot of time counting carbs and reading labels, though, so I want to follow the advice of Bob Harper: to avoid carbs after lunch; and the success of my dad: he was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic and started watching his carb intake, lost the weight (while still eating anything he wanted but cut the portions) and is no longer diabetic.

6. I DO need to plan for lunches and breakfasts, so that I don't eat poorly AND so I follow my other big goal for the year: to be wealthy and avoid spending mindlessly (aka eating out!)

Once she had all her days and meals covered for the month, then she worked on a grocery list. She wrote down all the ingredients for each recipe, and totaled up how many times she would need chicken, beef, tomatoes, cheese, etc. for the entire month.

Then she compared that list to her inventory, and highlighted anything she needed to buy for the meals. Finally, she did the easy part (easy at this point anyway) – she went grocery shopping!

She took it a step further and came home and did what she could to prep the foods. She did talk about buying her produce weekly, but everything else that could be prepared ahead of time, was. For me, I think this would be making up those gallon sized bags, portioning and freezing meat (with labels if they are for meals of course, and making my lunches for the week.

It finally seems doable! I am going grocery shopping this weekend and it will be the first time since August that I’m not also going couponing. I have a couple of different stores I want to hit, but no definite transportation, so I’ll need to figure that out too. But it’s Wednesday, and I’ve got 2.5 days to plan out until the first week of February! Luckily we have food cooked and stored to get me through this week J

Until next time, I hope you’re all kicking butt and taking names!