Monday, 11 May 2015

Planning

I try to plan.  I have notebooks of lists, I love a good list!  I wrote about my diary and calendar keeping here.  My system is still going and has, for the most part, worked.  Although as I write this I have remembered a birthday card that I forgot to post!  It has until Friday to arrive though so I hope the Royal Mail will deliver it in time.

Plans are always going around in my head, thoughts about this and that.  By writing things down I somehow get them in order and find that even if I don't look at the note or list again I remember things more than if I had never written them down.  It is something to do with letting go the worry of remembering I think.

One thing that I am terrible at remembering though is meal planning.  What is in the cupboards, the freezer, will that fit with our plans, what if I have an early meeting that evening and need something quick to eat, or hubby has a club to go to.

So, as you might guess, I have a system and a list for organising meals.  It goes something like this.  I say something because you know, rules are made to be broken and plans are sure to change!  This does at least give us some sort of framework to guide what we eat.

I plan meals for the month ahead.  It is easier for me that way because I don't buy meat at the same place that I do the rest of our shop.  So I can make a list of all the meat that I want for the month and go and buy all of that, put it in the freezer and then I can just shop at my local supermarket for everything else.

First of all I do a stocktake of what is left in the freezer and any other things in the cupboards that will make up meals.  Then I make a list for all the days of the month, noting any particular dates, a holiday, days when there are evening meetings or clubs, days when we will be out until late.  I know to select a quick meal for those days.



Next step is to assign meals based on what is in the freezer from the previous month.


After that I fill in the rest of the meals.  I try to use no more than two recipe books (this month it is Bill Granger Easy and Nigella Lawson Express plus a few things from my own book that I made up).  I do that because I find that writers of books tend to use a lot of the same "specialist" ingredients so by using several of their recipes in a month there is a good chance that I will use the half a pack of this or that ingredient that might otherwise be left - and wasted.  I hate waste!




When I have the full months list of meals I work out all the meat that I need and will go and buy that.  This saves multiple shopping trips, allows me to buy larger packs of things that I can then split down for the different meals and reduces waste!  By buying larger packs and shopping less frequently I save money too!


Each week I then just buy all of the day to day things that we need and the other/fresh ingredients for that weeks meals.

I know that this might all sound complicated, but it isn't really.  I make sure that I use up what is in the freezer so we don't end up with "mystery food" buried in there.   As I said it also reduces shopping and cost.  Plus I don't have the moment of standing in front of the freezer in the morning thinking "what shall we have for dinner" because I just consult the list and take out whatever we need.  I should also just say that although a lot of this is because of my meat purchases, we don't eat meat every day and quite often have vegetarian meals!  Today is cheesy quiche and salad for example.

Sometimes life throws us a curve ball.  We were supposed to have chilli for dinner last Thursday and takeout on Friday.  I forgot to buy any beans for the chilli.  So we had takeout on Thursday and I made the chilli on Friday after I bought some beans.  Last night we were supposed to have a pork dish, but I was exhausted and hubby said he would cook, so he made something else with the pork - which was yummy! - so we still ate the pork, just in a different way.

What I really love to plan are dishes where I can make a big batch of something, then I can freeze the extra for another day.  It feels like a sort of homemade takeout, a delicious meal, but no work, just heat it up!  What could be better hey!

All of these lists, but gosh, I don't have to worry about meals all month.  How great is that!

So that is me!  Now over to you.  How do you plan your meals?  Do you plan?  What do you do?

I am having fun joining with Meal Planning Monday.

Amy

61 comments:

  1. I am terrible at planning meals. It's just the two of us and we eat out WAY too much. I really need to get much better at meal planning. It would certainly help with our budget AND our health.

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  2. I dont meal plan, I should but dont, because I am on my own most of the week I tend to eat quick meals occasionaly I will cook a proper full meal for myself and the rest goes in the freezer for Martin to take back with him, I do put together a shopping list as I only shop once a month as things run down they get added to the list :-)

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  3. I too am big on lists, so I have a shopping list that I add to hung in the kitchen. I plan some meals but also buy some of the special offers at the butchers to keep costs down. The supermarket shop is done from a list with special offers added.

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  4. I do love lists but I'm just at the beginning of my meal planning journey. I'm trying to build up to a weekly shop so have shopped for two days, then three days, and I did my four day shop yesterday. So far so good. I will be thrilled when I manage to shop just once a week. Your monthly plan is brilliant. X

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  5. I love a good list too. Sunday is my menu planning day, as I go to the supermarket after dropping E off at school on Monday morning. I also tend to choose 2 or 3 recipe books as inspiration for the week - I'd like to say it was for the same sensible reasons as you, but, if I'm honest, it's because I can't be bothered to get more down from the bookshelf! I do have to own up to having a few 'mystery meals' in the freezer though, where I've frozen stuff in old take away containers and forgotten to label them! xx

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  6. I love a good list too! Sunday is meal planning day as I go to the supermarket after dropping E off at school on Monday morning. I also tend to choose 2 or 3 recipe books for inspiration that week. I'd like to say it was for the same sensible reasons as you, but, if I'm honest, it's because I can't be bothered to get more down from the bookshelf! I also have to admit to having a few 'mystery meals' in the freezer, where I've frozen stuff in old take away containers and forgotten to label them! xx

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  7. Meal planning is one of those things that I always think I will do, and never do. I somehow can't bring myself to invest time doing the planning, even though I know it would save me time in the long run. I do, however, always cook more than I need of any meals that can be frozen. So I build up a good stock of freezer foods which are a great help on busy evenings. I laughed at your description of 'mystery foods' in the freezer, I do have a few of those I must admit....! X

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  8. I'm a list maker too, I know what you mean about maybe letting go of the worry once it's written down. I don't plan meals though, I really should. Your plan is excellent, really organised, I should definitely try something like this, I hate that 4 o'clock moment when everyone's hungry and I have no idea what to make. I loved this post Amy, you've inspired me! CJ xx

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  9. I am definitely not a list maker more of a 'fly by the seat of my pants' kind of person. I have a freezer and cupboards full of food and I decide what we are going to eat for that evening - it works for me - each to his own I guess. I do admire organised people like you - but it's just not in my nature. Hey ho!

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  10. I thought I was quite organised until I read this ... But no. I do have a gallon of chicken stick waiting to be frozen for risottos,soups etc this morning so not all bad!

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  11. If we are going away then I find nothing more satisfying than being able to finish off everything that is still in the fridge and in the fruit and veg basket so that we have a clean slate when arriving back home. However, I aways make sure that there are at least two meals awaiting our return in the freezer so that I can get on with the laundry from the trip.

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  12. I'm hopeless at meal planning. A few hours before we eat, I suddenly realise I haven't thought about what we will have. It doesn't help that we are a family of fussy eaters so I usually have to do something different for each family member. Now that it's just me and hubby at home it's a bit easier. I'm sure if I planned ahead as well as you do, I'd look and feel ten years younger!

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  13. I try to plan for the month too - there's nothing worse than looking at the clock, realising that you're late with dinner and you've got no idea what to make! I like your idea of using two recipe books a month because of the ingredients - that makes a lot of sense! xx

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  14. I'm coming to your house, your meal plan sounds yummy. I never used to plan at all but now I loosely plan. I am a bit of a list maker and I have all sorts of things jotted down in my Filofax, but meals are one thing where I tend to go with the flow. I will think about meals for the coming week before I shop at the weekend so that I buy what I need for them, but I don't write anything down and the plan isn't set in stone.

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  15. I usually plan for the week ahead and shop accordingly. When hubby was at work, it had to be done like that as sometimes we had a hot meal for lunch (he started afternoons these days) sometimes, others were days when he needed to take a cut lunch and something hot for tea as well, so I made meals with lots of leftovers for this. He had a 29 week roster, with every day a different shift and days off could be single, 2 together or even 3 in a row. Imagine how organised I had to be. Yes, I'm very much a list maker. Just at the moment we are emptying the freezer ready for our move, so no menu planning as such. I'll be back into it once we are back home, so I know exactly where you are coming from. Some interesting meals in there and aren't you lucky that hubby can cook. Mine can't. Take care.

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  16. yum!! i will show up ... what time? i think meal planning is important. it makes life so much easier. i think i need to do more for sure. my Mom was so good at it. i like to change things up often. ( :

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  17. I wish, I just wish I could be more organised about meal planning too, it really would help, but for some reason I don't! Well done you. I am jealous x

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  18. I can get so bored with food if we end up having the same things over and over. It's ok if I give D a list to take to the butchers but otherwise he guesses at what he thinks we need and once before we ended up with 25 chicken breasts and 20 pork steaks and very little else. I have a list pinned to the freezer door so we should know what's in there but I don't think he remembers to tick things off as he uses them and then he doesn't check it if he's going to butchers hence why we end up with so many of the same thing. Still he does try. We are fortunate that we have two farm shops on the outskirts of the village so can pick up fresh veg as needed. These days I don't get to use my recipe books as much as I used to but I am trying to change that this year. May be I need to take a leaf out of your book and plan meals using my recipe books.

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  19. I am so impressed! You would absolutely hate my approach. I don't plan at all - in fact I've just come from Sainsburys where I sat in the carpark with a cookery book, opened it at random and thought "I'll make that tonight". One day soon, when we move house and we are not paying all of our income in rent, I think I may adopt your approach - it seems like a good one and I've always promised myself that I would get into the habit of buying things in bulk. I like the idea of getting all of your meat for the month into the freezer - it's a good money-saving tip. Judy.

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  20. Sounds very organised. I don't like waste either so some meals are a bit of a mixture to use things up before they go off! It's not so tricky now that I don't have to factor in so many people's activities though one shop a week is enough and I alternate between my two favourite supermarkets as I like certain things from each shop.

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  21. I love a good list myself. I now have a phone with a pen - a whole new lever of list-making :-)
    Amalia
    xo

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  22. Amy, I so appreciate your ability to organize your food planning. We so often have side roads and I end up with more supplies in the fridge than I need, and they go bad. I do keep notes on a calendar and make lists of things I need to do, but no so much on groceries.

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  23. You are so organized, I'm lucky to plan for the week. When I grocery shop I have meals in mind, but all is subject to change.

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  24. You are so organized! I'm lucky to plan a week at a time and even then all is subject to change.

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  25. I'm impressed with how organized you are!

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  26. I don't meal plan. I couldn't! I have to eat what I feel like eating... I know that if planned meals in advance, things would crop up and I wouldn't have time/energy to cook the planned meal or I just really wouldn't fancy it and would end up making something else anyway. I like the idea of meal planning, but it would never work for me. I'm a fussy eater and a vegetarian and Dave is wheat intolerant, but not fussy at all! We tend to cook our own meals each night! Despite not meal planning, we are on the whole not too bad with waste and I think we are getting better at not wasting anything - especially Dave as his 'quality control' standards are a lot lower than mine when it comes to fresh food! I think it's a great idea to plan a month in advance if you can... it must make life easier and save lots of time that would otherwise be spent opening cupboards and wondering what to eat (I spent a lot of time doing that!).

    I am, however, a serial list maker! I forget too much if I don't make lists! I have Moleskine weekly notebook, with diary section on the left and line paper on the right for each weekly spread and that's how I've made lists for a few years now. I recently heard about bullet journalling, can't remember where - probably on a blog! - and really like the idea of that so I might give that 'system' a try in 2016 when I've used up the 2015 moleskine! I suspect bullet journalling might appeal to you, so here's the link to the website - it's well explained in the video... http://www.bulletjournal.com/

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  27. Your planing skills are amazing and it does look complicated. I am a horrible cook and really only cook once a week as my husband does it the rest of the time, even my once a week is a stress for me.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  28. My husband and I plan meals for the week ahead at the weekends when we do a big supermarket shop. He's very good at using up whatever's in the cupboard and fridge so we don't waste much and we often have 'homemade takeouts' too. I'm really impressed with your list making-- so organised! I should try and do the same : )

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  29. I'm a meal planner too. I only plan by the week though. I do a big grocery shop on Friday evenings and then buy additional fresh ingredients on Monday or Tuesday evening. I find we waste less food this way and I only buy the ingredients we need, not a bunch of extras.

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  30. I used to be better about planning when I was working full time. But now that I'm stay at home Mom and take care of my MIL with Alzheimer's - I know I'll be running each week when I have her (as it's "our thing" to do) - so I haven't been as good about planning. I sometimes get better about stocking up some meat in the freezer too, so I have some go-to things I can grab in there,but I really should get back to a better plan and freezing more meals too.

    Thanks for sharing your system! I think it makes a lot of sense. xo

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  31. No way could I live as organized as that. Yes, it undoubtedly saves money and maybe time, planning and pre-cooking things for a freezer, and I do things like fish pies making two at a time, or venison meatballs in a lovely bolognaise sauce and freezing those, but (a) I have only a three-drawer freezer, the bottom half of a fridge/freezer and (b) how the hell do I know what we'd like to eat a week on Friday? I prefer to shop for, say, about five days, making sure I have a good stock cupboard of things like tinned beans (red kidney, cannellini, and so forth) and fresh veg and then making things fresh each day. We don't have a huge variety of foods and we don't have spicy foods for medical (gut) reasons, but we do eat well and I never go to the supermarket without a proper List, and I have lists for each individual supermarket, i.e. one for Waitrose, one for Lidl's, one for Morrisons, as I buy different things in each of them. Tonight we're having lamb shank casserole with Jersey royals and green beans - the casserole made yesterday so it could chill overnight and then I could skim any fat (there wasn't sufficient to skim, it was so tender) and there will be sufficient for a second meal tomorrow - we don't mind having the same thing two days running. But like you, I do love a good List!!!
    Margaret P

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  32. I need to get more organized with meals. Im on Weight watchers and have to plan anyhow.
    I LOVE Lists. I need a new note pad for my current run away thoughts.
    Good to see someone else loves to LIST
    May parents were list makers

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  33. Wow, sounds super organized! I like how you make a bigger batch and then freeze for later. I tend to only do that with soups. I plan for the week ahead and tend to buy most of the items on Sunday. I can't plan for how much my kids (teenagers) will eat, though! Sometimes they eat it all and want more (and I don't have more!) or they hardly eat anything and then there are lots of leftovers. I guess I should freeze those leftovers! Hey - you've helped me out!

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  34. I wish I was as organised as you, I write lists then never stick to them.

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  35. I thought I was organised but only manage a weeks meals at a time! And I get very grumpy when things change and my meal planning doesn't go to plan! And I now have a new notebook to make very pretty lists in. :) x

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  36. I used to meal plan, not so much now, unless I know I am working everyday full time. Love your 2 cook book idea though. I don't think a girl can ever have too many pretty notebooks.

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  37. The only time we plan our meals is when we go camping. Other than that, the food is fairly basic ... piece of meat, a couple of veggies. My husband does all the supper meals, and I'm not complaining. He also does all the grocery shopping, so there's no list making left for me to do ;)
    You, on the other hand, are super organized! Meal plans for the month ahead?! I am amazed, and a little jealous of your talent!
    Wendy

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  38. I have meal planned for years. Working full time makes it important to have a plan, or else I'd be picking up supper every night! I have a calender I use, and I plan and shop for 2 weeks at a time.
    I like your idea of using just a few cookbooks. You're right about the ingredients, and I never thought about that.
    I love freezing meals too.

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  39. This is such a great idea. I like the idea of using one or two cookbooks for the weeks meals. And, the meals you have planned sound yummy!

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  40. I am so with you on this Amy! I would really LOVE to do meal planning for the month but currently do it for the week....you have given me some ideas about buying some extra meat to have on hand in the freezer and maybe this summer when things slow down I will try my hand at this!! Great system buddy! Have a great week! Nicole xo

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  41. What an (awe-)inspiring post, Amy! I love lists too, but wouldn't be able to plan meals for a whole month.
    Yet, how you do it sounds very simple and very, very reasonable. Thank you for sharing your system! xx

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  42. Oh you've inspired me Amy!
    I'm such a list person too - I have lists for everything.
    However, I'm terrible at planning meals. You've given me a lot to think about, like using one cookbook at a time - you're right the ingredients do get repeated.
    It's not rocket science I know, I really am going to try and organise myself better thanks to this post of yours!
    I'll let you know how I get on...ha ha!
    Shane

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  43. You are an inspiration. Thanks so much for sharing and I will look for these two cookbooks you mentioned. Have a great day. xo

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  44. You have a very organized approach to meal-planning, Amy. I should take a few of your tips. Like you, I do like to make multiple servings of things and tuck things in the freezer to pull out now and again.

    Karen

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  45. I do this too but it is a family affair so on Sunday night we put out 4 cookbooks and everyone chooses a dinner they will like, I shop for them on Monday and everyone has to eat everyone else's dinner choice!! Meg will ask "is this my dinner? " I reply "no it is Heidi's but you will have your choice tomorrow." and everyone learns that we can't always have what we want but we all eat nice food. Ps. I hate macaroni cheese and Meg often chooses it so it works for me too.

    My girls have learnt to read well with it and have found out about lots of ingredients too.

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  46. I am in absolute awe! I usually get to lunchtime and then panic what to do for that evening. I am one for lists so will train myself to do the same. I love the way that you use a couple of cookbooks to make sure that I don't waste those specialist ingredients. Thanks for the tips xx

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  47. I am a list maker too Amy, most recently for our trip to Canada. I had a list of the lists! As for food shopping, I have always shopped weekly, buying the meat first then working from there according to recipes. Things have changed over time, and after the children left. Now I eat meat rarely, so the shopping revolves more around the fruit and vegetables, and I buy very small quantities of meat for HB. LIke Rosemary, I try to finish off the food before we depart on travels, but make sure there is something in the freezer for our return!

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  48. You are so organized Amy, really amazing!
    I make lists of things "I have to do" and help me, like wash the curtains or others.
    But not for meals.
    Sometimes I know what I going to do.Others I open the fridge and looking what are inside:)
    Anyway is not Easy here with the men that love meat and daughter is veggie:))
    Hugs!

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  49. I love to be organised to and am a compulsive list maker:) I'm not sure I could be as good as you at planning a month ahead but I do a week at a time and it makes things so much more simpler at the end of the day when it comes to cooking dinner. I hope you are keeping well:) x

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  50. I love lists but don't plan our meals here. I've tried doing it but found myself going 'off piste' a lot of the time so gave up. I should follow your example as it would certainly make food shopping and meal times easier.

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  51. I love reading other people's meal plans as it's just fascinating knowing what people eat! Plus there is always inspiration too. I am sorry things are stressful right now and hope you're ok. x

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  52. Wow, you are so well organized!

    I like lists, and often writing. On various topics. To do ...
    To write by hand, often helps me to remember things or understand at all.

    Only meal lists I have never. Somehow the subject of no importance for us. In addition we have often not enough money to buy foods (very low pension).I go to a Charity Organization, to get some foods for free. Not often, only twice a month that's happened in our town. Or only once.
    Can not choose, I take what they give me. Must be very creative in order to turn it into a meal that still tastes. Can not use recipes, so I also not interesting in them.
    But often I'm proud of what I've conjured from random things.

    Have a good time

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  53. I love lists (& notebooks!). My Hubby takes the Mickey out of me no end as he never writes a list and then seems surprised when he forgets things!!!!!

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  54. I love a list too! I have a menu plan for the week depending who is in, but it often changes at short notice due to hubby's work. I try and cook double portions for things that can be frozen and freeze leftovers in single or three-children size portions. I always take my list when I go shopping and try to go on my own whilst children are at school - cuts down on things magically appearing in my trolley! xx

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  55. I make a lot of lists but I am never this organised when it comes to food ... I am seriously impressed that you go to so much trouble. I try and make sure that the makings of about seven meals are in reserve but that really just means making sure we have things like veg, rice and pasta, and a few protein sources, what kind of meal those things then become is usually decided on the day.

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  56. I also wanted to wish you well in this tough time .... I will be thinking of you Amy x

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  57. Hi Amy :)

    I have a freezer as well and I buy as much meat as I can to fill it up so I only need to buy fresh ingredients when I go to the store. I always have a list and I plan about 5 meals for the week. The other two I improvise with what I have.

    I hope all is well with you.

    Take care,
    rue

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  58. I am in awe of your planning skills!!!!

    And I'm thinking of you and your lovely Lady as you go through this tough time. Lots of hugs,
    Toni

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  59. I used to plan monthly too but when we moved it became weekly. Now, more often than not, meal planning is a fly by the seat of your pants event, which with two toddlers constantly hanging off my legs can be a bit stressful. It also produces more food waste and costs more money overall. Your post has given me the inspiration to go back to monthly planning again.

    I'm sorry to hear that times are tough at moment Amy, please know that you are in my thoughts. Xxx

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  60. I'm just leaving you a message after your two most recent posts to let you know I am thinking of you and hoping you are OK. It's not easy having someone close to you so poorly, I know from experience. Sending you love xx

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  61. I'm also leaving a message regarding your more recent posts Amy, I've been out of blogland for a while but so sorry to read that things are tough. thinking of you and your loved ones xx

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