I’m not always good at meal planning. I forget to defrost the meat in time. Some days I’m too hungry to wait an hour or more for cooking. I get so busy that I just throw quick things together.

And you know what? I hate it. I had the three-week virus-turned-cough that drained any energy from me for days on end. February was also an otherwise busy month and I missed having dinners ready shortly after Dot got home from school. The kind that also provides those really good leftovers instead of “whatever-you-can-find” foods. Some days I didn’t cook at all and we opted for the semi-healthy fish taco take-out … or worse. Fast food at its finest.

And you know what? I. Hated. It.

I know I have enough in my dry goods pantry and in the freezer to make meals for the month. To be good at it would just take a little strategic planning. And fun.

So here we go.

Invariably, whenever I make a monthly meal plan, it gets waylaid by Day Ten. Things come up. Plans change. And the refrigerated meat I bought three days earlier is now starting to turn. Eww, right?!

So I came up with this great idea. One that will add family fun to the March meals. One that will make sure I take the meat out of the freezer in time. One that incorporates side dishes too.

First, I made sure whatever foods I bought at the first of the month could either be frozen or stored in the pantry. I also kept an “allowance” available for the periodic fresh shopping throughout the month.

Then I had to figure out how many meals to plan for. This is where my basic math skills come into play. Let’s see… 31 days in March. But we don’t always eat together at home. At least once a week, we eat at my mom’s. Twice a month we also eat out. That’s six days.  About half of these meals will allow for next-day leftovers. So 31 minus six divided by two less leftovers… that’s just over two weeks worth of meals to really plan out. Round it up to three weeks to include a change of plans or extra meals for company… Hey, I can do that!

To make things more fun, I took some colored index cards and cut them in half. On each one, I wrote a main dish and side dish. For those meals that require fresh produce, I made a note on the bottom of the card so I’d be sure to stop at the store that day. I also noted whether this meal should provide leftovers (also good to know for the days we’re having company).

Once I started, I was amazed at how little time and effort it took to really make a meal plan for an entire month!

My plan is, each morning before we leave the house, I’ll let Dot pull a card from the Meal Jar, and whatever that card says is what I make for dinner that night. No exceptions. No trades. And no more excuses about not defrosting the meat on time. [The only exception would be if we’re having company which would necessitate a meal that offered more servings such as possible leftovers.]

With a little decorative label and a ribbon, my jar will be as pretty as it is functional.

I’m looking forward to a month of healthy, thought-out, ready to cook meals.

And you know what? I think I’m gonna love it.

And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!

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