Learn how to get homestead meal planning done right to make the most of your homestead and local food. This guide will help you get started!
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Why is meal planning important?
Meal planning is important for most households to make sure food isn’t being wasted. It keeps the meal rotations from getting stale and allows for more enjoyment around meal time. Homestead meal planning takes on a slightly different form since many of us are shopping our properties and pantry for ingredients to make meals. Homestead meal planning will make sure all of those treasured vegetables and fruits that you worked so hard growing won’t go to waste.
Where to start?
The first place to start is always with your schedule and thinking about what you already have. It’s tempting to just think: “what do I want to eat this week?” and go from there. This will cost you money and waste food that is already available on the homestead and in the pantry. Always start with what types of meals you can make this week (according to your schedule), and what can I use already fresh and in the pantry to minimize my grocery list. Start there. Schedule and shop your home.
Elements of a good plan
There are few things to do to make sure you will have a successful plan.
- Know your schedule. This where you should start before you even think of things to make. If you plan to make a meal that is lengthy and you don’t have time to make it…the plan will fail.
- What kinds of meals will you focus on? Think about your dietary goals this week and how to achieve those goals.
- Use up everything fresh first and what you already have
- Only make a list of items need
- Run to the store or market once a week max
- Stick to the plan!
Look at your schedule
Before sitting down to start meal planning, take a quick glance at your schedule. Knowing which days you will be able to put more effort into a meal will help stick to the plan. On days we are working outside on a large project or are leaving the house I plan to pull out one of my freezer meals or make a dinner that is 30 minutes or less. On regular days when I have more energy is when I like to make more detailed meals or try new recipes.
It is less common to see families eating every meal together in modern times. Whether due to a busier schedule or because the average household spends less time together, eating is becoming more of a solo event. Sharing meals has many social emotional benefits, but the purpose of this article is to point out how it can help with homestead meal planning, saving money, and time.
Planning dinner on the homestead
Breakfast and lunch tend to have the smaller rotation here on our homestead. Dinner gets most of the meal planning attention, since we tend to automate breakfast and lunch. Planning dinner can keep things from getting stale and is important to avoid “I don’t know what’s for dinner” stress. Take a little time each week to think through what you want to make, get the necessary ingredients, and forget about it for the rest of the week.
Think ahead and thaw meat
Meal planning of some kind is important, if not for only being able to pull the meat out of the freezer with enough time for it to though. Forgetting to take meat out of the freezer is the sticking point for making dinner quickly and easily. Once some form of protein is available the rest is fairly simple. Think ahead and pull enough meat out for the week all at once.
What type of meal
Sometimes it is helpful to have themed nights. Keep these categories broad for the best results for example, on Sunday you might do some kind of soup. This is versatile enough that it can be customized to fit ingredients you already have. Having categories simply makes thinking up the meal ideas a bit easier. Some examples might be:
- Soup/stew night
- Pasta night
- Pizza night
- Three things on a plate night (Protein, carb, veggie)
- Whatever you have over rice night
- Roast chicken or beef with seasonal sides
Notice that the categories are not narrow like “Mexican food” or “Italian food” the purpose for this is that many genres of food have similar ingredients. The point of meal planning like a homesteader is to be able to customize the ingredients based off of what you have. So “casserole night” might be enchiladas, chicken pot pie, or lasagna. Anything that can go into a casserole will be served on that night. This will make your weekly grocery shopping list small.
Start with the garden
It’s no wonder that the garden has a lot to do with homestead meal planning. Many homesteaders have at least a small garden that they want to make the most of with meals. Starting with what you have available from the garden will help insure that none of the garden produce will go to waste. The rest can be preserved for later. We choose to eat as much fresh and in season from the garden as possible. This means that certain meals are only eaten during certain seasons. When meal planning homesteaders aren’t simply starting with what do I already have in the pantry, we are asking:
- What do I have fresh from the garden?
- Leftover food from last week?
- What needs to be used from long term food storage?
- Is there anything in the freezer that can round out these meals?
After all of these questions are asked then…we meal plan, and shop. Start with what is available in the garden!
Keep staples on hand
Successful meal planning for most homesteaders means, having staples always on hand. It helps to have a designated extended pantry set up to house overflows of grains like: wheat berries, oatmeal, corn, and rice. From there you can transform these grains into baked goods, or hot porridge and add a seasonal element like fresh berries in the spring or pumpkin in the fall.
If you are new to setting up an extended pantry, start slowly by making a big list of things YOU would always like to have on hand, but in extra. To make your long term pantry more successful, consider storing and grinding your own grains. Check out our pantry staples list to help you get started.
The meal rotation for breakfasts tends to be smaller than the more grandiose dinner rotation. That is simply because we have chosen to keep breakfast simple to easily get the day going. For us, and many homesteaders, breakfast means pulling out something from our pantry and adding a seasonal element.
- Oatmeal topped with seasonal fruit and local honey
- Homemade yogurt topped with homemade granola
- Granola served in raw milk
- Farm fresh eggs cooked in a cast iron skillet, with seasonal vegetables
- Quiche like our spring onion and garlic scape quiche
- Home ground polenta with cast iron skillet bacon
Another popular breakfast option is to just have a home baked good with coffee or tea. Some of our favorites are:
Make easy lunches
Simplifying lunches takes the pressure off of cooking three meals a day. We usually rely on left overs or easy to grab lunches. That way during busy days while homeschooling or working in the garden, lunch doesn’t slow us down. In the summer time when fresh greens are coming out of the garden salads are fast and easy. In the winter soups and stews that have been put up either canned or in the freezer make a filling and delicious lunch. Here are some fast and easy lunches that fit into our homestead meal planning rotation:
- Homemade bread with butter and previously prepared soup
- Salads with garden fresh veggies like this kale, cranberry, pecan, and feta salad
- Whole wheat sandwich bread with your favorite sandwich topping
- Leftover quiche or frozen quiche re-heated try our spring onion and garlic scape quiche!
- Crackers/bread on a board with olives, cheese, and meat make a filling grab and go lunch
Don’t fall into a rut!
It can be difficult to come up with weekly dinner ideas simply because recalling what you’ve made in the past might night be at the forefront of the mind. A simple trick for this is to keep a running list (actually write it down!) of what you’ve made in the past that your family enjoyed. That way, as you try new ideas you can simply add it to the rotation. If you have 30-40 meals, you’ll have plenty to choose from to keep things fresh.
To keep this master list of tried and true dinner ideas updated, try a new recipe every now and then to see if it makes the cut.
How homestead meal planning is actually done
- Look at your schedule
- Check the garden or refrigerator that is available
- Look at what you’ve got in the long term food storage pantry
- Plan meal around what you need to use in these places first (take into account of your schedule)
- Make a list of necessary items (if any!)
- Go shopping
- Stick to the plan
Homestead meal planning FAQ
What to homesteaders eat?
Many homesteaders eat what is fresh from the garden first. This means that meals are planned around seasons and change throughout the year. Typically homesteaders pull from a long term food storage pantry that was put up during the summer for when certain foods aren’t in season. Home raised meat, stored grains, fresh veggies, and farm fresh eggs, are all usually a part of the homesteaders diet.
How can I create my own meal plan?
- Check to see what you ALREADY have in the kitchen.
- Write down meals that use those items.
- Make a list of any ingredients you need to make those meals.
- Don’t forget to pay attention to your schedule.
- Make and plan to use leftovers…this saves money and time!
- Don’t forget to stock up your freezer.