Menu Planning: 4 Moms, 35 Kids

**Since we began cooking for our freezer, I do not menu plan like this anymore.  Now I simply send one of the children down to the freezer to pull something out and I stock up on vegetables and salad stuff when I go shopping.  We always have rice, potatoes and homemade bread (well, unless someone forgets to make it) on hand.**

This week “4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage” are talking all about menu planning and shopping.  Hop over to see what The Deputy Headmistress, KimC and Connie have to say about this topic.

I hate dread don’t like prefer to avoid menu planning  so I try to do it as little as possible.  I also do not have the creative ability to look in my freezer or pantry and  figure out what I can make from those ingredients, hubby can, I can’t.  This means that I must create menu plans, but I create reusable menu plans.

I plan one week of dinners at a time and I plan not only the main dish but also plan side dishes and desserts .  After I decide the on a menu  I make a shopping list that consists of EVERY item that I will need to make everything on the plan.  Both the menu and the shopping list are treated like solid gold carefully filed and added to my selection of week long menu plans.

Here are some of the ways that I make a dinner plan that will last:

  • I make sure that I have some meals that are quick and easy to fix, one that is a little nicer and may require additional preparation and at least one that can be prepared in the morning and put in the crock pot.
  • I include at least one company meal in each plan. (Unless I’m in the first trimester of a pregnancy.  Mark’s rule is NO COMPANY during the first trimester.)
  • I include a variety of meals.  We eat beef, chicken, vegetarian and fish each week.
  • I make sure the plan fits in our food budget.
  • I don’t put meals that are very hard to prepare on the menu plan.
  • I do not include breakfast or lunch.  (I plan those meals separately.)
  • I do not put new recipes into a menu plan.  Only tried and true recipes make the cut.
  • I only plan 5 meals a week .  This allows for flexibility and the opportunity to try new recipes.
  • I do not plan which day we will eat which meal.  Again, this allows for more flexibility and makes it easier for me to stick with the plan.   (“We were at the park all day so I can pick one of the quick, easy meals” or “I feel like cooking and want to make something nice”)
  • I like to double one of the recipes to use either as leftovers or to freeze.  (It’s important to remember this when you are making your shopping list for the plan.)

At the beginning of each week I simply select which menu plan I want to use and post it on the kitchen wall.  Then I look over the shopping list that matches that plan and cross out the items that we already have.   If we’re trying new recipes or have additional company I add those things to my list and then we head to the store.  Each morning (or afternoon) we look at the plan and decide what we want to fix or have for dinner.  It’s as simple as that.

Well, it’s as simple as that when I actually pick out a plan and go shopping.  It should be very simple except that since I also hate dread don’t like prefer to avoid shopping, I am very good at procrastinating and my family has been known to live on the contents of our pantry/fridge for a week or more past “shopping day”   Does anyone else do this?

Here are some simple tips for getting ideas for recipes:

  • Keeping a list of your favorite recipes.  Each time you have something that you really like write down the name of the recipe along with where to find it.  When it’s time to make a plan pull out your list of favorite recipes and let everyone pick their favorites.
  • One of my other secrets is Menus 4 Mom.  These free plans include all of the recipes as well as a shopping list, no menu planning for me involved.  From, egg drop soup with stir fry to Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops we enjoy having a ‘Menus 4 Mom week’ and usually find a new recipe or three to add to our arsenal.  (If you read my post last week about food budgets, Menus 4 Mom doesn’t fit into our food budget, so we make sure to plan ahead and pinch some extra pennies.)
  • Every so often have a week where you try a new recipe every single evening.  This can be fun and gives you the opportunity to find new favorites

I shared more menu planning tips when I posted our menu plan for breakfast, lunch and snacks.  Also make sure to check out the other 4 Moms and their menu planning and shopping tips.

The Common Room
Life in a Shoe
Smockity Frocks

So does anyone enjoy menu planning?  Do you love looking over recipes and writing out shopping lists?   I love cleaning, I wonder if the love of menu planning and the love of cleaning are mutually exclusive?  Anyone like both?  Just wondering…

Topics that the 4 Moms have already talked about:

Mark your calendars, these are the topics that are coming up:

  • April 15 – Cooking from scratch – what we make from scratch and how we fit it into our day.
  • April 22 – Favorite recipes – We’ll post some of our favorite “feed a crowd” recipes and give you an opportunity to share yours.  You may enter your link into any one of the 4 Mom’s blogs and your link will show up on all four sites.  Fun, right?
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15 Responses to Menu Planning: 4 Moms, 35 Kids
  1. CookieMonsterKatrina
    April 8, 2010 | 7:54 am

    Thank you. This is so helpful.

    I also dread menu planning (and cooking!). My family has been known to live off the contents of the pantry for a week as well. That is self-defeating, I’ve found, because then I have to replenish the pantry as well as buy for a whole week.

    I started a recipe binder a couple of years ago. I put in it any recipe I make that we really like (photocopied, printed off, or written down). At first it was sparse, but I’ve steadily added to it and have a small collection of recipes my family loves. It’s so very helpful with menu planning! I can flip through that binder for ideas when doing the dreaded task of planning the week’s meals. It saves my family from having spaghetti, grilled cheese, and lasagna every. single. week. : )

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  2. Amy
    April 8, 2010 | 8:43 am

    Very helpful ideas. I make a menu each month, but this actually sounds easier. I like it!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thanks Amy.

    If you are adventurous enough to menu plan for a whole month, then simply dividing it into 4 weeks and organizing it that way will give you more flexibility since you will be able to mix and match weeks.

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  3. Nicki
    April 8, 2010 | 9:25 am

    I also hate/dislike/prefer not to menu plan, but I do it anyway. I need a bigger freezer for making meals ahead! I hear you on the first trimester thing!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Yes, my hubby says, “If you’re not consistently making food for our family, you shouldn’t be cooking for others.” He is absolutely right!

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  4. chantelle
    April 8, 2010 | 9:41 am

    Thanks for the great post. This makes perfect sense, why is it so hard to do then? I dislike menu planning and cooking too. I would much rather clean or organize. But….this inspires me, if I can make a plan maybe it will be just that less painful to actually do. :) I am really enjoying this series, thank you so much!!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Honestly, once I got this system up and running it really worked well for us. Well, unless I procrastinated going to the grocery store!

    Also, once I had 4 – 6 weeks of plans done, I didn’t have to do it unless I felt like it, or someone complained about the monotony.

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  5. Mercy
    April 8, 2010 | 9:45 am

    I am really enjoying this series, and I was looking forward to this one on menu planning. I do enjoy cleaning, but I can not stand menu planning! The very thought makes me cringe. Now, don’t get me wrong… I love actually having the menu plan and knowing what I’m going to fix each evening, but actually coming up with the plan is what I can hardly bear. It’s like my mind just blanks the moment I pull out a pen. (“What DO we eat, anyway??”) We do eat gluten-free, casein-free, and (mostly) vegetarian though, so that can really make things tough.

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  6. ashlee
    April 8, 2010 | 10:50 am

    great ideas here! we have 6 kids so menu planning is huge for me. one thing i love to do is plan meals around the bounty at the farmers market. so good and sooo fresh!!

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  7. Susan
    April 8, 2010 | 12:23 pm

    Thank you for posting your system. This is one of my favorite subjects to read and talk about! Have a wonderful day in the Lord.

    Susan

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  8. Angela
    April 8, 2010 | 12:59 pm

    I do my menu planning a month at a time, but I keep it very flexible like you mentioned (some easier/quicker ones, along with others that are more involved). Basically, it’s just a list of 13(ish) main-dishes plus the side dishes. I don’t have a specific plan for breakfast or lunch, but I generally know what to buy for a month’s worth of those meals. I like doing it a month at a time because that means I only have to make one huge grocery shopping trip per month (plus maybe one very brief trip mid-month for additional produce). This works very well for our family…except when I don’t make it to the store on the first of the month as planned…then we do live out of the freezer and pantry. So good to hear I’m not the only one who struggles with that! Oh, and by the way, I enjoy menu planning and cooking *much* more than cleaning.

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  9. Celee
    April 8, 2010 | 6:04 pm

    Just made your homemade granola bars, actually my 9 yr old daughter made them, and we love them. Thanks for the recipe. I have a stupid question, though. Assuming you have a few leftover, how do you store them and how long do they keep for? I individually wrapped them in cling wrap and was wondering if I should refridgerate them or if they’d be ok at room temp for a few days.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    It seems like they would keep for a good while. I do not refrigerate them, just wrap them and leave them at room temperature. That said, our leftovers never last long.

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  10. Homeschool Software
    April 8, 2010 | 6:08 pm

    Wow! I love the way you lay it all out step-by-step. I enjoy reading about how other families (moms) manage meals. I say, the more you can freeze for a future easy supper, the better. Also, it’s is great to have meals frozen to give to others when there is a need.
    I tend to plan meals for the next few days, using what I already have. Then I add to my grocery list anything that I use up or get low on. It works.
    Julie (Mom to 5)

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  11. Lois
    December 22, 2010 | 12:17 am

    Oh I love it. THIS is an article I can gleen from since I relate to this….

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