**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.**
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.
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:
- The Schedule – What we aim for day by day
- The Reality: A Live Blogging Adventure – We live blog through the day so you can see what really happens. Warning this post includes purple laundry, fighting and the use of sticks.
- Going Out with Lots of Littles
- Feeding Your Family on a Budget
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?