Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Menu Planning 101= $aving$

One of the best money & time saving tips we do in our house is menu planning!  I have been doing it for years.  We cannot function efficiently without doing it.  I took for granted that everyone did something similar.  However, last summer when I posted something on FB about menu planning, I was surprised of how many people don't do it and even received one request to explain how I do it.  So I thought the new year would be a perfect time for a menu planning tutorial so you can reap the same benefits for your family!

Reasons why I menu plan:
I love organization and having a plan.
Forces us to eat a variety of foods and we eat more healthy. 
Saves money (because we go out to eat alot less and I can plan meals around the shopping ads). 
Saves time.
Less running to the grocery store.
Less impulse buying at the grocery store.
I plan meals according to our schedule (i.e on busy days...simple meals).
Reduces stress, tension and hurriedness. 
We have more friends and family over to our house for meals. 
We try more new dishes, foods, and desserts. 

Over time, I've found it works best for us to plan one week at a time.  But others might find it better to plan 2 weeks or even 1 month at a time, especially those of you who live "West River" and are only able to grocery shop once a month.  :)  No matter how short or long you plan ahead, I guarantee you're home will be happier because you menu plan.

During the school year, I only plan our suppers and weekend meals.  But during summer vacation, I plan lunches, suppers and sometimes even snacks for Josiah. 

First, I review our schedule-- practices, Bible Studies, volunteering, birthday parties, and special occasions or days when I know I'll be gone all day.  I do this so I can account for what nights I need to make an extra simple, or extra early, or even a crock pot meal and/or take a dish/snack if we are invited to someone else's home or if we need to eat leftovers. 

Then, it's kinda weird, but I evaluate the weather forecast because we love to grill ALL YEAR LONG, so I want to know which days will be most favorable to grill.

Next, during the school year, I review what Josiah will be having for lunch so that I don't duplicate meals and avoid him ingesting too much dairy (since he is moderately allergic to dairy).  And if it's summer, then I plan our lunch menu, as well. 

Last, I look at what we had last week or even within the last month, so I can be sure we are having a well rounded diet and don't over-do the same dishes too much.  I also consider cravings or requests from Rob, Josiah and friends we might be inviting over, as well. 

Plan & Write

I like to write our menu plans on a weekly calendar that I buy in the office supply section at Hobby Lobby.  However, Post It notes has a nice one that I have been eyeing at Target, too (above photo).  You could also create your own printable menu plan or find a blank calendar to write it on, as well.  Even a piece of scratch or notebook paper will do! 

Once I know all my "factors", I then sit down with my cookbooks and arsenal of recipes to plan out the week.  I write what we are having on what day and what page # and cookbook I will find the recipe.  After I'm done, I place "the week's cookbooks/recipes" in one special place so that they are easily accessible (since I have ALOT of cookbooks and cooking magazines). 

While I am jotting down our menu plan down I also simultaneously write our grocery list. In order to make grocery shopping even easier, I categorize my list by produce/dried goods/canned goods/cereals & snacks/bakery/baking & spices/dairy/frozen/meat/misc and Sam's.  In fact, I nearly always have a grocery list posted on our refrigerator so I can write things down pantry items as I use them. 

This Week's Menu Plan
Here is a peek at our menu plan for this week. 
  • Thursday:  Roast Beef, Corn, Apple/Lettuce/Marshmallow Salad, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Bread
  • Friday:  Calico Bean Casserole, Broccoli, (left over bread) Pumpkin Pie
  • Saturday: 
    • Breakfast:  Breakfast Sandwiches
    • Lunch:  Grilled Chicken Wings & Tequilaberry Salad
    • Supper:  White Chicken Enchiladas, Spoon bread, Chips & Salsa
  • Sunday: 
    • Lunch:  BLT's, sliced apples with caramel dip
    • Supper:  Chicken Parmesan, Spaghetti, Caesar Salad
  • Monday:  Chicken & Wild Rice Soup, Cinnamon Roll Pull Apart Bread
  • Tuesday:  Cinnibake, (left over bread), toss salad
  • Wednesday:  Hawaiian Grilled Chicken & Coconut Rice, Broccoli
  • Thursday: Tomato Tortellini Soup 
  • Friday:  Scalloped Potatoes and Ham, corn, toss salad
 Let me know what recipes you want me to share from this week's menu plan and I'll post 3 of them by Friday!

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