Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Menu Planning

I've been meaning to do this post all month, so nothing like waiting for THE last day. :)  Since it is the month of love and heart health month, too, I'm challenging you to try menu planning of some sort or another.  Now don't roll your eyes or close your browser, menu planning does not have to be hard or complicated.  It takes many different forms.  So how does menu planning relate to love and heart health you might ask?  Well, nothing says you love your family more than a nice, warm meal, good conversation together around the table, and a happy mom because she's not stressed out over dinner.  Also when you plan your own meals, you control what you're putting in them and not putting in them, not giving up and ordering pizza or hitting the drive-thru on the way home - both of which are NOT heart healthy.  Also you save so much money when you plan your meals rather than just throw something together which usually ends up with a quick ($50) trip to the store.

There are many different ways and levels of menu planning, so just find one that works for you.  You can plan a whole month at a time, having one major shopping day and then just buy fresh produce weekly.  You can plan two weeks at a time or even one week at a time.  When we were growing up, my mom had little binder that had a rotating menu, complete with shopping list, for three weeks.  Now that is organized!  Pocket Full of Posies has a similar idea, only they do all the work for you. :)  Food on the Table is another simliar one, complete with apps for your smart phone.  There are many more, too.  Of course these options aren't free, but if it gets you planning and works for you, do it!

This is how I do my menu planning.  Tuesday nights/Wednesday morning I grab a my "tools" and get to work.  This is great to do while watching tv, makes me feel like I'm being productive while chillin'. 

My pile along with my pretty daisys from my sweet friend.
Tools of the job:
My calendar
Cookbooks - The blue "What's for Dinner" cookbook above is awesome! I bought it several years ago and loved it so much I bought one for my SIL, too. It has 52 weeks of complete dinner menus - main dish, salads, even desserts. Now I don't love EVERY meal they have planned, but I've found some really good ones and it's a great starting point. If there's a meal my family doesn't like, I either substitute my own recipe or a different meal.   If you're interested, you can find it here:

I also regularly use the "Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook", too. I LOVE my crockpot!! I use my crockpot at least once a week and have many, many recipes that I enjoy in this book.   You can find it at Amazon also:

As I said, I really enjoy a good cookbook and have been known to sit and "read" cookbooks often. :) I usually try to try a new recipe every week, with Pinterest now, I have even more new recipes to try. When I make a new meal, I have my family give it a rating of 1-5 (5 is the best) and I write it down in the book. That way I won't make the same mistake twice. lol If it's on Pinterest or from a magazine or something like that, if it's a keeper it'll get typed up and added to the recipe box. 
My local ads (or circulars as my Grandma called them:) ) - We only have two grocery stores here, so it's pretty easy to quickly scan through, see what's on sale, build a meal around it if I want or just jot down other sale items I want to stock up on.
My grocery list - I found this awesome grocery list printable from the girls at The Letter 4.  You can print 3 to a sheet and print off 17 sheets and have enough for one a week for almost a whole year.  I cut mine apart and glued them together to make a notepad like I did here.  I also glued two magnets on the back so I could hang it right on my fridge so everyone knows where to write something down when we run out.
The big "How To":
I scan through the calendar and see what we have going on. I know Monday's I need something quick and easy or in the crockpot because I teach piano lessons until 5 and often take Natalie to karate at 6. Depending on what's going on, when basketball practices are, or band concerts, or whatever else, makes a difference in what I'll plan for dinner. That's probably the biggest reason I only plan one week at a time.  I usually have a mexican meal, italian meal, an asian meal, and in the winter I add a soup meal each week, that's just how it works out.  Now I use those terms very loosly, lol, if it's pasta it's counted as italian, if it involves tortillas it's mexican, and rice = asian. :)  If I think of it that way, it's easier to figure out what to eat.  We also have pizza usually every Friday night, and then leftovers or grilled cheese sandwiches or something similarly easy on Saturday.  I pretty much plan for 4 meals.  I also have a list of "Family Favorite Meals" I've made over the years so when I'm stumped I can pull that out and see what we haven't had for a while.  I have also started a "Summer Meals" list, too, okay so I like lists and my husband get's picky about what's "too heavy" to eat in the summer.  Just makes things easier.
Speaking of easier, the easiest way to plan your meals is have 6 kids and make them all pick one meal a week.  Now that they're older, I do this quite often now.  Everyone has a say, and you know there's at least one meal a week each person won't complain about. :)  I do limit them sometimes because we can't have spaghetti or chicken curry every week and I also threaten, lol.  If Cheyenne won't come up with a meal I tell her I'm adding stir-fry to the list and if Natalie won't pick something, it's tacos.  That usually works.
That's it!  It's really not that much work, it's not rocket science, and it only takes about 15 min., maybe.  So here's my challenge to you, if you're not planning your meals yet, try it out, see if it's worth that little bit of preparation and if the time and money savings at the grocery store is worth it.  If you are a planner, how do you do it, what works for you?  Any tips?  Please share in the comments and let's make supper time a happy time. :)



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17 comments:

Mamma Mia said...

Wow! I am SO proud of you. I can't take much credit for you turning out to be a great cook and meal planner. (Seems like I didn't stick with my good planning for more than a year or so.) Maybe you did it in spite of me.

Christine said...

I do my meal planning on Sunday nights :)

Please share this over at The DIY Dreamer!! Please :)
http://thediydreamer.blogspot.com/2012/02/from-dream-to-reality-linky-party-5.html

Linda said...

I've been thinking about this myself...getting meals together ahead of time,maybe even freezing some. Aren't we lucky to live in a place where there is plenty of food? Why is it such a chore? thanks for the book references. Come visit my blog if you like. Best wishes, Linda

Linda said...

Also following you on Linky...

Carol said...

I do my menu planning once a month - it takes a little longer on the front end, but it saves time in the long run. I buy groceries once a month and then just have to get things like milk or OJ or bread around the 15th. Also, if I don't feel like cooking what is "planned" for that night I can look at another day of the month and fix that since I have everything I need "in house". Makes life sooooooo much easier! I always post the weeks menu on Monday of each week on my 'Monday Menu' post on my blog - please feel free to check it out - at
www.cdm-arewethereyet.blogspot.com
Thanks -
Carol

Robin Boyd Jackson said...

Thanks for posting this great info on my link party.

~ robin

itsrobinwithani.com

Kadie said...

Another great idea!! I used to plan my meals all the time. I think it is time to get back into the habit. Thanks for all the info. Thanks for sharing with us at Link It Up Thursday.

Digital Scrapbooking Made Easy said...

This is awesome! I'd love to have you link it up to my party at http://scrapbookingez.blogspot.com/2012/03/anything-goes-linky-party.html. Thanks again!

Steph @ Crafting in the Rain said...

Hey, I have that same What's for Dinner book :) I go through phases where I'm really good, and other times not so much.

Trish - Mom On Timeout said...

Great ideas and I love to meal plan - it makes the week go so much smoother! Thanks so much for sharing at Taking A Timeout Thursday!

The Provision Room said...

I've only recently started planning a month of meals at a time and strategically planning two meals a week that I can double so I can stock the freezer. It's been fun actually. I've never really been good at it, but I launched into a blog challenge with a friend. Girl, that accountability makes all the difference! LOL!

Come visit us at theprovisionroom.com We are having some giveaway all month long!

'Becca said...

Sounds like you've worked out a great system!

My family has an odd situation in that the parent who's home in time to cook dinner is a terrible planner--so I plan the meals for him to cook. Works for us!

Linda: I think it's BECAUSE we have so many choices that it is a chore. If we knew we had to eat turnips and kidney beans every day, we wouldn't have to spend time deciding! I like the variety, though.

Rachel said...

I am definitely a meal planner. I usually plan for a month at a time. Thanks for sharing at Terrific Tuesdays.
Rachel
adventuresofadiymom.blogspot.com

AmieAnn said...

This is awesome! I am unfortunately a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl with NO organizational skills whatsoever! Wish I could be better at this.. and this is such a great idea! Thanks so much for sharing with the Pink Hippo Party!

Alison @ Oopsey Daisy said...

I really need to be better at menu planning. Thanks for the great ideas! Thanks for sharing at oopsey daisy!

Lisa @ Flour Me With Love said...

I love menu planning and I'd love for you to share your ideas at Mix it up Monday:

http://flourmewithlove.blogspot.com/2012/03/mix-it-up-monday_11.html

I hope to see you soon:)

Alexis @ we like to learn as we go said...

What a great post! Menu planning can be so hard. I definitely need to keep working on it. I would love for you to link it up to my first link party. I know my readers would love it too! http://weliketolearnaswego.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-i-learned-wednesday-1.html

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