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.|
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. :)