Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Menu Planning

At first it was fun, now it seems simply necessary. Honestly though, I find it a lot of work, and it makes me think of how small my recipe index must be. 

I've decided to be diligent about meal planning though, through the end of the year, and see how well things go.

I try to only make two big grocery trips a month. I've found that most fresh stuff, if stored properly, can keep that long. The first trip is always bigger, and I nearly always cringe at the final total. The second one is sort of a refresher - certain things, like milk and bananas, just don't keep all month.

I like going to the store less because I am certain I spend less. Let's be honest, how many times do you go in for milk, eggs and baking soda and come out with ten things besides the initial three? Shopping twice a month is also a time saver. An hour or two tops twice a month - from start to finish - instead of several trips during the week is definitely a time-saver. I do the once-a-week shopping for the family I work for, and know that I spend more time and money on their grocery bill than I do on my own.

So, to go along with this schedule I've spent some time planning meals for the rest of October. 

One tip that helped Theme for the Day:

Mondays: Pasta (spaghetti, alfredo, stirfry, macaroni, etc)
Tuesdays: Huge Salad (cobb, buffalo chicken, Greek, etc)
Wednesdays: Soup (trying to utilize my crock pot on Wednesdays and Sundays. Fall is the perfect time for that)
Thursday: pizza (Pizza and Seinfeld on Thursday night is a Wells tradition Daniel grew up with)
Friday: Mexican (Like Daniel says, "It's basically all the same, just mushed together differently. ;))
Saturday: Sandwiches (grilled cheese, paninis, cold sandwiches... it's Saturday, we usually work hard then crash, or chill all day anyway)
Sunday: Soup again (hot meal after church? O, yeah. :))

The theme for the day helps to save on buying tons of specialized items. We'll be having pasta once a week, so I'll know to stock up. Having a Mexican night means avocados and tomatoes galore!

Another tip: Next month, I'll be repeat almost all of these recipes, or themes, so that the work and time I spent this month will last twice as long. I may change out a theme - Mexican might turn into Indian, or pizza to breakfast-for-dinner. But, having the same recipes over again (but still nearly a month apart) will make it o, so much easier on me, without making us sick of a certain food. (Pregnant women get sick of food fast, fyi).

On the menu I have the meal for that night, with the recipe book, or online site (Pinterest) where I can find the recipe in parenthesis. In brackets below that is a simple list of ingredients. If it calls for salt, I don't list it. That's a staple I always have. If it calls for canned tomatoes, something I don't usually keep on hand, I list the amount. Otherwise, if it's something like 1 cup diced onion, I just write "onion."

Then, I go and make my grocery list. This month I've used a handy all-in-one grocery check list I found at grocerylists.org. Certain items that I prefer to buy at a certain store I marked in red pen, and items on the menu that I knew I could not buy until a day or two before (fresh cilantro) I underlined in red on the menu.

Overall, I'm super excited! I think this will help us have regular, healthful meals within budget, while still trying new recipes (like Mediterranean pasta), and enjoying all-time favorites (enchiladas).

Do you like menu planning? What are some tips that have helped you along the way?

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