We all have been there – long day, get home from work, everyone is hungry and the question “What's for dinner” comes up. Often you have no idea. I won't wax dramatic about how much of a pain in the backside this is…trying to decide what to cook. But I DO have a question: When you go to the grocery store – what is it that enters your head as you throw items into the cart if you do not have a plan? I asked myself this as well and my response was a blank stare. I just grabbed the basics then whatever looks good but I did not consider EVERY aspect of a dish! I had a lot of ingredients for half-finished dishes forcing more trips to the store and more money spent! AUGH!
I happen to have, in my aquaintance, a whiz at menu planning! I spoke to her and started small: 7days and one trip to the store, and bought NOTHING more than was on my list. Just starting there my bill went from $130 to $68. THEN, I did 2 weeks…same success same savings. The BIG benefit was that every night I knew what we were eating, I had all the ingredients on hand and the evenings got MUCH more relaxing. So….let me offer you the magical “Steps of Menu Planning”
Of course, you must get all of your resources together. Cookbooks and recipe cards. If you have some items commited to mind – jot them down on cards so that your shopping list is easier to put together. Take your time, do this in the evening while watching TV. It will make menu planning go SO smoothly!
1. Purchase a dry erase calendar. Mine is above and I have it in the kitchen on a book-holding stand that I purchased at Ross. It looks elegant and fits the decor! Menu should be on display for everyone – it is FUN to get excited about dinner!
2. Sit down with cookbooks, recipes, and your personal calendar and those of the family – place your events into your calendar. Also – make note of days that you will all get in late, or you may be tired – those are GREAT days to select a crockpot recipe so that you can get home, and EAT! Plus there is little clean up!
4. Enter nights you will eat out or have dinner plans elsewhere. This is fun because you can plan dates this way!!
5. Enter Crockpot or slow cooking meals.
6. Look at previous months items – select some that you know you would like to see again! Place those items in the calendar.
NOTE: Place recipes with less hearty veggies on the first week, and recipes with less delicate veggies in the second week to prevent spoilage!
7. Add new recipes – these are great for Sundays, or days that you rarely work late. You need a little more focus those days!
8. Write the grocery list – based on next 7 days or 14 days. I suggest trying to do 14 days – a whole weekend without grocery shopping is an indulgence!
9. SHOP! Stick to the list – remember that you may need 2 gallons of milk, etc if shopping for 2 weeks – remember your snack items as well as breakfast items.
If I can offer ANY advice it would be to please try new items, and to keep shuffling them around. Focus on seasonal vegetables and fruits and really look at how balanced your meals are. Try to enjoy a few meatless meals here and there and try new forms of proteins. Sandwich 2 tried and true meals with a new flavor/recipe for the kids! Open everyones minds to what it out there…and abundance of delicious meals!
~I would like to thank Melissa Baran for her assistance in creating the steps to meal planning with me and joining me on Simple Kitchen with Missy Maki on AM 860 for a 2 hour show about Menu Planning~