March 3, 2010

A Simpler Life In 2010 . . .

While the Queen was out of town I had my dad over for dinner a few times.  During a Tuesday visit I told him that if he came back on Sunday I'd feed him Pot Roast.  He wondered aloud how I knew we'd be having Pot Roast. I winked at him and uttered the words of my future predicting secret weapon, "I plan my menus ahead of time, Dad."

Menu planning really is one of the great life simplifiers. I'm sure you already know this.  I hope you already do this.  It will save you money.  It will decrease your stress level when dinner prep time rolls around. And I believe it makes for healthier meal times for families.

Once a week, usually on the night before I grocery shop, I sit down and make a plan.  I aim for five good meals in a week.  Why five instead of seven?  It's because I know my limits.  Cooking five decent meals in one week is what I'm capable of before I scream, "I hate cooking!  I never want to step foot  in this kitchen again!"

On the other two nights I allow for a night of leftovers and one night out. A night out for our family usually involves a burrito joint called Moe's or a run to PeiWei.  Nothing fancy, just not me cooking.  I recognize that one night out a week isn't in everyone's budget, so adjust to fit your family's situation.

When I sit down to plan a menu, I usually have three things handy: my cookbook, my computer and my Hubby.  I always take his requests, since he is the judge of all things delicious and remembers dishes I haven't cooked in a while.  I like to check out some of my favorite food blogs for easy new recipes.  And I turn to the cookbook for tried and true favorites.

With these things on hand, I plan a five day menu and then make my grocery list from the recipes I'll be using.  By doing this, I only buy ingredients I need during my grocery trips.  It also prevents those last minute trips to the store to pick up dinner.  You know, the trips that end with you at the check-out stand paying for a cart full of stuff you didn't intend to buy.  As I'm planning my next week's menu, I'll take a peek in the fridge to see if I have any leftover ingredients I could use in a future dish.

As you can see from the menu above, we eat simply around here. I'm no gourmet chef.  I have a picky eater.  I have a baby to feed on the side.  And I have a ravenous Hubby. I try to include a fruit and veggie with EVERY meal.  If it's not listed on the menu, I slice up apples or pears or wash some grapes.  Fresh produce can be expensive, so I substitute unsweetened applesauce or peaches from the can frequently.

Though it's not on this week's menu, we also have a brinner {breakfast/dinner} pretty much once every other week. It's a quick, easy dinner that makes everyone {even my picky child} happy. And believe me, I am all about happiness around the dinner table.  It is one of only two times a day when we all get to be together.

The best part of menu planning for me is the removal of stress come 4:00 when I start thinking about dinner.  I already know what  we're having.  I already know I have the ingredients.  All I have left to do is get my tush in the kitchen and make it happen.

So tell me, readers, do you menu plan?  Got any great tips to help us out?

ps.  We did not have Pot Roast on Sunday with my dad.  I was sick the night before and morning of, so we adjusted the plans.  Luckily, I had all the ingredients for another meal on hand.  Remember to be FLEXIBLE!  The menu plan does not have to be set in stone.

  dragonfly signature

14 comments:

Apis Melliflora said...

I've just started simple menu planning this year and I agree with all you wrote. I did it partly to have more efficient, cost effective grocery trips, partly because I was bored with the 15/20 meal rotation rut and partly because it is a way to ensure a variety of foods enter the mouths of my pea pickers.

Nikki said...

I, too, go to the store once a week and plan meals for the week. I don't set them for specific days, though. I just have a list of the meals I have ingredients for and pick from the list. It's saved us a lot of time and money!

marta said...

hello and thank you for your kind comment. i truly appreciate it. of course you can link to my post and borrow a photo from my blog. thanks so much for asking. xo. marta

LJB said...

Menu planning is a life saver! The other thing I do that really helps out (but may not be possible for many) is actually doing a lot of the preparing dinner in the morning. After my kids go to school, I do as much as I can to prepare dinner--chopping veggies for stirfry, making the rolls, putting together the casserole, marinating, putting things in the crockpot, etc. It helps me keep my sanity, because around 4 or 5 p.m. is the busiest, craziest, choatic time of the day for my family!

Lori said...

Once a week we have "ROUND UP!" That's when all those yummy leftovers come out of the fridge and make a grand last appearance! Sometimes, I think of a creative way to disguise them and other times I just plop it all on the counter and let everyone dig in to their little hearts content! Sounds appetizing right??? HA! HA! But it clears the space for the next week!

kmorin said...

You never cease to amaze me!

kmorin said...

Oh BTW- no meal planning here. Mike's schedule is crazy and it is hard to all sit together to eat. We try to eat together as a family at least 2 times a week. Is that pathetic or what??

Jessie said...

This is an area I need major improvement in. Once again, you inspire me.

Lately, I've been trying to figure out a good calendar/planning method. Can't seem to find the perfect planner/calendar/notebook to contain dates, and all the random family details. Then, do I duplicate it on one big family wall calendar for the kids? I'm sure you have the perfect system for all this. What kind of notebook/binder is pictured in this post?

The Queen Vee said...

I don't plan, living life on the edge. Around 5:00pm I start thinking about dinner...pathetic.

Tobi said...

I plan all my meals for two weeks and I try to only go grocery shopping every two weeks. The less time I'm in the store the better. Because that gives me less opportunities to buy random junk. =)

Bells said...

I tried an experiment in early November. A friend came over and helped me cook 40 meals and I froze them. I looked for ingredients on sale beforehand and did all the other shopping the day before. Also before cooking day I chopped all the onions and cooked all the ground beef. I had 4 crockpots going, 2 by 6:30 am and we cooked and assembled from 8:30a to about 6 that evening. We ate the meals all through the busy holidays and I still have a bunch in my freezer. It feels great to pull something out to defrost in the morning and know that dinner just has to be heated up later. It was initially a lot of time and money. But spread out over a few months, it was totally worth it! I have also been able to provide dinner to families with short notice and that's been great.

squeezeme said...

I plan my entire month of meals, do two major costco/grocery store ventures per month and on the off weeks I will make one 5 minute run in to the grocery store to get perscriptions and produce. I used to only plan 2 weeks at a time, but I like to see the entire month for variety sake and for family scheduling reasons. For one of my children we had to cut out ALL dairy and ALL sugar for one month--this was an overwhelming challenge until I sat down and planned out every single meal for one month including breakfast, lunches and dinners with a list of approved snacks. I have now adopted a breakfast schedule of eggs and homemade bread one day, muffins and fruit another.....it makes it so very easy when you know what to expect/plan. I find we eat a better variety now! We've broken the cold cereal every morning rut! More and more these days we have children who are allergic or sensitive to foods like dairy and gluten. Planning makes it possible to feed such kiddos!

Kernal Ken said...

All this planning stuff sounded great to me — until I showed up for pot roast, my favorite, and discovered the "bait and switch."

Must have been my "ogre" teeth...Ogre is an anagram for GORE, the guy who says that we need to redouble our global warming efforts before everyone recognizes the scam and he loses all that money.

TracyS. said...

I plan week by week and always check the fridge for stuff I can reuse. It does make life easier.
PS Fruits and veggies at every meal sounds great. What veggie do you serve for breakfast?