Hello! I know its been a bit. I am going to make more of an effort to post regularly. This past winter, my biggest time-consumer was sewing and without a sewing machine up at school I have felt at a loss on tutorials, etc. However, there is still plenty to do!
Menu planning in particular has been on my mind, as a way to eat healthy and consistently, while saving money. As I think to the future and starting a family, I believe it is something I will want to be a key part of my household. Do any of you use a menu planning system? Please describe!
I would like to start a multi-part journey into menu planning: (1) The basics, with tips and tricks (2) Actual systems (3)…who knows?!
So, with part 1, I’d like to talk about some tips and tricks, and basic “how to get started” guidelines that I have come across, thought up, and heard about. Here’s whats in store today:
Why You Should Menu Plan from LifeinGrace
I want to start off with this abbreviated list from LifeinGrace on why you should even consider meal planning. You might have seen the elaborate and color coded menu boards on Pinterest (tune in for pt 2 if you haven’t) and think – No. I am just not that organized, or crafty, or (instert adjective here). But it is very individualized not only to you but to your family and your household. Take a moment to read through this blog post (it may be long, I’ve tried to bold key terms) to see if maybe you should reconsider. Or maybe you have wanted to do this but didn’t know where to start. Or maybe you didn’t even know you wanted to (or needed to) do it until you read this short little list…
1. It reduces stress.
2. Its healthier.
3. It costs less.
4. Its a great way to serve your family, a great gift to them.
>>6 Week Meal Plan from Modern Parents Messy Kids<<
1. Get inspired – spend time each week, or month, looking through websites and cookbooks for ideas. Consider making a “staples list” of recipes your family loves, that you can intermingle with new ideas.
2. Get a system to track recipes - figure out what works for you. What organization systems do you have in place in your house already that you could mirror for menu planning? Some suggestions include: Pinterest, Springpad, Evernote, and Epicurious apps.
3. Get everyone involved! Ask what they like.
4. Keep the weather in mind. If its gonna be a hot spell this weekend, will you really want that butternut squash soup?
5. Keep a meal journal to record what you’ve cooked in the past, how long it took to make it, and what everyone thought! You can use a blank monthly calendar to plan week’s meals and keep them to look back on.
6. Get organized – start a meal planning calendar. It can be its own separate calendar or a tab on your Google calendar. You can share it with the fam or keep it to yourself. It’s up to you! Maybe you just use a sticky note. Just make sure you write it down. LifeinGrace has a great post about syncing your Google calendar with your phone to have the recipes right on hand, and to repeat it every X number of weeks. Check out Relish, and The Recipe Box, too.
7. Don’t overlook the power of theme nights. Theres flexibility within each theme for family favorites and new finds, but keeps some organization and consistency, especially if you have kids. It also helps with quick recipe decisions, and avoiding taste fatigue throughout the week. Try things like Fish, Slow Cooker, Chicken, Veggie, Mexican/Taco, Italian, Asian, etc!
8. Choose a shopping day, and make a list. Shop purposefully! And don’t forget your coupons. Keep in mind that an app you use might help you to extract ingredients from your stored recipes. You might consider making recipe index cards with the recipe on one side, and the ingredients on the back. Then bring it with you to the store. Or you might copy down ingredients from all the different recipes onto one list. I know I like to organize my list by location in the store! Anyone else do that? Check out Ziplist.
9. Check sales. Some might want to organize your meal around the different sales. Check your online grocery circulars to help in the planning process.
10. Plan for leftovers. Can your family tolerate casseroles for lunch? Even if you don’t recycle the entire dish, try to make your cooking do double duty. Freeze it, cook extra chicken, etc!
11. Prep food ASAP. Wash and dry produce, chop onions, roast vegetables, brown meat, shred zuccihini! Stack it up in your fridge and your prep time just got cut in half. You can even cook your tomato sauce that’s gonna be on the pizzas on Tuesday and lasagna on Thursday!
12. Double batch it – feed your freezer! Making a double batch of sauce will save time for you later. Leftovers won’t be so tired out a month later. Having an arsenal in your freezer is also helpful when things go wrong! Like maybe one of those new recipes you’ve been so excited to try.
13. Don’t overstuff the fridge. You don’t want food going bad on you. Keep the fridge airy, light, and with a sensible and realistic amount of food. Try keeping a list in the kitchen of everything in the fridge as a visiaul reminder. You want to see in!
14. Keep your pantry stocked. Have extra EVOO, spices, lemon, and herbs available.
Menu Planning 101 from Menus4Moms.com
Check out these links:
(1) Different menu plans, customized to your needs, ready to go!
Busy Mom Menu - $120/month
Frugal Mom Menu - $5/month
Gluten Free Casein Free Menu (written by a NP) – $40/month
Free Samples of Busy Mom and Frugal Mom Menu
(2) Free eBook to help you plan your own menus: Here
(5) Helpful Websites
AllRecipes – large site for recipe sharing, search engine, nutrition information, different printing formats
Food.com - large site for recipe sharing
My Grocery Deals – track whats on sale at grocery stores, free, can look at all types of foods or narrow down to what you buy
Shopping List Software – create your grocery list, option to enter prices, and can print lists by category (fre)
Mastercook – integrates menu planning and grocery list ($12)
Cook’n Recipe Organizer – complete system, manage recipes and menu planning, create shopping lists, and browse meal suggestions based on what you have entered (~$44)
Well, that’s all for part 1. Part two will look at different systems from the most technologically savvy to the least, and the craftiest and most organized to the to least!
Leave comments on any tips and tricks you’ve developed, or any of your experiences with meal planning!