Monday, March 14, 2011

Menu Plan Monday (March 14th)

Menu planning is an amazing tool.  It saves time, money, and reduces waste.  These are all things everyone can use more of, but often times we don’t invest the little bit of time and effort it takes to get started. 

My fiancé and I have been attempting to plan menus out ahead of time for the last few months and it just hasn’t worked.  To be honest we haven’t really tried that hard.  On Sundays we would clip coupons, do a partial inventory of what we had, and make a list of what we wanted to eat the next week off the top of our heads.  After making the list of what we needed I would go to the store, get the groceries, put them away, and there they would sit.  By Tuesday we had already forgotten what we wanted to eat on what day, or even what we had planned on doing with that chicken in the first place.  Usually the ‘menu’ we made was written on the back of the grocery list and would be tossed in the trash while putting everything away.

Presently several people have inspired me, actually.  First was Laura from ‘I’m an Organizing Junkie’.  She almost makes it funMenu Plan Monday, it becomes a group effort to share ideas, recipes, and saving tips.  Pretty amazing.  The best part is she doesn’t just throw it out there and leave you to it.  Nope, she gives advice and encouragement for every step of the way.  The trickiest part is there isn’t just one way to do it, so you have to search around and try new things until you find a method that makes fits into your routine that you can easily stick with.  

Obviously throwing away the menu on the grocery list didn’t work for us.  The other problem is that we have very, very busy schedules and things change quite a bit.  Or we just don’t have the right thing thawed in time and we end up having to scramble at the last minute to figure something, which usually means eating out.  Feeding a family of four several times a week gets very expensive and blows our budget out of the water.  So here we are.

Rather than making a menu off the top of your head, which makes it really difficult to come up with something interesting and new, Laura suggests using delicious to store recipes.  Another good site I found is  Both are easy to sign up and start building cookbooks.  If storing recipes isn’t for you then it’s just as easy to make your own recipe cards.  Many places actually format their recipes into standard card sizes so all you have to do is print them.  If not, it just takes a few minutes to write it down by hand.  Once you have your card, one nifty idea I ran across is laminating them and attaching magnets so that they can easily be attached to the stove or refrigerator for referencing while cooking.  Here is a great tutorial for Magnetic Recipe Cards from LDS Craft Project.

For us a bulletin board/white board does the trick with the help of some pretty magnets and pushpins.  Days of the week magnets help divide up the white board to write our menu down on, but the dry erase allows us to easily and quickly make changes as needed.  The bulletin board is great for posting the finished grocery list and new recipe cards or handouts.  I love the little recipe cards from the grocery store.

Anna, from Ask Anna, does hers by hand and offers a great tutorial describing her method.

I got the magnetic shopping list at Target, I can't find it online but there is a similar one here.  The days of the week magnets are from Bealls while visiting my best friend in Florida, the "E" was from Hobby Lobby during their Christmas clearance last year, and the squares are from Wal-Mart.  And that beautifully crazy cat you see right there… that’s Simon’s Cat.  He’s just the cutest thing I’ve ever seen and my best friend on a bad day.  

This will be the first time we've actually followed through with a menu if this works.  We did it up last night and I bought what few groceries we needed for the rest of the week today.  It was so nice to go to the grocery store with a plan and not wander from isle to isle trying to figure out what to fix then realizing I need something else half way across the store.  I think through out the week I'm going to have him look up a couple recipes online that he thinks will be good and I'll find a few, then BOOM! Next week's menu is done.  

So Now that I am done raving about the wonders of planning a menu here is mine for this week:
  • Monday-  Chicken fajitas, mexican rice, chips with queso dip, and monkey bread
  • Tuesday-  Parenting class (they provide dinner)
  • Wednesday-  Italian Sausage Penne Bake (recipe and samples handed out at Kroger)
  • Thursday- Bbq roast, coleslaw, baked beans, and garlic bread
  • Friday-  Chicken Italian salad (one of my fiance's recipes, so it should be interesting)
  • Saturday-  Porkchops, mashed potatoes and gravy, and mac&cheese
  • Sunday-  Steak stir fry, rice, rolls, salad

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