Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why bother with a menu?

Follow up comments to yesterday's Menu Planning Monday prompted me to consider, why do we write menus? I never use to write a menu. I'd buy meat. Take something out of the freezer the night before or day of, flip through my cookbooks at 4:30pm wondering what in the world was I going to make for dinner tonight. No, can't make that...don't have the right ingredients. No, don't have what I need for that one....guess I'll call my husband on his way home from work and ask him to pick up some extra ingredients. Or, there were many a day I'd forget to pull something out and decide I just wasn't in the mood to cook so let's just go out. Talk about a frustrating process!
Grocery shopping became...I'll pick up this; oh maybe we'll have this sometime this week; guess I should stock up on that; not sure when I may need some of this.

Then children came along and not only was this process frustrating to begin with, it became maddening! As anyone with children knows, suppertime is the worst time of day. The children are at melt down stage. They're hungry, whinny, clingy...you know what I'm talking about. Your husband is coming home from a long day of work and deserves a nice...or at least decent! meal and will be hungry on arrival. If you don't know what you're cooking and don't have anything prepared, life is miserable!

So, how can you avoid all this frustration? Plan a menu!!!

Menus are great. They keep you organized, less frustrated and save you money! By having a menu:

  • you know what to pull out of the freezer the night before, giving it time to defrost in the fridge.

  • the morning of, any prep work for dinner can be planned to alleviate the stress of doing everything at dinner time.

  • it allows a grocery list to be made for everything needed for the week so only one grocery run is necessary, thus avoiding wasted time running into the grocery store multiple times a week and spending extra money while there.

  • it helps in keeping a grocery budget. If a specific grocery budget is set, you can plan meals that will fit within that price range. Then, anything that is not needed for breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner is not necessary to buy. If pasta sauce is not on the list, you don't need to buy it!

  • it saves all that time in the evening flipping through cookbooks! It groups all the work to one set time a week.

So, how do I plan a menu?! Every Wednesday (I grocery shop on Thursdays) I sit down during the girls nap/quiet time, I look through my freezer, fridge and pantry first to see what I already have and need to use. Then I look through the grocery fliers and figure out what is on sale. I base my menu on what is on sale and what I already have. I jot down what I'm going to base meals off of...chicken, beef, pork, beans, lentils, etc. With this in mind, I look through my cookbooks and list a meal for every day of the week. I also keep in mind whether there will be leftovers or if we will be somewhere else for dinner. I also plan what side dishes I will serve with dinner. As I write my menu, I add things to my grocery list that I know I will need to buy.

This is my Life Planner. It is a weekly calendar. In the first column I list each day's meals. Each column after that is for: my most important tasks to accomplish each day; tasks for the AM; afternoon tasks; evening tasks. I write my grocery list on the To do List on the right side as I go along. The bottom sticky is for notes. I found this calendar at Walgreen's recently on clearance. I needed an extra dollar and change so I could use my register rewards and this was $1.25. It's been working really well! Before I found this I just used a notebook.

How do you plan your menus? Some people plan a month at a time. Does that work better for you? Any tips on menu planning that were not mentioned in this post?

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