Thursday, February 4, 2010

Menu Planning 101

I was surprised by the responses on my Facebook about my monthly menu planning endeavor. It's so funny that I know so many people who do this and so many that don't for whatever reason. I've decided to list the reasons why I do and give some resources for those who'd like to give it a try because really it's made a complete difference in the harmony here in the Kipp household.

I should explain that I used to not menu plan, that I have occasionally monthly menu planned, that now I regularly weekly menu plan, and I want to get back to monthly menu planning on a regular basis. 

Reason why I LOVE! Menu Planning
1. It really does save us tons of money, and by tons I mean some.
2. I never have to worry about "What's for dinner?"
3. I know there's always something to eat in the house
4. I waste less food and use surprisingly more fresh foods
5. It keeps us from having the same things all the time, over and over.
6. Adam can cook too if I need him to
7. I love that there's flexibility with it
8. I don't wander around the grocery store with a glazed over, glassy expression anymore

An explanation of how I menu plan:
On Sunday Afternoon during nap time I sit down with a pad of paper (or a chart that I've made a lot like some of the ones in the resources below) and will ask Adam what he would like for dinner that week. Sometimes it's like pulling teeth for us to come up with 5-6 meals sometimes they roll right off our tongues. Sometimes I don't even ask him, I know what I want. We reasonably do 5-6 meals because I never cook on Sundays and honestly we eat out way too much and will probably eat out once during the week sometime.

I take that list and make my grocery shopping list from it.

Note: Sometimes I work the other way and check out the sales flier and decide on meals based off that. Sometime I also look in my freezer and decide on meals based on what's in there too. It just depends on how lazy I am honestly.

At this point I then add all the "others" to my list: things for lunch, toilet paper, milk and other essentials, snacks, etc.

Lastly, since I'm a coupon user, I pull all the possible coupons I will use.

As I'm typing this is seems like a lot and I'll be honest sometimes it takes me a while, like 40 minutes, other times it will literally take me 10 minutes.

If I am planning for a month I try to be a little more creative. First I divide our favorites between the 4 weeks. And then here's where I get out my cookbooks. My favorite cookbook is a three ring binder filled with plastic page inserts that I stick any recipe I get from the women at church, print off the internet, or rip from a magazine. I have them separated by category (breakfast, main dish, dessert, etc) and I try to make quite a few new things. Doing this, I also rediscover many old favorites that have gotten out of rotation.

When making the grocery list for the month I try to get all the canned/boxed and frozen things I'll need for the entire month. It makes the weekly shopping that much easier. So I'll buy all the chicken broth, pasta, canned tomatoes, and frozen meatballs, etc. that I'll need.

Putting it into action
Here's how I make it work for me. I take a look every day at what's left for the week, and I'll pick what sounds good. So I don't plan each day at the beginning of the week. I know I have 5 meals and 5 days and choose each day what sounds good. Some people do it for each day, but sometimes I just don't feel like having what's for Monday on Monday or it's just not going to fit into my schedule. The flexibility in that is what makes it so much easier for me. I try to each week have at least one meal that Adam can prepare in case he should have to or want to and try to have varying degrees of difficulty for meals through the week. One from scratch, one in the crockpot, one from boxes or cans or the freezer, etc. Lastly, it's important in our house but may not be in some, that we try not to have the same type of thing more than once or twice a week. So three-four nights of Italian food won't fly at my place.

This is just the bare bones of how I accomplish my meal plan. It's taken trial and error to make it work for us. I hope that one of you might try it out and let me know how it works for you!

I'm an Organizing Junkie does Meal Planning Monday (I used to post those here, but got out of the habit)
A great article more in depth on how to meal plan
My favorite recipe website - Allrecipes.com
Printable Charts foir Meal Planning (I actually still use the second one down)

If you are a menu planner and have other great resources leave them in the comments for us! :)

1 comment:

Amber said...

Very cool. I do weekly menus and I plan each day according to what I expect will happen on that day - something easy on the day Ryan has to teach evening class, crockpot when I will be at Bible Study, etc. I also make them during naptime on Sundays and Ben and I hit WalMart every Monday around 8:30am.

I am just not creative enough to come up with the meals. Each Sunday planning session is brutal. Then, when it's done, I'm thrilled bc I know what is coming all week! And, it has helped me plan for Ben's food too. That way he isn't getting the same thing every meal.