Asian (9) Baking (29) Barbecue (3) Barley (2) Beans (8) Beef (13) Bread (9) Breakfast (12) Burger (3) Cake (8) Casserole (32) Chicken (70) Chili (8) Chocolate (9) Cookies (7) Crock Pot (15) Cupcakes (4) Dessert (21) DIY (2) Fried (14) Frosting (3) Fruit (10) Grilled (5) Ground Beef (21) Holiday (6) Italian (43) Lunch (11) Main Dish (131) Marinade (6) Meal Plan (125) Mexican (17) Miscellaneous (14) Muffins (1) Oatmeal (6) Pasta (53) Personal (13) Pie (4) Pizza (5) Pork (13) Potatoes (18) Ranch (4) Recipe Round-Up (2) Rice (10) Roasted (14) Salad (6) Sandwich (7) Sauce or Gravy (4) Sausage (17) Seasoning (8) Sides (26) Skillet (16) Slow Cooker (15) Smoothie (1) Snacks (3) SNAP Challenge 2014 (9) Soup (16) Spicy (8) Turkey (6) Vegetables (24) Wish Come True (6) Wishlist (10)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Menu for 3/4/13-3/10/13 and menu planning tips

I'd like to start off with the menu this time.  It will help you understand my process.

Breakfast- yogurt and cereal
Lunch- tuna salad with crackers
Dinner- chicken and dumplings

Breakfast- cheerios and bananas
Lunch- Nana will provide lunch
Dinner- unsure... My mom is out of town and I told my brother I would cook him a birthday dinner but he hasn't decided what he wants yet.

Breakfast- eggs and toast
Lunch- tuna salad with crackers
Dinner- baked chicken with mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and green beans

Breakfast- oatmeal with peanut butter and bananas
Lunch- grilled cheese sandwiches
Dinner- spicy sausage pasta (my new recipe of the week, a Pinterest find)

Breakfast- yogurt and strawberries
Lunch- leftover spicy sausage pasta
Dinner- hamburgers with french fries and macaroni and cheese

Breakfast- bacon, eggs, and biscuits
Lunch- leftover hamburgers
Dinner- lasagna with salad and garlic knots

Breakfast- bacon, eggs, and biscuits
Lunch- leftover lasagna
Dinner- Admiral will provide dinner

Menu planning is so hard for me!  I love food and I love to eat, but choosing what to eat can be a problem when one loves food as much as I do.  That is one reason I plan the whole month out at once.  It saves me from having to make these difficult decisions every week.  The other reason is because I only have to go grocery shopping once a month instead of every week.  Shopping with a 16 month old is draining.  We haven't had any tantrums or meltdowns in the store yet.  I'm sure those days are just around the corner.  For now Bailey sits happily in the shopping cart while I go through my list, but I know that soon she will start wanting to walk and asking for things off the shelf.  I try to limit our time in the store because even half an hour is a long time to sit in an uncomfortable shopping cart seat.

Why is meal planning important?

For my family, meal planning is important because it saves us a ton of money.  We never go to the store without a plan anymore.  I know what I am going to buy before I ever walk in the door.  I am no longer tempted by impulse items or convenience foods.  Also, because there is food in the house for every meal all month, we hardly ever have fast food anymore.  That saves us even more money.

The second reason meal planning is important for us is that Aaron and I are both indecisive.  We both do that thing that couples do where they sit around for two hours asking each other what they want for dinner but never making a choice and actually eating.  Part of the cause of this for us is that I know that what I want is not going to be the same as what he wants and vice versa, but neither of us can come up with a compromise.  With a meal plan, there is no choice to be made when it's time for dinner.  I make what is on the menu and that is that.

My favorite reason though, is that I never have to stand in front of the pantry wondering what to make for dinner.  You should hear the dialogue in my head when I try choose a recipe on the fly.

I could make chicken taco casserole.  Nope, I don't have any tortillas.  Maybe pizza?  No, I'm out of pizza sauce.  What about... No, I'm out of peas.

It's incredibly frustrating and now I don't have to do it anymore.

That is not to say that Aaron doesn't have any input on the menu.  When I make the menu I consult him and ask if everything sounds okay to him.  He rarely complains about what's for dinner because he had a chance to complain before I did the shopping.

I know most people don't limit themselves to once-a-month shopping like I do.  So to help ease you into meal planning I will give instructions for a weekly meal plan.


Grab a notebook and pencil, some recipes, and the sales ads from your grocery store.  Know what is already in your pantry and fridge.  If you have a surplus of canned tomatoes you'll want to choose recipes that utilize those.

Go through the ads and find out what kind of protein is on sale.  Protein is the base of your meal.  Even if your meal is meatless you still need protein.  Knowing what you'll get the best deal on will help you choose your recipes.  If you have your heart set on making a particular meal, but the ingredients are not on sale, you will be sacrificing your budget if you follow through with the recipe.

This week Kroger had a sale on boneless, skinless chicken breasts (buy one, get one free) and Hillshire Farms smoked sausage (2 for $5) and I had a coupon for the smoked sausage as well ($1 off 2).  They also had 16 oz blocks of Kroger brand cheese on sale (2 for $6).  The savings on these three items alone for this week's menu was $13.84.

Gather the recipes that match the sales ads.  It doesn't matter if there are way more than you need.  You will want to narrow down your choices by which recipes utilize ingredients that you already have in your pantry and fridge whenever possible.

Now, make your short list of meal possibilities.  I only cook five nights out of seven.  My mom and dad each cook dinner for us one night each week.  I choose my top eight choices from the possible recipes and then run them by Aaron.  If you cook every night, you should choose your top 10-11 choices.  Usually I settle on whichever five choices he seemed the most interested in.  Don't worry about planning which day you will eat which meal.  The menu makes everything feel very rigid, but you do have the flexibility to change which day you eat each meal.  Just be sure not to leave something very complicated for a very busy day or you'll end up running around crazy trying to get it done and won't get to eat dinner until bedtime.

Next, I decide what we will have for breakfast and lunch.  I try to keep a variety of breakfast and lunch choices in the house for Bailey.  She doesn't like to eat the same thing every day.  I also take into account which meals are large and leave leftovers that I can take advantage of.  If you don't mind having a ham sandwich every day for the whole week or you have a routine breakfast cereal that you eat each morning that is fine too.

Once you have chosen which meals you are going to cook for the week, write them down in a list.  Working on each recipe one at a time, write down every ingredient you will need for the recipe.  List every ingredient, even things like spices, even things you know you have in the pantry, even things that only call for a small amount and you're pretty sure you have some in the fridge (like butter), and even things that you've already listed for other recipes.  Don't skip anything or you may find yourself in a pickle when you are in the middle of making meatballs and realize you have no bread crumbs.

Chicken and dumplings- 2 chicken breasts, 2 cans chicken broth, 1 pack canned biscuits, flour
Baked chicken- 2 chicken breasts, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, 4 medium size potatoes, milk, butter, garlic, mayo, macaroni (velveeta), green beans

Also be sure to list your breakfast and lunch ingredients.

yogurt, cheerios, bananas, eggs, cheese, oatmeal, peanut butter, etc...

When you have listed every ingredient, take your list to your pantry and cross off any items that you already have.  Do the same thing with the fridge.  Make sure to check how much of everything that you have.  If your weekly menu will require basil check how much basil is in the jar so that you won't short yourself anything.  This process keeps you from buying duplicate items and ensures that you will not be missing any ingredients.

Chicken and dumplings- 2 chicken breasts, 2 cans chicken broth, 1 pack canned biscuits, flour
Baked chicken- 2 chicken breasts, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, 4 medium size potatoes, milk, butter, garlic, mayo, macaroni (velveeta), green beans

Now you are ready to make your final shopping list.  I like to put my list in the order I see it in the store.  I start with produce, then meat, then pantry/canned/dry goods, beverages, frozen foods, and dairy.  This makes it easier to shop because you can go through your list in order (sort of) and you're less likely to forget something and have to backtrack through the store to find it.  Make sure your list includes the quantity of each item that you need to buy.

chicken (x2)
chicken broth (x2)

You are now ready to go grocery shopping!  Congratulations!  I know it seem like a lot of meaningless steps, but I'm telling you it keeps me super organized.  I very rarely run out of anything before the end of my menu, and when I do it's because I ended up cooking for more people than expected or I had to make an extra loaf of bread and ran out of yeast.

No comments:

Post a Comment