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Monday, March 7, 2011

One Year to a {More} Organized Life, Week Ten

Menu Planning

I used to be opposed to the idea of menu planning. I did not at all like the idea of being tied down and commited to a list of meals. Where is the creativity in that?

But I have learned that to be planless is not license to creativity, but rather license to chaos.

If there is no meal plan, there is no rhyme or reason to grocery shopping. Trips to the store are far too frequent. Money is wasted on last minute purchases. The grocery store becomes a dreaded place.

If there is no meal plan, the temptation to eat out or bring home fast food is given into far too frequently. Money falls like sand through the fingers with every order placed. The family's health is compromised with every burger eaten.

If there is a plan mapped out, there is one scheduled trip to the store. All ingredients are purchased on that day (unless you're like me, and forget them, even when they're on your list), and the temptation to eat fast food is much easier to turn down.

But sometimes, actually planning a menu can be overwhelming. Here's how I generally plan a weekly menu (or try to, when I don't save it all for the very last minute, when I should be heading out the door)...

1. Check Inventory:

I look through my freezer, refridgerator, and pantries and make a list of the major things I already have on hand. I do not list spices and the main cooking staples, like flour or sugar... just the main bulk items of a meal. This would include meats, dairy products, dry pastas, eggs, produce, canned goods, etc.

2. Check Sales/Coupons:

After checking what I already have on hand, I scan through the grocery ads to see what is one sale. I try to find items that fill in the gaps with what I already have on hand. For example, if I have pasta on hand, I'll look for items that would complete a pasta meal... spaghetti sauce, italian sausage, ricotta or cottage cheese, etc.

I also like to check out Money Saving Mom to quickly find the good deals at my Kroger store for that week. Sometimes there are items which I can get for free or a little of nothing that I don't nessecarily need to complete a meal with what's on hand, but at the price, it's a good time to stock up.

Cassie, from Pursuing Godliness, also recently introduced me to Soutern Saver, another great site to find good grocery deals. I like the way they have their grocery deals listed.

I am not a big time couponer. I do not clip every coupon I come across. I do not gather as many coupons as I can find for one particular item. I just like to keep my eyes on the deal websites and print or clip the coupons I need to create the deal. I would love to get the savings of a die hard couponer, but I just don't have the time for all the work it takes. Maybe when the rest of my life is organized. BAhahahahahaha!

3. Write out the menu:

Once my investigating is done, I have a pretty good idea of what meals I can make out of all that I found. I then assign which meals are for which days, loosely based on this theme schedule (changes with every school quarter). The schedule below is just for dinners. I don't really plan breakfast and lunch too much, other than make sure we have stuff on hand.

Monday (Aaron's school night): Fast and easy
Tuesday (Aaron home): Meat as the main course (or a main ingredient in a dish)
Wednesday (Aaron's school night): Fast and easy
Thursday (Aaron's school night): Fast and easy
Friday (Aaron home): Something new
Saturday: Leftovers, stir fry, or pantry pickin's
Sunday: Crockpot meal

Worksheets to Make the Process Easier

Of course, I have nifty little papers to use for this process.

There are, of course, a LOT of neat menu list options... Google reveals more than you'd ever want. So, if these do not fit you, you might search for some others.

This week's assignment is begin a menu making system. As the weeks go on, revise it to your needs and make it your own. If you already have a system going, share with us. You rmethod may just inspire someone else.

Continue working through your routine. I am finding that I need to focus on just a little at a time. As I get the morning routine going smoothly, I'll begin to add in the afternoon and evening. Taking it small is the only way this is going to work for me. And thats ok. We have a entire year, after all, to make changes.


  1. I swear meal planning is the bane of my existence....I never really did it before but since have become three instead of two my time has gotten less and less so I need to plan more and this is one of my 'goals' for the year and let me tell you, it is March, and I still haven't figured out the best way to do this.....and now to make it even harder I've started Weight Watchers (again) and can't rely on all my previous 'go to' meals....calgon, take me away!

  2. Menu planning is the ONLY way we will eat at home or eat somewhat healthy. If I don't have a menu, I find myself fixing nuggets or mac n cheese for the kids & I end up eating a PB&J....or we just go pick something up.

    It takes me FOREVER to set a menu because I'm not the best cook but it is sooo worth it.

    I used to be a big couponer but after having my 2nd, I just couldn't find the time to make it happen with my husband being out of town 4 days a week. It was quite a shock when my stockpile of toiletries ran out & I had to pay full price for makeup & toothpaste. I was feeling super guilty when I ran across a website that I thought had a brilliant idea for someone like me.

    Have you heard of the "30 Meals" plan?

    Basically you pick out 30 of your basic go-to meals. You put them all together, make a master list of ingredients & then keep your pantry stocked with those items so that you can make any one of those 30 meals at any given time. The most brilliant part of this for me was that then I only had to look for coupons for those items. I didn't worry about cutting all the coupons or even going through & cutting what I thought might make a good deal. Just stick to the ingredients on your master list. If you find coupons for those items.....bonus! Makes couponing, grocery shopping, menu planning & spontaneous meal making so much easier.

    Anyway, just thought I would share in case anyone was interested.