Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Menu Planning 101

This may seem pretty basic indeed, but for me it took several years and adding many, many babies to my family to realize how helpful it is to plan a simple menu for at least a week at a time.  I've shared before how just a one conversation with my husband about what was important to him began a revolution in how I plan and cook meals for our family.  The next big step for me was planning a menu for all three meals per day and snacks too for a week or more at a time.

I personally like to plan meals for at least two weeks at a time.  This way, I can shop for non-perishables ahead of time and then I can also look to the menu with confidence when thinking about the week.  I have a nice little magnetized dry-erase menu (pictured above) on my fridge, and every week I write in breakfast, lunch and dinner so that everyone in the family can see what is for each meal.  They still do come and ask me "what's for dinner, breakfast, lunch....?" But the menu is there so everyone can see it.  I like having a menu plan because it also helps the children to see what the items I have bought are for.  Last year I stopped buying packaged and processed snacks to have in the house.  They were for the most part not that healthful, plus they cost quite a bit of money when you add things up.  So the fruits and vegetables we have in abundance in our kitchen are for the taking whenever anyone may need a snack.  Other than that, most items are for a specific meal, and the children have learned (for the most part) to leave those things in the pantry, fridge or freezer.  

Here are some tips that may help you in planning your own menu:
  • Make a list of your family's favorite meals.  These are the things they like so much that repeating them once a week or so won't bother them.  Include lunches and breakfasts as well as dinners.
  • Make a list of easy meals you can throw together fairly quickly.
  • Refer to your list of meals you may have in your freezer ready to be used (if any)
  • Pull out a blank calendar, or even just make a list down a page with each date and then B, L, and D down the page so you can fill in what you will have for each meal of the day.  If you prefer, at least just plan your dinners.  I really do like to have each meal planned.  I think in general it helps make the house run more smoothly, and it keeps us from needing to resort to fast food or pizza so much.  :)
  • Fill in the favorite meals a few times in the month or over your two week period for which you are planning. Try to have your schedule for the time period for which you are planning nearby, so you can plan a simple meal or plan to take something out of the freezer on days when you may not have as much time.  If you want to make several times a recipe, plan to do that a few times throughout the month on days when you have more time to spend in the kitchen.
  • If you want to try new recipes, plan these according to your schedule (easy or complicated)
  • Either post the month's menu plan in a spot where your family can see it, or at least post a week at a time.
  • Use your menu to plan your weekly shopping trip!  If you have a plan, you will be a lot less likely to have to run to the store many times throughout the week, so you will save money in the long run, and you will have what you need for all the meals for a week or two so you can be flexible!
  • BE FLEXIBLE!!  This is a theme in the life of a homeschooling mom (or any mom really, for that matter)!  The menu is your tool to help you not panic when it comes to meal times in your home.  If you have a plan and have shopped for at least a week's worth of meals, then you can flex as necessary and switch things around as life shifts and throws its curves at you!  
"She is like merchant ships; 
She brings her food from afar.
She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household 
And portions to her maidens..."
Proverbs 31:14-15

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