Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thoughts and Things Tuesday

Tuesday's post are going to be about something I do or like or found or think that I want to share with you. Today's "Thing" will be menu planning.

Ooohh, exciting.

I know. But here's the thing. I'm a busy, stay-at-home mom, trying to build a business. Anything that will help me stay organized, save me money, save me time, insure that my family gets fed- well, I'm gonna jump on that!

A few months ago I found this blog through this blog. If you have the time and/or inclination check them out. Both are informative and offer great ideas. What attracted me most was the thought of being able to reduce my grocery budget. As I researched it, it seemed like it would take me more time but I decided to give it a try. If it didn't work for me I'd move on. Well, as you can guess, I love it. We are saving money/spending less and I am saving time.

So, here are my thoughts on menu planning:

1. Make a menu plan for a month at a time. I know that seems like a lot and it even seems like a waste of time. Trust me- it helps! Take a blank calendar page and fill in the meal (I just do dinner) for every day. After getting it figured out, it only takes me an hour to do the plan.

2. Make a list of recipes. I had separate pages for one-dish meals, main dishes and sides. Put everything down that your family eats, even if it is as simple as corn or pork chops or dinner rolls. When I do my meal plan I have my recipe list beside me. I t helps me to not have to think about it too hard :) and it helps me to insure variety in our meals.

3. Think pattern. I have a pattern that I stick to to help me fill in the planks on my calendar a little faster. For example, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, my husband works and doesn't eat with us. So, on Tuesday, I have something kid-friendly and on Thursday, I have leftovers. On Saturday nights, I choose a breakfast (pancakes and bacon) for the main meal. On Mondays, I choose a 1-dish meal. Etc.

4. Don't forget your family calendar. I sit down with my family calendar and fill in appointments, holidays, birthdays, etc. on my meal plan calendar so that I know if I need to fill in a special meal or if we won't even be home for dinner.

5. Think weekly and be specific. After you have your month figured out in general, you can get more specific with each week as it approaches. As in, what kind of vegetable, do you want bread, how will you cook the chicken...

6. Make your grocery list from your plan. I do it one week at a time. I look at my plan and check off all of the food that we have in the house. Then, whatever is left, I add to the grocery list. I try to be focused and organized (and fed) when I go to the grocery store. If not, look out checking account!

There you go! I know it seems like a lot but once you get started, each successive time gets easier and quicker. And, the bonus is... except for one hour a month, I don't have to think about "what's for dinner"! Yippee!!!

Give it a try. I started out doing it a week at a time. Then I spent one afternoon combing through cook books and recipe boxes. I keep everything in one binder that I refer to often. It has been a big help to me- not to mention the money we've been saving.

Let me know what you think, check out the blogs and comment with your money/time saving ideas in the "what's for dinner" department.

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