Jun 28, 2017

Why Plan a Menu?

Photo by Andy Chilton on Unsplash

Food, glorious, food! I love the smells and tastes coming out of European pastry shops, the smells of burgers and wings during football season, and bread cooking in my mama's oven. I crave the sweet, cool, juicy bites of the summer's first cold watermelon, and the pizza from my favorite small town pizzeria back in PA! (Shout out to Roma in Pottsville!) Fancy, humble, homemade, or bought, none of that matters to me as long as it tastes good. What I don't like is how much it costs. Which brings me to the point of this post, menu planning. I've found it to be a huge help in keeping costs down, even if only so I can make sure all those wonderful leftovers and bags of produce actually get used. Tossing containers I'm afraid to open is not my idea of fun. One, I don't like wasting good food. Two, wasted food equals wasted money. Three, I'm broke. Menu planning has allowed me to add foods I otherwise couldn't afford. I can purchase things like almond flour, try a new veggie, or an inexpensive bottle of wine. Your list will be different than mine, and that's okay. To help you get started I'm including a sample week of meals and my menu planner page as we "set a spell" and get to making a menu.

Now, how to do it? I don't tend to follow conventional wisdom here. Most advice seems to be the plan first shop later variety. I tend to go overboard looking for recipes with waaaaay to many ingredients I don't have on hand, or I get there and they are out of something I need. Needless to say, my meals can be banging, but I'm broker than ever. Worse, I get tired of so much cooking and things go bad before I use them. To keep this from being a problem I look for loss leaders and coupons . Check out those grocery fliers! Now, if you are starting out or starting over, don't rush out and buy a bunch of things you can't afford. Set aside a portion of your grocery money (even if it's just 5 dollars) and slowly build up. You want a good foundation to cook with. Now, while I shop, I literally keep a little pad of paper and subtract the cost of each thing I buy from the amount I'm budgeted. (Don't forget tax.) Then I look at how much I have left, and decide if I really want it or not. It's amazing what you can leave behind when you only have $60 to feed a family of 5. My personal opinion, don't take the kids if you are stressed about money. It just makes things worse. They either see things they want or you see things you want for them. Who needs the added stress and temptation? Personally, I enjoy having them with me most of the time. It's like a mini drive with singing in the car, conversations, and even homeschool lessons like mileage, nutrition, advertising, and the 's' word..... socialization! Whatever you do, don't get in a hurry, don't go hungry, and don't be afraid to change your mind once you get there. It's inevitable you will find better deals, or have new ideas based on what's available. Just go with it.

Photo by Andrei Bocan on Unsplash

Now that you're home and the groceries are put away and it's quiet. Take it! Grab it! Hold onto it for a few precious moments and don't let go! Enjoy a cup of coffee and small snack. Once ready get your receipts and go over what you bought. Write down on scratch paper the meals you want to cook. Don't get caught up here like I used to. You know your family. Do the meals that work for you and your schedule. Boredom hits hard very easily during meal times and it can be tempting to write down recipes you just realistically won't make, but seem amazing at the time. Menu planning allows us to get creative not just with our food, but also with our time. Time is my favorite perk, it allows me to include the kids in the cooking process. (I have a budding ramen expert, a baker in training, and a tea maker (because even though I taught him how, he makes it better...sigh.)  You can also have certain nights set aside for different types of meals. As a Catholic I still try to eat fish on Friday. The only other things I hold fast to is 3 vegetarian meals through the week (one each of breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and to have something a little extra on Sunday so my kids can look forward to it the way I did. Lots of people add a taco, soup, or slow cooker night as well. It just depends on how organized and detailed you want to be. I sometimes prep as I put away groceries by separating main ingredients (think value sized meats) into the amounts that will be used in a meal. Other times I know I'll have to do some more detailed prep for example, a huge ham cooked, separated into slices, cubes, and the bone set aside for beans or greens. I take all that into account. Getting the heat required prep out of the way as soon as possible during the summer heat and in the winter I bake more so I do those during the day to help warm the house. If you don't want to plan for a full week, start by planning a couple of days, or even just a few meals. Anything you do today that you weren't doing yesterday is a step in the right direction. Keep it sane. Keep it simple. Stressing about it doesn't help, so play with it until you get the hang of it and bask in the delight of good food making your home smell amazing, your family healthier, and your budget happier.

Download my menu planning page here.

Sample Menu
  1. Sausage biscuits, fruit
  2. grits, fruit
  3. biscuits n' gravy
  4. pancakes
  5. oatmeal
  6. sausage biscuits
  7. (Sunday fast)
  1. baked potatoes
  2. sandwiches, carrot sticks
  3. left overs
  4. BLT's, celery
  5. fried rice
  6. Grilled cheese
  7. bean burritos
  1. pasta Alfredo with ham, green beans
  2. potato soup, salad
  3. greens, beans, cornbread
  4. leftovers
  5. baked tilapia, peas, corn on the cob
  6. pancakes, bacon, fruit
  7. stew, rice. salad
  1. carrot sticks and ranch 
  2. celery and peanut butter 
  3. fruit 
  4. brownies
  1. milk
  2. hot tea
  3. sweet tea
  4. coffee
  5. water
  6. juice 

No comments:

Post a Comment