Monthly Menu Planning

>> Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I love planning our dinner meals out in advance. I know this is not a favorite chore of most people, but I'm weird. I read cookbooks like novels, have Food Network on the t.v. most of the time, browse the 'net looking for interesting new food to make... I am Food Geek, hear me roar.

A great thing I discovered a few months ago while flipping through my Woman's Day mag was a monthly dinner menu in the back of the issue. Hmmm.... monthly? Really? Up until that point I planned weekly for sure, maybe 2 weeks out. Went to their website (where they post a grocery list to accompany the menu, if you go strictly by it) and started loking at all the menus.

What I like about using this tool, is it helps me to come up with new and interesting meal ideas. I have "Dinner ADD" - can't have the same dinner more than twice in one month. Due to all of my food issues I have also realized that if I fall into a food rut, I start eating "bad" foods. No bueno. So I use this tool as a springboard - use the meal ideas of those I like the sound of, throw out the ones that I know will crash and burn in this house. I also have set "meal-by-type" nights each week, to aid in my meal planning and to make sure we get a variety of healthy meals every week. A typical week looks like this:

Sunday: "Cook Once, Eat Twice" planned leftovers meal. Usually involves some sort of roast or crockpot meat that I can then take the extra meat from and turn it into another meal later in the week, plus freeze extra for future meals

Monday: "Meatless Monday". I am fond of alliteration, so Mondays are vegan by default

Tuesday:  "Sunday Dinner, redux" This is where I use the leftovers from Sunday

Wednesday: Vegan meal

Thursday: beef or chicken, alternated by what type of meat has already been served

Friday: beef or chicken, alternated by what type of meat has already been served

Saturday: Pork-based meal

As I'm planning out the month's meals, I post them up on my Google Calendar. (Time management techniques from my old career life taught me that keeping 1 master calendar is most effective). This allows me to see what nights are going to be busier, so that I can plan a meal that will be fast enough to accomodate that evening's activities, and special occaisons for the month to plan around that meal and generally keep track of what went over well or what didn't. If something was a hit, I will carry that over somewhere in the next month. I also try not to have a pasta meal more than once per week, for my own sanity. Here's a peek at this week's meals to give you an idea of what I am talking about:

Sunday: Easter dinner - ham, potato salad, baked beans, broccoli salad, veggies and dips, desserts

Monday: Falafel w/ dipping sauce, cucumber/tomato/onion salad, pepper-lime quinoa

Tuesday: Tex-Mex chicken/rice/black bean dish, roast yellow & green squash w/ red bell pepper (not using the leftover ham from Sunday just yet, as Jeff is not a ham fan. Also, Tuesday nights Jeff works his side gig, so we need to eat by a certain time)

Wednesday: Minestrone Soup, italian bread, salad (already made and in the freezer, just thaw and reheat. Jeff has pool and I have church)

Thursday: Spaghetti and Meatballs, salad

Friday: Oven-Fried Chicken Strips, Steamed Cauliflower, 3-Bean Salad (Jeff works side gig again, so dinner must be done by a certain time)

Saturday: BBQ Sandwiches, Baked Beans, honey-peanut slaw inspired by Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ

A side benefit to planning a month of menus is that I can search out the very best deals for the items I need to make 'em. since I have a month of menus, I also have a month's shopping list and when I see non-perishables that are on my list, I can snag them at the best price. The more groceries I buy at a rock bottom price, the more room I have in my budget for great quality meats and produce. (And other fun stuff, too!) the best benefit of all to advance meal planning?

I never stare blankly into the fridge at 6 pm - "What in the world are we having for dinner?!!"



This post is part of the tip-o-rama of Works For Me Wednesday. To see more great tips, check out We Are THAT Family


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