Who wants to think about dinner when having there morning coffee, getting the kids ready for school and trying to get into the shower before they run out the door? Wait till I get home or later and then figure out what to make based on what I have, and face the dreaded dilemma: will it thaw out on time or do I need to go to the store? Not me.
I have a teenage son who loves to ask what’s for dinner. I have a husband who is a meat and potatoes guy with a good sized appetite. I have two grade schoolers who love to eat lots, if it’s something they like. So when I plan a meal every day as I go can be spendy and frustrating due to trips to the store, wasted ingredients etc… My solution? A menu! Yep, like the one we had at school as a kid, not the one at the restaurant with lots of choices (I am not a short order cook). It is a life saver and a sanity saver. I’ve read about people who plan a one month menu and am going to try it but I highly recommend starting smaller- a week. I will tell you that looking at the ads and seeing what’s on sale will save you but I don’t do that. I tend to buy in bulk so that I can shop mostly from my freezer and pantry and stock up on what’s on sale and freeze it. Mainly, I don’t know what’s going to be on sale before I make my menu. That said, let’s continue.
First get out a notepad and a pencil (yes a pencil so you can erase). Then make a list of the number of days you want to make the menu for. Now brainstorm, sip tea and think about some dinner ideas. I am doing a two-week plan right now so I’ve got lots of tea to drink 🙂 I start by thinking about some of the favorites in our house and place two for each week (list at the end of the blog).
Take a look at your dinners and think about the ingredients. I will use my first dinner as an example. It is chicken spaghetti. The ingredients are chicken, soups, spaghetti noodles, onions and cheese. If I cook up extra chicken, grate extra cheese and chop extra onions I can use the extras for chicken enchiladas the next night! I go through my menu and do that for any dinner I can. Sometimes if dinner is easy I just double a recipe and make extra to freeze for a later date.
OK. I now have 8 days left to fill. What to put in those? Think breakfast, crock pot, ethnic, new recipe to try, what’s in the pantry and needs used! Did you add a recipe or three? I am now down to 4 empty days so I go back to step one. Any shared ingredients? Yes- I am making Goulash on Sunday so I can make extra hamburger to go with? Hmm? Ah-ha: cabbage rolls! Yep, it is cabbage rolls on Monday.
But wait – I will have a lot of leftover cabbage so what to do with that? Now’s when you need the eraser! How long will cabbage stay good for? So I decide to move Thursdays dinner(breakfast actually) of French toast to another empty slot and put Polish cabbage soup in Thursdays slot. I used google to find a new recipe to don’t forget to write down where the recipe is located because having to find a specific recipe on the internet can be a major pain at times! At times I will just email myself a link with the day or recipe in the subject line. Added bonus: Polish cabbage soup uses kielbasa and so does Gumbo on the following Wednesday so I just have to buy a big pack which is usually cheaper in the long run!
Almost done only two slots left! I’ve got some dinners in the freezer but I really want to save those till I have more built up or am busier so I will cheat and make the kids super happy and go with hot dogs and mac and cheese (definitely not one of my favorites)! One day left and since I went with an easy kid meal for the kids I want to do one of my favorites: Broccoli and beef!
Now make a shopping list of what you need to buy. If it’s produce don’t buy it too soon. I tend to go shopping on Sundays so I will make my lists based on what week the food is needed.
Guess what- You did it, you made a menu! Life will be easier now (at least is seems that way to me).Sometimes the menu will seem to flow together and other times it can be challenging! To help me come up with ideas I hung up a piece of paper that my family can write their dinner ideas on it. Every now and then I add a Chef’s Choice or Fend For Yourself night on the menu. No rules just do what works for you! Something comes up? Too many leftovers? Push the menu back a day and do what needs done (top ramen, McDonald’s, leftovers for dinner, whatever) and your menu gets stretched an extra day. Not a bad thing at all. Good luck and see what you come up with!
Some of my favorite combinations are:
- Tacos and spaghetti (hamburger, tomatoes, onion)
- Roast and my Grandmas American Chinese noodles (leftover roast and super simple)
- Roast, mashed potatoes and Shepherd’s pie (meat and tators)
- Some of my favorite ways to get recipes is:
Good websites for recipes:
Feel free to comment and let me know what you think. Will you try it? How did it go? Do you do anything different?