First things first, here is this weeks menu plan…
This week I wanted to talk to you about the benefit of planning your menu a month at a time. I like to start planning well in advance of the actual start of the month but I only commit to one week at a time, with the rest of the plan being a general guide for the weeks to come. I make my plans in a word document and save each month in a folder on my desktop, this is also helpful because I can change my plans around easily or look to past months for inspiration. I always have somewhere between two and six weeks planned at any one time. I have found this approach to work well because there is very little pressure at the time I am actually making the plan, years ago I would sit down to do it the day before grocery shopping and I would always be struggling to come up with interesting meals to make.
Step 1: Start by listing out the entire month by date and day of the week, i.e. Monday October 11th. This way I can keep in mind the day of the week when planning the dinners as well as where it falls in the month.
Step 2: then go through and put an * in front of my grocery days, I go every other Wednesday, this way I can plan the meals that require very fresh ingredients close to the grocery date and items that are less likely to spoil or that come from the freezer or pantry for the end of that two week period.
Step 3: Start by going through and planning out any holidays that fall within that month and block out any days that we are going to be out of town.
Step 4: Then look to the previous month and see if anything that I already bought ingredients for got bumped from the list so that I can add those meals or at the very least make sure to include a different meal that would use the special ingredients.
Step 5: Next I consider the season and plan out my Sunday dinners; I guess I am a traditionalist in that way because I like to make something more complicated and family style when possible.
Step 6: Then I plan out each Monday to take advantage of leftovers, this is easier in the winter because I make soup but there are plenty of creative things to make in the summer as well.
Step 7: Next I plan out my Saturday night pizza, I usually make one more complicated or new flavor and one that is very basic… kind of like when you order pizza and you get a gourmet pizza coupon that includes a $5 one topping pizza with your purchase
Step 8: At this point I look at what I have already in my fridge freezer and pantry to see what I can make with those ingredients, it is easy to by food on sale with no specific meal in mind and have it sit there unused.
Step 9: Then I see what days are left and add new recipes to try or request made by others. I make an effort to vary the types of foods that we eat and keep in mind the preparation method and the amount of time that they take because preventing boredom with dinner is the best way to prevent the urge to eat out.
Step 10: When the ads come out and I am getting ready to go to the store I take a second look at the menu and see if anything needs shifting to better utilize the sale items.
Since I do cook 7 days a week and we prepare breakfast and lunch at home it is important to make things easier when possible so I do prepare some items in advance. For example this week we are having baked potatoes on Sunday so I filled my crock pot with cleaned potatoes individually wrapped in foil and I will use all of the extras to make potato soup tomorrow, having them already cooked means I can make the soup in less than 30 minutes. It sounds complicated but I find that I work best when I have a system, but I can tell you that if you are someone who dislikes cooking or organization this much planning might be overwhelming but if you are looking for a way to cook more often and keep your budget in check without trying to come up with ideas on the spot I suggest you give it a shot.
Much Love, Aislinn and Emily