Saturday, October 25, 2008

What 's For Dinner - Menu Planning



Allposters



I decided to talk about menu planning this weekend because this is one area I need lots of help in! First of all, menu planning is simply planning out what you're going to eat for a given time period. Some people do one week, others 2 weeks, some a month and I'm sure there are some really organized people out there that do a 3 month plan! Sometimes I'm really good about it and plan out the week but lots of times (like the past few weeks) it's more like take something out of the freezer the night before or that morning for dinner.



Why is menu planning good? Why is it important to spend time doing this in the first place. Well it saves you money for one thing! If you know what you're going to eat the chances of you eating out or getting take-out are less and it allows you to use up what you have. It also saves you time in that you don't have to scramble to come up with something to cook. I know that it's a good thing and I still can't make myself do it consistently. This is one area I'm really not doing such a good job...



I think it's because I don't really like to cook. I love to bake! I could bake every day and I like to cook when I feel like. But to have to do it every night and on the weekends lunch too...UGH is all I can say! Sometimes I feel my life revolves around food. What to buy, how much to spend, what to cook, what not to eat because I'm trying to loose weight - sometimes I'd just like to have a break from thinking about food and that's when we eat out or my husband grills! But of course eating out is so expensive so that's a rare option!



There are a couple of ways you can approach menu planning. You can plan your meals either from your pantry or plan from weekly sales. Planning from sales means that you take your grocery stores' flyers, see what on sale and most people will plan around what protein is on sale. So if chicken breasts and pork chops are on sale then that's basically what you'll be having for dinner that week.



Planning from my pantry means I shop my pantry and decide what to make. Since I grocery shop mostly to replenish my pantry, almost everything I make is made with something that's already been bought on sale. You should also look at your family's schedule when planning. I have a general idea of at least the kind of cooking I will be doing during the week. For example, every Friday night is family movie night. It's the only time we eat dinner in front of the TV so I usually make finger foods like chicken fingers & fries, or hot dogs, something that's not messy to eat off a TV tray. Saturday's I know is our busiest day so I usually plan on a crock-pot meal or something that can be made quickly like stir-fry. Sundays is a more relaxed day and I usually make a more complicated meal or try something new since I know I have more time at home.



Some people will need to plan 3 meals a day and some will only need to do their most important meal, be it dinner or lunch. Some people like to have a specific menu for each day and I've tried that. The only problem I've found is that it's not very flexible should something crop up or maybe I just don't feel like spaghetti that day but that's what I have scheduled to cook.



Some use a more flexible schedule where you have a list of meals for say two weeks but they're not assigned to a specific day. You cross off that meal from your list when you make it. As with most things, you have to find a system that works for you!



I found this site that looks like it would be very helpful. She has Menu Plan Mondays and it looks like hundreds of people participate! She also lists her recipes for the week so it's a great place to get some fresh ideas and see other's menus for the week.

I'm sitting down tomorrow and making a menu plan for the week. Do you plan out your meals for the week?



33 comments:

Sue said...

Hi Manuela...I am a menu planner for sure. I'm on a food budget (which drives me crazy) but every week on thursday I get the Publix flyer and see what's on sale that week. I plan meals for 6 nights including lunch, the extra day is either for left overs or pizza... I coupon hunt on Saturday and Sunday mornings I shop with list, coupons and don't laugh....my calculater. I very rarely go over my $100. week budget. We eat very well and I do splurge once or twice a month on two good steaks...It really does save money to know what your cooking before shopping. There is always wiggle room for those unexpected "buy one get one" bargains....I never buy in bulk and never shop at those wholesale clubs. I have found that Walmart is great for canned items and certain other things. I still won't buy meat there....

Rhonda in OK said...

I try the weekly plan and sometimes I stick right to it but sometimes I vary completely from the plan.

I stick to my plan better when my week is really busy.
When I have more time at home, I tend to start thinking of recipes that sound better to me than the menu plan.

Most of the time, I keep my kitchen stocked like Amy Dacyczyn's pantry principle. So there is almost always something on hand for meals.

Menu planning is essential for me when we have houseguests. I may not end up cooking everything on the menu but I like having a plan and everything on hand.

Even though we homemakers have lots in common, our daily lives are very different. I love reading all the menu plans on orgmom and get good ideas there but I end up cooking what suits me and my household the best.

Darlene said...

I am HORRIBLE with meal planning and always have been!

Shoulda been a belle... said...

Hi! What a timely topic, as I was just working on my very first meal "plan" to be implemented starting on Monday. In addition to being restrained by a verrrry tight budget, we are trying to incorporate a cleaner way of eating AND I am trying to lose quite a bit of weight. Plus, I am just learning how to cook - so a lot of stuff around the kitchen is still foreign to me.

I'll be posting my menu for the week on my blog every Sunday {starting tomorrow} so stop by and check it out! I LOVE to read other people's menu plans and see what great ideas they have that I can incorporate into mine.

Love your blog!
Charity

glorv1 said...

Hi Manuela...You know I don't plan meals. After my husband leaves for work, my mind in between other things is thinking of what I am going to be making for dinner. I have a full bedroom next to the kitchen that I have converted to a walk in pantry and have everything under the sun in there. There is also a freezer out in the garage that is jam packed, sometimes I feel guilty about that. I just wing it and hope for the best. But your way would be a new way for me and I'm willing to try new things. I might consider this. Thank you...Gloria

salmagundi said...

I'm not really a menu planner. I basically buy groceries for a month - I have a big freezer and am very frugal when shopping. After doing this for 50 years, I know pretty well what I need in my pantry and freezer to cook what we need and like for the month. I still cook for 4 those things that freeze well, even though there are just the 2 of us. So, when I don't want to cook there is always something in the freezer to eat. This method has worked for us for years, and I spend a lot less per month than my 94-year old mother in law!!! Sally

Lady Katherine said...

I think that making a menu up for a week or two is great, When I make one, we always have a lot left in pantry. but if hubby goes to store without my list. We starve. Well we are doing a lot of premade food, to give him and me some independence! Need for us both. I love to see you make up a grocery or pantry list and your menu. That would be fun. If we kept in a journal, we could fall back one it, instead of me forgetting to make him a list. I have been looking around yours and some other blogs on past post, its been fun.

Bluebirdy said...

Dear Manuela, What a treasure and a beauty your blog is! I am just starting one about loving to be a homemaker at http://kindaretro.blogspot.com and I COULD LEARN SO MUCH FROM YOU! Would you mind if i list your blotg in my retro blog list? If so just let me know. I am a menu planner for sure, but I am also a meal freezer, making triple batches of a dish and freezing the other 2 batches so that I don't have to cook 3 times a day every day. Some even do once a month cooking, and spend about 4 hours cooking enough entrees for a month of dinners, then add some fresh ingredients at the last minute after they have been cooked. Sure simplifies life. I also advocate buying in bulk and dividing into usable portions, storing food, and owning a big freezer. It is so much more cost-efficient and time efficient. I will visit often! Isn't it great choosing to be a homemaker??
Blessings,
Sheila/Bluebirdy

Mimi Sue said...

I used to be better at menu planning. Now that there's just the 2 of us it's a lot less stressful. Sometimes it's popcorn for dinner cause that's what we feel like. Mimi

Debbie said...

Meal planning is something that I'm trying to be more consistent at also. I try to plan for two weeks. I try to plan some quick meals, along with more involved meals. When something comes up, and things get crazy, I use the quick meal. I plan mostly from my pantry. When I want a change, then I look at my cookbooks or go on line to find something different.Then shop intentionally.
All of your project are so inspiring to me. Your tassel project was so cute, I had to make one, only I couldn't find the right kind of shaker. So I found an alternative, and still had the fun of making a quick, elegant tassel. I wrote about it on my blog. Thank you for the inspiration.
Debbie

M.L. @ The House of Whimsy said...

I sure enjoyed catching up on your Site tonight. SO impressed with the harlequin planters you covered and the twig arrangements! Also, I love the candle sticks you painted black and the beautiful job you did on the bookcases. Very nice! : )
Mary Lou

Suzann @ Lavender and Roses said...

I'm a crazy menu planner. But, often times the menu gets thrown aside for a spontaneous meal (per hubby's request) and it makes me crazy. But, I like everything to be just so and throwing a wrench in my plans doesn't quite work for me. LOL.
But, if i don't plan, I would buy crazy stuff at the store for sure. LOL.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I enjoy baking far more than cooking as well, which may be why I've resisted menu planning for so many years. Every day I feel that same anxiety...what's for dinner? So this post is nudging me in the right direction. Now I'm going to read what your commenters have said for more info. Thanks!

Storybook Woods said...

Well this is an area, I found out I am weird. Planning ahead does not save me money. Quite the opposite, I always spend much more money when I make menus. But then I love to cook. So as long as I know I have a bit of meat, some veggies and a pantry full of interesting thing. I can come up with a yummy, interesting meal. Love Clarice-who would love to cook for you

Victoria said...

I have have starting writing out a menu for 2 weeks worth of meals and posting it on the fridge. Every time I make one I cross it off the list. This has helped organize me and ground me. When I start thinking about supper I go to the list and it's nice to know that everything I need to prepare the meal is in the pantry!

It's also nice because I usually give hubs a choice in the morning about what to eat so I can just read off the list instead of standing in front of the pantry for 15 min while trying to remember what all we have!

I look forward to seeing your menu and ideas!

She'sSewPretty said...

I grumble about this all the time. I think it is why we out too often too. I need to sit down and make a menu. I told my hubby that I've been doing this for 25 years and I'm ready to turn the menu planning over to someone else. I'll have to check out that website.

sheila from life @ #17 said...

I have to say I plan more than I do not...I could be better...

Elizabeth G. said...

First of all, thank you very much for addressing a topic that I myself need to work on a little more. Second, I am grateful for the link. I am going to sit down today and work on becoming more organized about the week's meals and grocery shopping (I tend to drop by the store everyday - isn't that awful?)

Thanks for stopping by my blog!
Blessings,
Elizabeth

Lyn said...

This is not a strength of mine as I tend to decide what to make the day of cooking. I don't think I can have a set meal plan without flexibility, so when I do plan I try to keep it loose that way.

You are so right though that is saves money! It can really help to utilize those items that get lost in the fridge before they end up looking like a science project. :)

Katie @ makingthishome.com said...

Oh I like the picture of the woman rolling up her sleeves! Since our German appliances are so small, we really have to think about what foods to buy based on what we want to eat. So I guess it's forced planning!

Thank you for visiting me at www.makingthishome.com the other day so that I could find you! The pictures on your blog are really great--I love all the different sources to accompany your words.
Katie

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

I'm terrible at menu planning & have never done a good job of that for too long. I do buy my meats on sale & keep the freezer stocked up with chicken breasts, pork & beef roats, etc., so there is always meat around. I tend to rotate and have a meat with sides one night and chili or soup the next night and then something else the next night. I hardly ever plan ahead. I just tend to keep cooking the same things for the most part & just rotate everything every couple of weeks or so. I do throw in a new side dish or soup here & there when I find something new that sounds good. So far that's working pretty good for me. I think we get by pretty well on shopping the weekly grocery sales & buying meat on sale.

Virginia said...

Wow, what a timely post! I was sitting here this morning thinking that I have fallen off the menu planning wagon the last week or so and need to get back on. It's important for me, because our son has developed a milk allergy/intolerance, and if I don't plan ahead the only quick and easy menus I have all include cream of something soups! OK, off I go to the land of notebook paper, pantry shopping and Sunday sales circulars! ;>

Kathleen Grace said...

You're right that planning saves money. I havent been doing it lately, just shopping the sales and couponing and working with what I have. Seems to be working for me right now. We focus on filling the large pantry and freezer with things we like and then we always have the ingredients we need.

Rachel and Jacob said...

helpful post. i alwas plan.. and rarely follow :( i dont do well... but I wish to do well!! hah

Linda's Blue Gate said...

I sort of kind of plan by the week..... BUt my husband just told me this weekend he is going to semi retire next year.... so I am going to be counting on all your wonderful ideas..... to help me save money..... should have been worried about that for a long time.... but I am NOW.....
HUgs
Linda

Lura said...

Hi. I found your blog tonight and I just want you to know how much I've enjoyed it so far. I went back and read every post (or at least skimmed them). I started saving so many things that I liked, that I just went ahead and added you to my blogroll. Thank you for all of your common sense ideas and the inspiration to do the best with what I have!

Busy Bee said...

I try to plan my menus about a week or two ahead, but if I plan farther than that, what sounds good right now, might not sound good to me in 3 weeks! I always have meat in the freezer and lots to choose from in my pantry and food storage, so a good meal is always on hand! I enjoy your blog!
Stephanie

ShabbyInTheCity said...

Wow you are up early too! I have a headache still!
Come plan my meals for me :)

mrsjones6 said...

We have been menu planning for several years now and quite honestly I'm not sure I could go without it! It started out as a necessity as Audley was only paid twice a month and I was spending a fortune running to and from the grocery store throughout the month. Now, I plan for one week at a time and a back-up meal in case our plans change.

I gather ideas throughout the week for the family, magazines, my cookbooks and even food network. I keep a running list of these and add one or two things a week to our fairly basic dinner menu. I make a complete list before I shop for groceries (sometimes checking to see what is on sale or what I have coupons for) and then I check and see what I already have on hand and remove it from the list.

I try to plan crock pot meals for those days when we are on the go and also look at what all is on our calender for the week. If we are eating late, I will plan a light dinner, or if nothing is on the schedule I'll go all out. If Audley is out of town, I might plan something a really easy (as simple as hamburger helper) just so the kids can cook dinner.

I also save all of our menus in a 3-ring binder so that I can look back and see that I am keeping plenty of variety in our dinners.

Hope you have a great week!
Jen

Ruth Welter said...

Hi Manuela, yes, we do plan meals in our house. Actually, I should say my husband Chris does as he is the cook in our family. I make a dish for dinner only about once a week or so.

He sits down with me once a week and asks what I would like, what he is thinking of making etc and then does the food shopping from there.

This is done on a weekly basis. We like very much to eat out as well and I would say we do so about 2 times a week on average.

We are flexible with the week's food as well, so if we don't feel like that pasta one night, we can have it the next. It also lets me plan, if he is busy and cannot cook, then that is the day or days I know I will be doing the cooking because it will make his life easier. We've been doing it this way for years and it seems to work out most of the time, with planning meals this way.

Ruth

Bristol said...

Hi Manuela~ I thought about you the other day to whether you started another blog and I saw a link on another blog. Hope all is well. Your new blog is lovely. Have a great week.
Bristol

Paula said...

Dear Manuela,

I am not very good at menu planning, but I will try to have an idea what I will cook and bake for at least two days. I order grass-fed lamb and fish once a month and keep my freezer stocked. I also try to keep my pantry stocked with the basics and buy fresh produce every week. I like the idea of shopping from your own pantry. I love to cook and bake from scratch and I find that has always saved a lot of money. We also eat all the leftovers, nothing goes to waste.

Thank you for sharing this!
Have a lovely week. I hope this one is better than last week!
Paula

ellie said...

yes..I'm a menu planner. I usually (i didn't do it this weekend) because I worked 2 weeks straight and we went to the pumpkin patch and then didn't get a pumpkin..I did not want to spend 20 dollars for one pumpkin..and I have two girls. Anyways..i usually sit down on Sundays and read the paper and then clip coupons and then go through the flyer to see what's on sale and plan my menu for the week. If we have Soccer practice that night I plan something simple like mac and cheese and hot dogs. It works for me...I know I save money that way..it just time consuming.