Sue Hooley is the talented creator of my planner The Homemaker’s Friend, and today she is here sharing a bit more of her talent. I really don’t know how to efficiently meal plan, I’ve tried it over the years, but it always falls by the wayside… She’s got some great tips to share!
How to Efficiently Meal Plan:
Do you recognize that “exasperating hour” when the household starts to fray around the edges? Have you resorted to a frozen lump of ground beef in hopes of inspiration?
My euphoria of “ground beef stimulus” is usually short-lived as I make choices and straightway eliminate them. “Sloppy Joes- no bread.” “Taco Salad- no chips.” “Chili Soup- no beans.” At the last minute, ingredients are thrown together that do not complement each other in taste or appearance, and…
…the kitchen is a mess,
…I’m in a stress,
…and the family tries to guess-
What to eat for supper?
I haven’t always been a menu planner. In fact, I was a bit dubious when I first heard the concept. Wouldn’t it take the fun out of preparing a home-cooked meal? What if I wanted to eat pizza on the day the menu said mashed potatoes?
I soon discovered that menu planning had many benefits. In place of spending much needed brain power on “what to make for supper,” my mind was clearer to focus on other things that required my attention.
If you think about it, we are extremely repetitious in the kitchen. How many times do we grate cheese, chop onions and fry hamburger in one week? or two weeks? If menus are planned, we can look ahead to see if we will need to prepare those foods again. With little additional time and energy, we can easily double or triple those amounts and we have the convenience of eady-to-use ingredients.
There is not one perfect way to plan a menu. Sometimes I plan just one week of dinner menus. Other times I plan four weeks at a time. With the four-week method, I double recipes one week and then, have a similar menu two weeks later. Here are seven tips that make menu planning a breeze.
#1 Choose a theme to help steer you to a particular section of a recipe book. Here is an example: Monday- casserole, Tuesday- meat and potatoes, Wednesday- soup, Thursday- casserole, Friday- Italian or Mexican, Saturday- grill or CORN (clean out refrigerator night).
#2 Check your calendar for upcoming events and note on your meal planner anything that will affect your blueprint – birthdays, parent/teacher meeting, church events, youth activities… Take thought as you choose recipes so that you are not planning a time consuming meal after a full day. As things come up throughout the week, menus can be altered. Why make the family’s favorite meal on Friday evening if the teens will be at a youth gathering?
#3 Start menu-planning by looking in your freezer, refrigerator, garden and pantry. This provides you with knowledge of items on hand and may be a springboard for menu ideas.
#4 Select your recipes to be used. To make the planning process easier, use a few cookbooks and/or your own personal recipe collection at one planning session. An abundance of cookbooks and food magazines tend to bog us down with too many options.
#5 Make a shopping list at the same time you plan menus. This will save you time and money by reducing the number of trips to the store. If you know what is on the menu, you can easily take advantage of advertised sales and seasonal produce.
#6 Select a format for menu planning. Notebooks, blank month calendars and white boards are good options. The Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner has a space for menu planning. I use a month calendar when planning four weeks at a time so I can see all of the dinners at a glance. I transfer that information to my planner on a weekly basis to refresh my memory.
#7 Take note of similar recipes that could be made at the same time. For example, Cupcakes and Ice Cream Cake take many of the same ingredients, so why not make both while the fixings are out? It saves much time in clean-up and ready-made food in the freezer is like money in a savings account.
It is helpful to plan at least one meal per week that is easy to assemble, so when the unexpected occurs, you can move menus around to give you some space. Sometimes a bought pizza and ice cream sandwiches make the difference between calm and chaos. Occasionally I “plan” a store-bought meal just to get a break from cooking.
As mentioned before, there is not one perfect way to plan a menu. But with a little practice, you can change that “exasperating hour” to a “prepared hour.” Try it.
…the kitchen might still be a mess…
…but the stress will be less,
…and you won’t need to guess,
…what to fix for supper?
Kendra here again: Now that you’ve gotten an idea on how to efficiently meal plan, why not check out the Homemaker’s Friend planner?