“How do you go about menu planning“? This is a question I hear quite often from StoneGable readers. And, “You are so organized” or “I could never do that”.
I have been menu planning for years and now it is just second nature to me. I menu plan because I am NOT organized by nature and if I waited till the last minute to decide on dinner, we would be eating take out…every night!
Menu planning is not rocket science. Do what works for you. I’m not perfect at it, and sometimes I fall off the menu planning wagon. Oh well! I just get back on track.
Menu planning take time. And thought. And a little effort. But in the long run I think it saves time and you are not trying to think up a dinner at the last minute and the effort is so worth it!
Here’s BASICALLY how I do it. There are so many methods. Just make one your own!
Pick a day to plan your menu: Put it on the calendar. Make a date with yourself to menu plan. Pick a time that is right for you. I spend time in the early morning to menu plan. If you can’t do this in 1 sitting, break it up into a couple of sessions. Let’s say, plan Monday through Wednesday one day and Thursday through Sunday another.
Have resorces handy: Know what is in your freezer, refrigerator and pantry. I have a list of what is in my freezer. Have cookbooks out, recipe cards in front of you and your favorite internet food haunts pulled up. If you like to shop the sales have your grocery store circulars out in front of you too. Take advantage of sales, menu planning is a great money saver!
Get comfortable: Have on some motivating music, get a drink and a little healthy snack while you plan. Planning always makes me hungry so I eat an apple with peanut butter while I plan.
No distractions: I don’t take phone callsor watch TV when I am menu planning. I give it my full attention and get it done!
Write It Down: Before I started blogging I wrote what I would have for dinner in my planner/calendar right on the date. Now I write my weekly menu as a post. When I first started menu planning I wote it on a piece of loose leaf notebook paper. I wrote each day of the week down the left side of my paper, leaving space to fill in the menu.
Make a skeleton menu: I look at my schedule for the week coming up and if I know that I am going to be out of the house all day on Tuesday, then I plan a slow cooker meal. I start by writing slow cooker next to Tuesday. If I know that on Saturday we are having company I know to plan a meal that is company worthy, and write company’s coming next to Saturday. I try not to serve the same protien several days in a row. I will write Monday-fish, Tuesday-Chicken, Wednesday- beef, Thursday-chicken, Friday-out, Saturday-pork, Sunday-soup.
Fill in your menu: Once I know the protien or main dish I am making I look for recipes in those categories. I love to cook so I like to make new recipes. Many menu planners get a repetoire of 20-30 menus and rotate them. Once you have found a recipe you would like to make, be sure to write down where it came from so you don’t forget and spend way too much time looking through all of your cookbooks to find it. That defeats the purpose..and you. Ialso like to use those tiny post-it flags on the cookbook page. Write down every course you will be making and eating.
Make a grocery list: While you have the recipe right in front of you, make a grocery list.
Stick To It: A menu plan is only as good as you are at using it! Make what is on your menu plan. Look at your menu plan the day before and take out any frozen foods that need to be thawed. If you have extra time, some prep work can be done the night before. Now that being said, don’t be a slave to your plan. It is not a contest and you don’t get a grade- it is a tool to help you. If you get invited to a marvelous last minute dinner in your honor, don’t decline because you must make that coc a vin! Go and have fun! Eat the fancy chicken in wine another night.
Recycle Menus: Most of us have about 20 recipes we make often. Use them as the base of your menus and expand from there. Add 1 new recipe every week or two. Try a recipe from a blogger (how about me!). Eat what you love!
Have fun and be adventurous: You can make cooking fun- Learning something new is always fun. Try something you would normally never make. If it flops there is always plan B- take out pizza!
Give yourself grace: This is not something you need to do “right” or “perfect”. Just do it, and let it evolve. You will find your way! Laugh at your mistakes and give yourself a little pat on the back for your victories!
Start this week: Starting is sometimes the hardest thing! You CAN do it! Just do it!
What are your best menu planning tips? Leave a comment with some advice for all of us!
StoneGable Weekly Menu:
I’m out to dinner , but my boys are home
Grilled Turkey Sausages
Peas and Carrots ( I only cook peas when I don’t have to eat them)
Fettuccine With Creamy Spinach Sauce
Recipe: Fettucine With Creamy Spinach Sauce
12 oz fettucine
1 TBS olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
4 cups fresh cleaned spinach
2 cans crushed tomatoes, italian if prefered
1 cup ricotta cheese, pureed in the blender
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
Cook feffucine according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid, keep warm.
Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add spinach, tomatoes, and salt. Cook stirring frequently until spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add fettuccine and 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid and ricotta cheese. Cook tossing fettucine until heated through. Add extra liquid if necessary to make the sauce creamy. Sprinkle with nutmeg. I also add shaved parmesan cheese.
Wednesday: Slow Cooker Day
Southwest Steak Tacos
Shredded Iceburg Lettuce with Chunky tomatoes and onions
Recipe: Southwest Steak Tacos
1 lb flank steak
1 cup pale ale ( I have a stout beer)
Juice from 1/2 orange
Juice from a lime
salt and pepper
8 (6 inch) flour tortilla
Combine steak, ale, orange juice, salt and pepper, in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or 4-5 on high.
At the end of cooking time, transfer steak to cutting board and shred with 2 forks. Discard all but 4 TBS cooking liquid. Add shredded steak and mix.
Soften tortillas and top each with steak. Roll up and top with salsa and sour cream.
Provolone and Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Roasted Asparagus with Cheddar Cheese
Recipe: Provolove and Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts
I was looking for a chicken dish that would be healthy and easy. This recipe looked so very good to me!
Click HERE for this yummy recipe.
Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda
Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Aioli
Recipe :Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda
This recipe is from Giada De Laurentil and is packed with flavors I love! I will serve it over a small bed or orzo. Click HERE to see this recipe.
Out to dinner- Family Gathering
Sunday: Soup Day
Beef Barley Soup
Recipe: Beef Barley Soup
1 large soup bone with meat
1 1/2 lbs stew beef
1 onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
3/4 cup barley
1 bay leaf
6 cups good beef broth
salt and pepper
Put all ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
~ A very special thank you to Gypsy Purple for featuring me in a post this weekend! Gypsy Purple is a beautiful blog and I am so honored to be among some stunning and creative blogs she highlighted. Please go visit GYPSY PURPLE for a delightful visit full of inspiration!
Look for these upcoming posts and have a blessed week!