Friday, November 4, 2011

Menu Mania: Part 2

Menu Mania Part 2

When it comes to creating a menu plan, there are a few things you should know.

First…I’m no expert! There’s really no right or wrong way to create one. The IMPORTANT thing though, is that you just DO IT! Not only will it save you from pulling your hair out when that 4:30 after school/dinner time witching hour rolls around, but it will save you lots of $$$ and hours of time in the kitchen. Hours that you COULD be spending on more important things…like oolgling your next craft inspiration on Pinterest! Or, you know…playing games with your Littles. Whatever……

(And speaking of littles…here are mine just before heading out the door Halloween eve. Oh, I DIE they are so cute! )


Wait…what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Menus. Continuing on…

So, let’s get down to it. Here is the play by play of my weekly menu planning process.

check, check, check First, I check my husband’s work schedule. Nothing is worse than slaving away in the kitchen, ready to welcome my beloved home with a big hug and delicious dinner…only to find out (much too late) that he was on-call at the hospital and wouldn’t be home for dinner at all. I’ll be honest…if the hubs won’t be home to eat it…I usually won’t cook it. Instead, I usually plan a big dinner (as in, something that makes a LOT) the night BEFORE, so there will be leftovers Miles and I can eat when Mike is working.

Next, I look at the rest of our calendar. Are there any special occasions that might warrant a special meal? Are we having guests over for dinner sometime that week? Are we attending any functions where dinner will be provided, or do I need to plan for a potluck? If so, I make a note of it on my menu planner so I can keep it in mind as I select my meals.

The NEXT thing I check is the weather forecast. I know I know…it sounds a little strange. Now that it’s fall and winter is fast approaching, it’s not really an issue. (It’s always COLD!) But trust me when I say planning a week full of new recipes you want to try out on the Grill, only to have it be rainy and miserable the ENTIRE TIME, is a TOTAL BUMMER!! Lesson learned.

The LAST thing I check before starting my meal search is the weekly grocery sale circulars. Planning my menus around items that are on sale each week (or items I stocked up on previous weeks) has really saved our family mucho $$$. For instance, last week Haas avocados were advertized at their lowest price of the season. (I don’t usually buy them, because they are pretty spendy!) So for dinner I planned Chicken Tortilla Soup, Club Sandwiches, and Taco Salad…all meals that used avocadoes. Many of the other ingredients for the meals (like the chicken and beef, canned tomatoes, chicken stock, etc) were things I had stocked up on from a previous weeks sale and already had in the pantry. (Which REALLY helped my bottom line at the grocery store.)

Then all that money I saved gets put into a special account for me to spend on pedicures, and massages, and just pampering in general! (Okay, not really. But wouldn’t that be AWESOME!!!)

Whew! It sounds like a lot of work when it’s all written out like that. But really, its not. The whole process takes me maybe 15 minutes. Now that all our checking is out of the way, we are FINALLY ready to start picking out our meals.

What's For Dinner Now THIS is the fun part!

There are so many AMAZING sources out there to go to for yummy meals for my family. Here are a few of my favorites:

thumbnail sisters cafeMels kitchen

(Click pictures to be taken to the website)

Those are my three go-to sites for great, yummy, tried and true recipes that never disappoint. But there are SO MANY MORE out there!!

So I peruse these fantastic sites looking for new recipes, or old stand-bys, or just anything that “calls out to me”, really. Then I hit up my cook books and my trusty Recipe binder. When I find something I like, I print it out (if I don’t already have it in my Recipe Binder), and write it on my menu plan. That’s it. Easy. More often than not it’s narrowing down the selection of yummy recipes I want to try that is the hardest.

And that’s it. Well, ALMOST. Here are just a few tips and tricks I’ve learned through the years…

(translation…Let me share all the ways I’ve messed it up…so you don’t have to!) tips and tricks

  • Read through every recipe in its ENTIRETY at the beginning of the week to avoid “surprises” at dinner time. (Like the time I made the Chili’s Fajitas and discovered 30 minutes before dinner time I was supposed to marinate the meat overnight. Oops!!) Or today when I set out to make my Corn Chowder, and realized I forgot to take the bacon out of the freezer yesterday, and I forgot to start the rolls this afternoon. Ummm, can you say “Epic Fail??”

  • Jot down any prep work you might need to do in advance, (like say…taking the bacon out of the freezer, or starting the rolls) right on the menu, so it won’t slip your mind. (This is a skill I’m still trying to master.)

  • Spend the time to create a Recipe binder. (Or Recipe box, or recipe…whatever) Just devote the time to organizing and storing all your favorite recipes in one location. I promise, you won’t regret it.

So there you have it! My steps for creating a menu plan.

What about you? Do you have any meal planning tips and tricks? I’d love to know!!

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