February 13, 2016

Tips for Menu Planning

Channel 8 news recently emailed me about doing a story on my weekly menu plans. I ignored the first request and thought there is no way I can be on the news....I would be too nervous. Well they were persistent and I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to do it! Click here for a link to the article.

I have been creating a weekly menu plan for close to 12 years now. I have always been a planner and like feeling organized. I am not the type of person who can buy a bunch of ingredients at the start of the week and then throw dinner together every night.  Here are some of my tips for menu planning...

1. On Saturday or Sunday, I sit down in the morning with my coffee and look at my calendar for the week. If I have a client meeting or an evening activity, I plan my meals based on that event. Maybe I select something that can go in the crock-pot or a soup from the freezer that was leftover from a previous week's menu plan.

2. I have three binders with recipes that I have collected over the years. I try to only store the recipes that we have tried and would make again into these binders so it isn't too overwhelming. One of the binders is divided into categories which I love! To find new recipes, I use Pinterest, magazines, and cookbooks checked out from the library.

3. I have a dinner diary that I started in 2012. This is where I record my menus for the week.

4. As a select a recipe, I record the necessary ingredients in the Our Groceries app on my phone. I love this app because it organizes the items into categories as you add them.

5. For the most part, I only go to the grocery store once a week. I do find it saves money because on those extra trips even when are popping in for just one item I usually spend at least $20.

6. Sometimes I switch up which dinner I am going to serve on a particular night. After going to the grocery store, I try to think about how quickly something needs to be cooked. For instance, maybe the avocados were really ripe on Sunday for Thursday's steak tacos then I will serve that on Monday instead. Check the dates on your meat as well.

7. I check my menu plan every morning just in case something needs to be defrosted or started in the crock-pot. Nothing can delay getting dinner on the table like discovering you have frozen chicken for that night's enchiladas.

8. Because we cook dinner at home at least six nights out of the week, I have a lot of pantry staples and spices so I am not buying a new spice or special ingredient each week and incurring an additional cost.

9. I try to freeze leftovers if I don't think we will eat them that week for lunch. Most soups and casseroles freeze well and are a great break from cooking on a later week. I use Ziploc freezer bags to store most things.

My next challenge is to stop being a short order cook and get my kid's eating these meals as well. I do think it helps that they see us cooking and eating many different things. Camille just discovered she likes tacos and she loves Parmesan risotto which she may not have tried if we hadn't been eating it.

Here goes with this week's menu planner....
Valentine's Day- Black Pepper Crusted Filets w/ Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Salsa,
Potatoes & Mixed Green Salad
Monday - Hamburger Soup, Grilled Cheeses
Wednesday - Simple Homemade Meatball Subs, French Fries
Thursday - Chicken & Gnocchi

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