Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Menu Planning

So, I had my first blog request, which made me super happy because it means that someone is actually reading this! ;) My sweet friend Marianne asked how I menu plan and what my favorite meals are. First of all, my favorite meals are anything that my kids will eat that I can sneak spinach into :) I think I will have to do a sequel to this post with some of those recipes, just don't tell my kids! ;)

Menu planning is a must to me. Not just because I am a little obsessive when it comes to organization sometimes, which I am. So obsessive in fact that I have an excel spreadsheet of my daily schedule.... and a separate spreadsheet for our home school schedule. I know, I know, it is a little much, but I need it to survive!

I can't remember a time that I did not make a menu and frankly I don't know how to make a grocery list without a menu. There are some websites that you can use to get recipes and make a menu. One is http://www.relishrelish.com/. It costs $7 a month but give lots of recipes to choose from. I think you can do a 30 day trial too. Another that helps you shop the sales is www.foodonthetable.com/ Dave Ramsey recommends www.emeals.com/dave-ramsey  Honestly, I have used them sometimes in the past, but I think it is quicker and cheaper FOR ME to just use my own recipesand make my own list. It really doesn't take that much time.

I have used calendars or planners in the past or even a dry erase calendar that stuck to my fridge, but several months ago I made this Pinterest inspired meal planning board to help me. There is a clothes pin for each day of the week. Friday never changes because that is our family pizza and a movie night. :)

Below my little menu clothes line, you see 2 little pouches. The first pouch is where I keep my menu item slips and the second pouch is my "next week" pouch because I plan and shop for 2 weeks at a time. I do that because one, I hate going to Walmart, and two, I am way to busy with home school, work, and other general "home maker" things to go shopping every week.

I have written out on little slips of card stock all of our favorite dinner items including main dishes and side items. I sit down and pick out what I want to cook over the next two weeks. I try to make sure that we are not having beef for 3 nights in a row, or the same veggie side 4 times in one week and I just pick however many items I need to fill up my menu. I make sure to take into consideration food items that go bad quickly. For example if I want this dish that I LOVE called Delicious Skillet Chicken (click for recipe, I modify by using fresh tomatoes instead of canned and add the seasoning myself) that uses a lot of fresh veggies, I will make sure it is on week one of my menu. If I am making something like Spaghetti or Cola Chicken (again, click for recipe) with a side of frozen mixed veggies (cooked of course!) then that can go on week 2 because none of the ingredients will go bad before then.

What I love about this method is if we have a night that we decide to eat leftovers or eat out I can just rearrange the menu to make sure that I use up anything fresh that would go bad and save the other menu items for when I make my menu for the next two week period. Also if I look at the menu and don't feel like eating what is on that day, I just switch it with another day! ;)

To the left of my menu I have a pouch for the recipes I will be needing for the 2 week period. I keep my recipes in a box when they are not being used. So when I pick my meals I pull out the recipes and make my grocery list from that. I normally do my whole process of making the menu and list while my kids eat breakfast the day I plan on going to the store. It really DOES NOT TAKE THAT LONG. It is so worth not having to think about what to cook everyday and making multiple trips to the store and above all it saves money. I am sure that there are ways to do this with coupon clipping and shopping the ads, but I just shop at Walmart where most things are cheaper and keep my eye on the ads because they price match. If you want another good source for menu planning ideas, I like this blog post about it.
This is just a quick picture of my whole "planning board" I found that small calendar in the office supply section at Walmart along with the tiny clothes pins and pretty thumb tacks.

I plan on doing a separate post about my favorite meals and my cheapest meals, but Marianne did ask about my favorite meals so I will post a couple here to tide you over. ;)

I already put the links to a couple of my favorites above but here are a couple more:
Chicken Pot Pie = SUPER easy
1 pkg roll out pie crust (I am working on a homemade whole wheat version, stay tuned!)
1 can chicken
1 can cream of chicken (I saw an alternative to this on Pinterest that I am going to try too!)
1 (10oz)pkg frozen mixed veggies
Whatever herbs you like
Pretty simple, just mix it all and put it in the pie crust and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes (if the veggies were thawed, longer if not). I usually put oregano, rosemary, and basil. Don't be afraid to try different things. I have put in green onions, celery, or spinach. I bet zucchini would be good too.

I also love making fajitas with just boneless skinless chicken breast covered in fajita seasoning (not the kind in the little bag thing by the taco seasoning, but one that is in a tube in the seasoning section) onions and peppers grilled, maybe some avocado, cheese and sour cream. I also put fresh spinach in sometimes because I put spinach on everything. You might get tired of reading "put spinach on it"  when reading this blog, but it is just so good for you and versatile! 

Tacos are another favorite along with spaghetti. One of my husband and kids favorite is hamburger rolls. I am going to feature this recipe in a sneaky spinach blog so that you can see just how much spinach you can hide in these, but for those of you that can't wait...

Brown 1 lb of ground beef, add onions until it looks good to you (everyone has such different feelings about onions!) cut or tear up spinach and add to the meat and onion while it is still on the stove top so that the spinach will wilt. Now turn the burner off and add cheese stirring it around until it melts.Spoon it into two packages of crescent rolls and cook according to the crescent roll instructions. You really could play with these and add olives, mushrooms, whatever sounds good to you.

Okay, that is all for now, I will post more recipes later!


  1. what a great post! great ideas too!
    menu planning is my nemesis. can i be like you when i grow up? seriously, i struggle in this area--thanks for the motivation.


  2. Those hamburger rolls are one of my hubby's favorite thing to eat. And so easy too. I love them with green peppers added in.