As this if my first dinner menu post I’m going to explain how and why I do my menu planning… (if you want to skip to the menu, it’s right after the pictures of the produce!)
Most every week I participate in a food co-op (I’ve mentioned that I live in a rural area so there are no CSA’s around… boo) called Bountiful Basket. It relies on volunteers to help it run and cuts down on food costs. I love getting my produce this way because it helps me try new things (sometimes), costs are less and it has made me shift my menu planning to focusing on fresh produce (bonus!). Since I have been participating in this co-op I have felt better (as I’ve been focusing the meals around produce instead of protein – my old way) and healthier.
So each Saturday I pick up a basket of produce – half fruit and half vegetable (already paid for on Monday or Tuesday of the same week). I bring it home and make a list of what produce I have already in my house (if I were on top of things, this list would be made before I went…) and then I make a list of what I received that day. This helps me to see what is ‘new’ and what is ‘older’- needs used first.
Once I have my list, I ask my husband what he wants to eat (I try to get his input so I’m not just always throwing new foods at him.) He either tells me he doesn’t care or gives me something he’s thought about. Armed with my husbands recommendation (or not) and the list, I search my google reader (and possibly the internet in general) for ingredients that I want to be sure to use. From those searches and my own ideas, I come up with my menu. I do not plan each item for a specific day, although sometimes I have an ‘1’ menu item and a ‘2’ menu item (meaning I need to make menu item 1 before I make 2 as I’m using part of item 1 for item 2.) I let the day and my mood in general guide what I make – I have found this most effective for me. Why? If I plan meal x for Tuesday and find I’m running out of time/energy/sanity/whatever on Tuesday, instead of going to meal z (also planned but for Thursday) I am more likely to want to eat a frozen pizza or go out to eat. Weird, but it’s how my mind works. It also helps me be flexible for when my husband comes home (and I haven’t started dinner yet) and says, ‘I really want some meat tonight’. He did that after we’d eaten vegetarian meals for a few nights in a row… Luckily he doesn’t have to eat meat every night (I know some people who think they do and that would drive me nuts!)
I only plan dinner menus, mainly because lunch includes leftovers or things like salads, pb&j, etc. and breakfast is usually something quick and is repeated quite often each week… It’s how I roll. I only cook breakfast when I’m feeling ambitious.
One more note, I do include links to recipes that I am planning on using. However, I do change most recipes I use to suit my tastes and what is available in my area. I still like leaving the links though!
So now you know how I make menu plans, I’m going to discuss why. I didn’t use to make menu plans. I would just go shopping and buy whatever I felt like and a few items for things I knew I wanted to make in the near future. However, since I’ve started actually planning my menus I have found I save money (bonus) and frustration (another bonus). Money is obvious as I don’t just buy whatever and I have a very specific shopping list (I also try to look at ads and see what is on sale, but since moving I don’t get ads so this is proving more difficult). How do I save time? I may not save time on Saturdays, but I do each day when I use to scour through my cookbooks to see what I could make with what I already had (really, I use to do this… seems so frustrating now!) I’d find something I’d want to make and I wouldn’t have 2 crucial items, so I’d go back to searching. I really do feel that making my menus saves me time and frustration each night.
Okay, now that I’ve bored you to tears… and half of you have stopped reading – I’m going to share my menu this week with you.
First, here’s the produce we got today:
Saturday (I know what I’m making tonight…) – Chicken Curry Soup
Sunday – Dinner at my parent’s house
Monday – Friday
– CousCous Stuffed Peppers (I’m trying out an original made-by-me recipe)
– Salad of some kind…
(There are only 4 items for 5 days, but I know we’re going to have leftovers…)
Do you do a menu plan? If so, what are you having this week?