Menu Planning Tips

Menu planning can be easy if you follow a few tips of the trade.  Before planning my week, I always ask myself three basic questions.

1. What's in my pantry?
2. What's on sale at the grocery stores close to me?
3. What is on my schedule for the week?

Let's dig deeper.
What's in your pantry?  Why buy more food when you already have food?  I buy what's on sale, most weeks.  So when there is a really good sale on say, mexican items, and I have coupons for them, I buy more.  So I have extra mexican items on hand, more mexican dishes over the next few weeks.  See the method? 

What's on sale at the grocery stores close to me?  I add the close to me part, because it doesn't make much sense to drive 60 miles to save a few cents on hamburger meat (besides I have an very nice butcher shop in my town anyway).  Much like the question above, this one is about saving money.  If rump roast (my family's favorite cut) is on sale this week, we will have roast or open face roast beef this week or next. (we typically have a roast dish of some sort every week anyway, so bad example).

What's on my schedule this week?  This is one of the most important questions when meal planning.  Especially for a busy mom of two that works outside of the home.  Wednesday nights are always hectic and cram packed with activities, so Wednesday night becomes crockpot night most weeks.  I have a board meeting once a month for 9 months out of the year on Thursday nights, so Thursday nights are either a quick casserole or a crockpot meal as well.  Monday nights I'm not home for very long, so it is usually a DIY night.  Don't be afraid of Do it yourself nights, granted my children are older, but it could be a "Husband Cooks Night".  I make sure my pantry, freezer and refrigerator supply the items I know my family loves on these night.  This step is important, because you don't want to plan a dish that takes an hour to bake on a busy night that you won't be home.  You will only end up eating out.

Once you have these items mapped out on your menu planner, you are ready to pick some recipes.

Another option is to have nights assigned to a specific cuisine.  We've had these off and on.  An example would be, Mexican night on Tuesday.  Italian on Sundays. You get the picture.  Sometimes this makes picking a little easier.

Also rotate your meat selections to give a variety.  We basically eat chicken and beef in our house, however we will throw in a pork dish every now and then.  So I try to rotate my dishes between chicken one night, beef the next.

Are you confused yet?  Don't be.  Take it one step at a time.  It gets easier as you go along.

Another tip I use: I am a creature of habit.  I like certain dishes for certain meals and rotate them often in my plan.  Don't get my wrong, I love to try new recipes, but still I have my habits.  Let's use breakfast as an example.  I typically eat one of 4 things.  Bagel with cream cheese, or a mug scramble, or waffle/pancake/french toast, or biscuits and gravy.  Keep in mind, the biscuits and gravy are a special treat and I don't eat them often, because they don't fit well in my diet plan.  But these are pretty typical.  So I know my breakfast planning is pretty easy.

Now you are armed with some great tips.  Get planning!
As always, if you have any questions or need some assistance, feel free to contact me.

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