What’s for dinner? That’s the question of the day, and one I used to ask myself every day without a single clue as to what I was going to feed my family that night.
For a lot of us, making a menu plan is something we intend to do – when we get around to it. Instead of seeing menu planning as an activity that adds to our quality of life, we dread sitting down to decide next Wednesday’s dinner. “I’ll get round to it on the weekend when I have more time.”
Wrong! Menu planning is the first line of defense in the fight for an organized kitchen. A menu plan:-
- saves money. Reduces trips to the supermarket and reduces impulse spending. Using leftovers efficiently cuts food waste, while planned buying in bulk makes it easy to stockpile freezer meals at reduced prices.
- saves time. No dash to the neighbours for a missing ingredient, no frantic searches through the freezer for something, anything to thaw for dinner.
- improves nutrition. Without the daily dash to the supermarket, there’s time to prepare side dishes and salads, increasing the family’s consumption of fruits and vegetables. Knowing what to serve each day, and having the ingredients already on hand, cuts back on trips to get take-out.
Here’s some tips to help you to put menu and meal planning to work for you:
Start Small and Simple
Think, “next seven days.” Seven little dinners, one trip to the supermarket. Resist the urge to go through all your recipes and plan for 6 months’ worth of meals. Slow and steady builds menu planning skills and shows the benefits of the exercise. Trying to do too much, too soon, becomes just another failed exercise in home management overkill.
Where to start? The food flyers from your local newspaper flyers, or sales circulars from your markets’ web sites. Use the ads to get a feel for the week’s sales and bargains. They’ll be the basis for the week’s selection of dinners.
This week in my hometown, our chain supermarket is offering whole fryers for the low, low price of 99 cents a pound. Clearly, this is the week for lemon & herb chicken and fajitas, and not a time to plan for beef stew and pork chops.
Menu Planning Basics
Okay, so it’s food ad day. Time to rough out a simple menu plan.
The goal is to shop efficiently to obtain food required for seven dinner meals, while minimizing expenditure, cooking, shopping and cleaning time.
- Scan the food ads (newspaper or online) for specials and sales. Make a rough draft of a menu plan: seven dinners that can be made from weekly specials, side dishes and salads.
- Go to the pantry and refrigerator to check for any of last week’s purchases that are languishing beneath tired-looking carrots or wilting spinach. Review your shopping list and write down needed items.
- Ready, set, shop – but shop with an open mind. That 99-cent fryer won’t look like such a bargain next to a marked-down mega-pack of boneless chicken breasts at $1.29 a pound. Be ready to substitute if you find a great deal.
- Return from shopping. As you put away groceries, complete your menu plan in more detail. Match it up with the family’s calendar, saving the oven roast for a lazy Sunday afternoon, the quick-fix pizza for soccer night. Plan a meal or two for leftovers, or use the leftovers for packed lunches the next day.
- Post the menu plan on the fridge door or somewhere where you’ll be able to refer to it during the coming week as you prepare meals
Now plan what you’re going to do with all that spare time! 🙂
Coming soon … my e-book of meal planning in much more detail.
See you soon and have a wonderful week!