Thursday, April 26, 2012

Menu Planning Tips from Mama


Lessons from mama is a weekly guest post from my mother, sharing different lessons on homemaking she has learned over the years. This was inspired after I interviewed her for the series "Teachers of Good Things."  You can head over to her interview to see a more complete list of the topics we will be covering (it is under the 5th question, What would you have done differently as a single woman to prepare for this?).


MY MENU PLANNING TIPS
1. Make a habit of planning your menus each week (This is made easier by having several seasonal menus that you use over and over)

2. Plan your menus based on the local grocery store loss leaders. Avoid paying full price for your food. Build up your pantry. Shop early in the day to find marked down items. WalMart does price matching. I will tell you how in another post.

3.  Also plan your menus on what you already have in your pantry and freezer.

4. Cook at least one family favorite menu per week in bulk for stocking your freezer.


5. I have fought the thought of paying extra money for organic but….. As I learn about the health benefits I may have to. Along the same line, learning about nutrition is very important in planning your menu. Things like: ice burg lettuce does not have near the nutrients as green leaf. Vegetable oil is bad for you. You should avoid MSG and high fructose corn syrup and GMO foods. White flour and white sugar and white rice are not as good as whole wheat flour and brown rice. It is a learning process that should go on your whole life.

I frequently make up 1 and 2 week menus. They reflect favorite recipes for the current season and for whatever diet we are currently in. I have collected many Spring/ Summer menus and Fall/Winter menus. Then I have low carb menus and low calorie menus and vegetarian menus and financial menus (when money is tight).

When making a menu I like to stick with mostly tried and true recipes that the family likes and then branch out to 1 or 2 new recipes a week.

I assign breakfast, lunch and dinners to each day of the week, keeping in mind if it is a day that we have activities planned or not. But in the execution of the menu, I look at it as a suggestion and not the law. If I’m in the mood for something else, the menu can easily be changed. I plan meals based on what I already have or on what is on sale that week. This month’s menu looks like this:


Breakfasts
M
Hash Browns & 2 eggs (homemade)
T
Egg taco
W
French Toast with apple sauce
Th
Omelet
F
Egg McMuffin (homemade of course)

Lunches
M
Sukiyaki (or Churches chicken Monday special)
T
Taco salad OR Tacos
W
Spaghetti
Th
Tuna helper
F
BLT or Homemade pizza
S
Chicken fingers

Dinners 
M
Beef Fajias
T
Rotisserie Chicken
W
Meat loaf or Salsbury steak
Th
Chicken pizza (breast is the “crust” and sausage, mushroom and onions with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese on top)
F
Hamburgers
S
Grilled Smothered chicken w mushrooms & cheese
S
Left overs


Left overs
On the same page I have recipes. Several of these meals are old standby recipes that I don’t need to refer to, so their recipe is not typed on the menu. The menu is posted on the refrigerator.

Recipe Resources: Collect your favorite recipe books. I have recently started searching for recipes on the internet. The two places I look are: All Recipes and Food.Com. There are different ways you can search for a recipe. You can put in what you are looking for, like “Chocolate chip cookie” and then have it sorted by popularity. I love trying recipes that have tons of reviews. My chocolate chip cookies used to ALWAYS be awful but now I’ve found a recipe that is a winner. (It has vanilla pudding mix in it).

I cut and paste all my recipes in a word document. I have tons of recipe documents – chicken breast recipes, ground beef recipes, low carb chicken breast recipes, etc. They are printed out in a binder. So I’m building my own recipe book.

THINGS I KEEP STOCKED
Butter;
cheddar and mozzarella;
cream cheese;
eggs;
sausage and bacon;
sour cream;
whip cream and yogurt
Broccoli;
Cabbage;
Cucumber;
Lettuce, green leaf and romaine;
Mushrooms;
Nuts, almonds, pecans (frozen from our tree);
Onions, red, green, white;
Red pepper;
Tomatoes;
zucchini
Hollandaise sauce;
SF gum (sugar free);
SF jello, raspberry, cherry, and strawberry
Decaf coffee and tea;
Sweetener

Next week I will share some money saving tips for grocery shopping.

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