Menu Planning 101

I remember being Jessica’s age and watching my mom sit at the kitchen table cutting coupons and organizing her list for shopping. In fact I used to play “coupons” when I was allowed to play with a scissors finally.

FINALLY!

Listen to that. I was a weird kid. Couldn’t wait to get my hands on them there scissors so I could cut paper! And pretend to be shopping! For groceries!

Maybe that’s not weird. Any way – I’ve carried this over into my own household now. Last year I was really good about making a menu plan and then a grocery list to shop from which not only saved me time, but saved our family money because I was organized.

I haven’t been very organized these past 4 or 5 months and part of that is all. of. this. which threw a pretty hefty fork in the the clanks of my organization. In fact it pretty much stopped it in it’s tracks, it’s well oiled tracks.

But I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. Hence.

Menu Planning

Last weekend I sat down and make a menu plan and stuck to it pretty well.

B S L S D S stands for Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Snack. I plan each and every one of them.

Then right next to it I have this:

Menu Planning

I used to menu plan and shop for two weeks at a time but getting back into this I’m taking it slower, making sure I make the best meal decisions since we have a lot more produce in our meals. I’d rather not throw half of it away by the time I need it. So now I’m planning for one week increments.

Then I take stock of my pantry.

Menu Planning

Menu Planning

Menu Planning

And try to use as much of it as I can but this week I didn’t use any. I need to get better at that. And I need to use more of the dried beans I have stocked up.

Weekends are always the hardest as far as meals go – we’re pretty busy and like to be out and about so eating on a menu plan (unless pic-nicing) during the weekends is uber difficult for us. We do plan the meals we know for sure we’re eating out – so on those evenings I’ll just write “Dinner out” where appropriate.

Tomorrow is my menu planning day but because this coming week is a busy one for us I think I’m going to play a little game we like to call “Pantry Roulette” and I was taught this game, again by my mother, my crazy, crazy woman-mom.

I think in order for her to find a happy place, where sanity was key, she would make up these competitions in her mind – where she had to race through a task and do it better than the last time. Like she was keeping track of how awesome her uber ego was – and she always won. So moral of this story is: My mom could kick Martha Stewart’s ass, with grace. Also, Matlock? My mom changed your diapers.

Pantry Roulette is going to be a whole lotta “How far can I make this bag of Dulse seaweed go, and what can I make with it to ensure my kids eat some?” or “I have a can of beans, tomato paste and some frozen fish … wheres the meal? GO!”

Menu Planning

I try, oh how I try, to make a menu plan before I go grocery shopping. It doesn’t always happen. This week I made it happen and here’s what it looks like. A two week spread, as that’s how often I get groceries. (But I’ll start from today)
Thursday: Honey Mustard Chix (p. 284 in Kitchen Bible cook book) Otherwise hop on over here and find one that fits your pantry.
Friday: Grill steaks
Saturday: Breakfast – Captain Crunch French Toast
Lunch – Sub sandwiches or left overs
Dinner – OUT! Margaritas!! Our fav mexican restaurant.
Sunday: Breakfast – Cereal or something quick
Lunch – Homemade pizza
Dinner – left overs
Monday: Indian Garlic Chicken (p 298 in Kitchen Bible cook book) or again – head over to recipezaar for some ideas
Tuesday: Blank – I leave a few days blank in order to plan to clean out the fridge or live by the seat of my pants. Also – I was out of ideas.
Wednesday: Kebabs on the grill
Thursday: Blank again
Friday: We’re out of town for the weekend!!
I some times write out the whole gosh darn menu with side dishes and all but not this week. I have enough stuff in my pantry to make sides work and I picked up my staple veggies at the store so I always have a few tricks up my sleeve.

Planning: Debt Free

We’re back with some more money talk. Let’s be debt free, friends!

I talk quite a bit about how unorganized I am. How I struggle with the piles of paper and staying on top of menu planning and list making. It’s not a strong point of mine. It’s a weakness I’m very aware of.

Menu Planning

But I also know and understand the power of planning. Having a small note pad with me at all times to keep on task, remember important information or to tell me what’s next … it’s like a brain.

I’m also a very visual person. Reading patterns is for the birds in my opinion. Sticking to a recipe is like following all the rules. I prefer to pretend there are areas in my life where rules just need not apply.

Thinking on paper - Quilt for Jessica

However … money is one of those things I’ve learned over and over and over and over and over and OVER again that not planning it will always result in losing it.

Always.

There’s not a family friendly leash to put on your money to make it stay where you want it. There’s a budget and that is what works.

It’s a good thing I married someone who knows how to handle details.

Aaron working on his presentation

Only – the details of our household? Are left to me. (He pops in for a hello every once in a while and more often lately after starting the FPU class)

So, for the tips:

Obviously here – let’s get on a budget shall we?

It’s not set in stone and both parties involved (if there is more than one party TO involve) should have a say. The best thing about a budget is that you’re in charge. You get to change it if needed. You get to say where extra’s go, where less than extra needs to come from. You’re on top of it.

It takes a couple months to really figure it out and make sure that you’re allotting enough money in your needed categories. We’re learning that we just need to add a little more into our food budget. I’m actually embarrassed about that because I want so badly to be able to live on less where food comes into play – but trying to wear a size 3 shoe on a size 8 foot is just painful. So this month, we’re adjusting and we’ll see how we come out on the other side.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Patience? Who me? Just because you don’t have hundreds of dollars to set aside each month for saving doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be saving SOMETHING. $10 a month grows slowly … but all of a sudden you look and there’s $2,000 there that wasn’t before. It’s powerful.

Maybe I’m just in the the middle of learning this lesson and it’s just starting to take hold … but there’s something to be said about the way my grandparents lived. Literally picking up pennies from the sidewalk to take into the bank to pay down their mortgage. That’s powerful.

Every penny, literally, counts.

Closet

Cure what ails you.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a shopper. I love to bargain hunt and I’m a deal finder – yes. That’s a hobby. But shopping for clothes? Shoes? Not interested.

That didn’t happen over night and I wasn’t always like this – but here’s how it happened for me. When I was 18 I had a breast reduction, before that clothes weren’t appealing to me. They didn’t fit my body well, my body didn’t fit me well – so I stayed away. After the reduction? All of a sudden I could buy tshirts in the junior section of the stores and I was ALIVE! I owned cute underclothing for the first time in my entire life. No more “minimizers”. I was working full time so I could afford to buy myself clothes when I wanted – but back then?

I was making small amounts of money and then very large amounts of money – it wasn’t consistent. I was on a budget at 16 and I really liked the percentage break down. I saved 30% of everything I brought in. I didn’t touch it. The rest? I gathered and divided so I could pay for gas, car insurance and my phone and tithe. Then there were left overs. I could spend that if I wanted but it was really hard to part with it because I knew how hard I worked to get it.

So I didn’t buy too often. The feet and shoes? I have freakishly small feet and it’s just not fun to shop for shoes. They rarely fit my foot. So I don’t even look.

From there it just turned into the way I lived. Now I have kids to shop for and it’s so much easier to buy them an outfit than spend money on myself. I rarely have child free shopping experiences so I just don’t have time to fit items on and preview a look or style.

I think this is hard for a lot of women – the shopping. After I became a stay-at-home mom I had a REALLY hard time not spending money every single day. I lived at Target for a few months. I had a very good baby who slept wonderfully and I was bored out of my mind. So I shopped. Alot.

We froze my debit card in a block of ice in the freezer. True Story.

You just have to do what’s right for you in this situation and you need to be honest about it with an accountable party.

That’s what I’m thinking about today. Next up? How to hunt for bargains, how to score great deals.

Menu plan, recipe links

This is more for my organization haphazardness – but please, feel free to link up with your own dinner ideas for the week. Or maybe your favorite soup of the season? I’ve been planning soups more and more.

Megan’s Roasted Vegetable Minestrone

Pumpkin Cranberry bread minus the cranberries was sitting in my freezer so tonight I’m pulling it out (it’s a cake, not a loaf) and using Smitten Kitchen’s Cream Cheese Frosting for the top. I’ll serve it as dessert …

After we eat The Pioneer Woman’s Meat Loaf. YUM. Kids are already asking for the bacon. (We love bacon!)

French Onion Soup

We have a few harry evenings this week so I’m hoping for some good (and new) crock pot recipes, like Easy Beef Stew and Polish Sausage, with sauerkraut . (Yes, I am cleaning out my pantry … can you tell??)

Grilled Tuna Steak

Stir Fry Sauce I have the fixings for an inexpensive chinese night … just need the special sauce šŸ™‚

Try 1,000 new things (making crab rangoons at home) Life List

Megan’s Curry Chicken

Stomboli! and I love that this recipe already calls for some left overs, might make extra just for the freezer.

Megan’s French Baguettes to go with the French Onion Soup and other left overs.

I also plan to make some snacks – muffins, hummus, pudding. I have those recipes in my file already, but if you’re particularly interested I’ll post them as well. Just let me know!

high five team!