Monday, November 14, 2011

Tip: Write a Weekly Menu

Have you noticed that I post my weekly menu plan here at Because I'm Frugal?

Creating a weekly meal plan was an idea I resisted for a long time. I just didn't think that the time it'd take to do it would be worth the results.

One day, however, I broke down and just did it. I got out all the old recipes I hadn't made in ages and, looking at them, got really excited about all the great meals we'd been missing. I also asked friends for their tried and true healthy, inexpensive recipes and was overwhelmed by the response ... and by the number of them who write a weekly menu (and hadn't told me!).

Each Sunday or Monday I sit down and plan the menu for the week, based on what's on sale, what I have on hand, and what I purchased at the farmer's market over the weekend.

I keep a binder on the counter with printed recipes in it. It also contains calendar pages of what we've eaten the weeks before so I can repeat the good stuff, NOT repeat the bad stuff, and avoid repeating things too often.

I now spend about 10 or 15 minutes planning our meals for a week.

A few of the benefits:
  • When you have no idea what you're making for dinner and it's 5:45 getting pizza or grabbing a bite somewhere is so easy. With a menu plan a meal is already in the crock pot, or at least planned, taking the "deer in headlights" feeling out of dinner preparation.  
  •  It's a time saver. No spending time searching for recipes and ingredients to use what you have. You've already done that ahead of time.
  • Helps save at the grocery store. Knowing what you'll cook makes it easier to not give in to the temptation of those impulse extras. Also, it allows you to purchase what you'll actually use in quantities you'll actually use.
  • Having a weekly plan makes it easy to provide a healthy and nutritional balance throughout the week.
  • Trying new things is fairly simple with a meal plan. 
  • Fewer trips to the grocery store. It's easy to add something to the weekly grocery list, much easier than running out at the last minute for some odd lone ingredient like Smoked Paprika (which tends to lead to impulse purchases as well).
  • Having shredded chicken one night and diced chicken another? Cook them at the same time and set one aside. The work for the second meal is done with no extra effort.
  • There's much less waste. The perishable fruits, vegetables, and meats are used before they might go bad, because the menu is planned around their existence and life span.
  • Family time. Knowing what the kids activities are ahead of time enables planning a meal that works with their hectic schedules, while still allowing time to eat as a family . Also, there's something about a meal or dinner menu plan that says "sit down and eat this meal as a family".
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