Sunday, January 12, 2014
There are several ways to menu plan. I'm going to tell you my favorite. I like to keep it simple and not over plan or be tied to a bunch of recipes.
The first thing I do is to make sure I have plenty of things on hand for breakfast and lunches. Those meals are not big ordeals and everyone pretty much just makes their own. So this is just a matter of planning ingredients.
For breakfast the kids usually like to have cereal or toast. This means making sure I have the following on hand:
Cereal (store bought or homemade granola cereal)
Sometimes we like to change things up a little and have something different. If I have time I might make muffins ahead of time. I also usually have eggs since we raise chickens. I often like to have an egg and toast for breakfast with my coffee.
For lunches it's a lot of sandwiches or wraps with some fruit or veggies on the side. Here's a basic idea of what I keep on hand for lunches:
Seasonal / Cheap Fruit
Carrot Sticks and other veggies
You get the idea. These are things my kids can put together easily on their own to make a lunch. The picture above is a simple wrap that came together out of wanting to use up what was in the fridge. I simply spread a tortilla with some cream cheese, added some shredded cheese, green onion, turkey, and tomato. It was delicious, fast and simple. That's my kind of lunch.
Now on to dinner. These are slightly more complicated, but I still try to keep it simple. I don't often plan out each detail of the meal if I'm making separate courses. I'll plan the meat and then make sure I have options on hand for sides (pasta, rice, potatoes, veggies, etc.) If I'm roasting a chicken, I don't need to over think what goes with it. If I make sure I have veggies in the freezer and rice or potatoes in the pantry I know I have options. I also plan about five meals in a week and figure that there will be a couple days worth of leftovers. I plan for leftovers so that busy days are easier on us.
Here's an example of my dinner menu planning:
Chicken Soup (with the leftover chicken)
Potato Soup and Sandwiches
Now that I have a basic idea of what I want to make, I can plan accordingly. I try to plan meals based on what I have on hand as much as possible. That way I have fewer things to purchase at the grocery store.
What I don't recommend when you start menu planning is going out and finding a bunch of new recipes to try all at once. Do you really want to be learning to make a brand new thing every night? If you want to try some new things, choose one a week and pick your slowest night to make it. Busy nights should be things you are use to making so that you aren't overwhelmed.
I'm working on coming up with a way to simplify my planning even more. Maybe a master sheet of menu ideas, or note cards with meals on them. I'm not sure yet, but I will keep you updated.
Do you menu plan? What tips would you give those who want to start?