Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Monthly Menu Planning: My Unscientific Method

I am no pro at monthly menu planning but I figured I'd share how I do it anyway. Since I have a crazy, constantly busy household finding time to organize and plan is usually few and far between.

In order for me to stick to something it has to be a simple addition to my routine. You know like couponing and store-hopping. No, I'm kidding about that - monthly meal planning has been much, much easier than I could ever have expected.

My first question and probably yours is "How do I come up with that many meals?"

The funny thing is before I started I really had no idea. Sometimes just for a week's worth of meals I would scour cookbooks hoping just one or two meals would appeal to me.

Some of you don't like variety and have a few tried and true recipes that you use every week on a regular basis. I have a friend who eats the same food every single month and only has to by ingredients for that (works for her and her identical triplet girls :) ) but for me I like a little more variety. Yes, even from one month to the next. So where to come up with new recipes?

Turns out I only had to look in my inbox.

And if you subscribe to a few sites that's all you'll have to do too!

Every few days I can an e-mail with recipe ideas from:

Betty Crocker

Dinner Made Easy

Kraft Foods

Campbells Kitchen

Bisquick

Reynolds Kitchen

Pillsbury

I do pick up recipes here and there from other places but these are the main ones that I get e-mail newsletters from on a regular basis.

Whenever a new e-mail comes in I glance at it and check out the few recipes they've highlighted. If I like one I click on it and check it out in detail. If it meets my criteria: low number of ingredients, simple to make and looks like something my kids might try then I copy the link and paste it in a Word document.

I did this throughout October and for November I had a great list all ready to go!

Last week I went through the list I had accumulated over the month and checked through the recipes again. I think I threw out one that no longer appealed to me but the rest still looked good.

The next part takes a little bit of time but truly taking an hour, maybe two to plan out the month saves me SOOO much time through the month of November.

To make my monthly grocery list I go to each recipe and then copy down the ingredients in a seperate Word document. By doing it electronically I can group all my meat, produce, cheese, etc. together and make a very simple list. I even make notations about items I should already have in the pantry but I still list every ingredient even if I think I may have it to be sure as the month goes on I don't forget :)

After I have my grocery list I go back to my recipe list and print off the names of each recipe I've chosen. I then cut out each individual recipe to paste to my master calendar. I'm sure you can do this electronically but to be honest it's just fun to cut and paste as a grown-up sometimes! Plus, I have the freedom to juggle the recipes around repeatedly till I find an order that I like. You know not too many chicken recipes in a row or sorting recipes that feed more people on a day we are expecting company. Once I have a set up I like I paste it on.

Then each week all I have to do is glance at my calendar and I know what meals I'm planning. It's that easy :)

As for grocery shopping, I do try and get the bulk of what I need at the beginning of the month so that the remainder of the month I can focus on produce, eggs, milk and the deals. However, this month is a little different since I knew in advance that there would be dollar doubler at Harris Teeter starting tomorrow and that a new sales week rolls around so I didn't run to the store today and get everything on my list. I did pick up all the ground beef I'll need for the month since it was on sale. This coming week I'll get most of the things I need but if last month is any indication I did have a few need items left over each week but not enough to put a major dent in my budget.

So, that is how I plan for the month.

For now I'll just share my 1st week's plan...

Monday: Chick-Fil-A

Tuesday: Mini Taco Bowls

Wednesday: Velveeta Baked Spaghetti Squares

Thursday: Moms of Multiples monthly meeting

Friday: Slow Cooker Cheesy Potato Soup and Chicken Quesadillas

Saturday: Tater Topped Casserole

Sunday: Alea's One Pot Chicken Dinner

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