Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Menu planning and stocking up

I’m taking some time this week to work on my menus and recipe lists for February. This basic maintenance has kept us sane and the budget under control for the past four years. This is what my meal planning area looked like in our last home:


I also used the front of the refrigerator to hold things like recipes, coupons, calendars, schedules, etc. That was to the immediate right in this picture. Alas, the kitchen I have now is too small for this setup, so I’ve been “auditioning” new ideas for my new planning center ever since we moved last summer. The only thing I’ve succeeded in doing is to get more and more frustrated with my kitchen, cooking, the meals I have cooked, and even the grocery shopping (which I love to do!) as the months have gone by. We were eating out more and more, not liking anything we were eating, and not understanding why we were getting so grumpy and feeling sick all the time.

Enough was enough! I finally sat down last week and the first half of this week to really look at my old menus, collection of recipes and cookbooks, and the blogs and websites I like to get my ideas from. The more I read, the worse it looked. I had thrown out all our favorite recipes in favor of “trying something new”! All our comfort foods, reliable meals and yummy snacks had disappeared from my repertoire.

No wonder we’ve been eating out most every week this winter!

In my research, I discovered that it also turns out that we have seen a huge improvement our personal and financial resources , so I had to do something about the quality of our meals at home, and fast! That’s when I figured out what I had been doing wrong for the last seven months- I had stopped using my meal planning skills! So today I am stopping everything (but the laundry!) and designing a plan for February. I am halfway done, and already I feel happier and calmer than I have for ages. Well, ok- maybe a month or two, but you get the idea. I just needed a plan. Nothing drastic, or too complex. let me show you what I do-

I make a list of my husbands favorite dishes, and mine, too.  Then I pare that down to seven main dishes.

Then I make a list of all the vegetables we like to eat- that actually worked out to be 14 items- perfect!

When I go to make my meals, I will double the recipes, and put the extras in the freezer. Voila! 14 meals. The vegetable dishes I make for sides are generally easy enough to make the day I serve them, but things like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and spinach I will make a bulk batch to keep in the fridge for a few days worth of dinners and lunches. ( For example- I’ll steam a couple heads of broccoli and stash them in the fridge, and peel, slice and steam a whole pound or two of carrots plain and doctor them up later for different dishes.)

Now when I have a day or two during the week, I’ll make a batch of my magical vegetable broth, white beans (I still have some black beans in the freezer I need to use up), marinara sauce (for spaghetti, pizza and lasagna sauces, and in minestrone soup), a few different cookie dough's, and various scone, biscuit and bread recipes I like to keep on hand to make dinner special, or to whip out for lunchtime on the weekend.

Okay- 14 meals does not a month make, I know. But I only have two mouths to feed- so it’s easy to make a meal stretch into two nights of dinner or a few lunches, maybe even a weekend meal (if I’m lucky, or if we really liked it!). It also leaves room for one of my favorite hobbies- experimenting in the kitchen.

By taking the time to prepare for the upcoming month, I know I will save time, money and maybe even a little of my sanity!

Now, where did these little footprints on the counter come fro. . . hey! you faeries get outta that cookie jar! Those are for dessert!

1 comment:

  1. Funny you should have a post about this-I realized I was stopping to buy food way too often. And using way too much pre-prepared foods. So last week I decided to start baking at least once a week. Today I made peanut butter cookies and choc chip cookies (had to make those for the grand).

    yesterday I cooked enough food for us and for my daughter's family so we had leftovers today. I work 12 hours so no way I can cook when I get home so late but usually try to cook something for leftovers.

    (just found your blog)