Sunday, April 26, 2009

Menu Planning

I recently commented on a question about this topic over at Leah’s Simply Fabulous blog and wanted to expand on it a bit more. First, here’s my excerpt from Leah’s post:

“Take Jessica for example, she is very organized in my opinion! I love her meal planning strategy and I have gotten great ideas from her!! She posted this in the comments section the other day:

I wanted to share a few tips on how I menu plan.

I keep an electronic food calendar, I use Google Calendar, and place recipes on it by day when I see one I want to make from another blog, magazine, cookbook, or cooking website. I place the title of the recipe in the subject line and post the link or what recipe book/magazine it can be found in the description section. Also, I place the recipe in the month when the main ingredients are seasonal aka if it’s zucchini I’ll place it in June or July when I know the farmers market will be full of them. Before you know it, in a few months you will have collected a plethora of recipes.

If I don’t get a chance to cook a dish when I expected too, I just drag and drop the recipe onto another date on my electronic food calendar. I also can print the calendar out and keep it in the kitchen. I even schedule “leftover” days if I know a recipe will make a lot or for nights when I’m busy I’ll purposely plan to make something that is super fast.

The best advise I can give is do what works for you and START SMALL. For me the key to staying organizing is to break up a goal into small steps, and once you’ve mastered a step add another.

Want to know what Jessica has on the menu this week?  She features Meal Plan Monday each week on her blog.”

So I wanted to expand on this a bit more…

Food Calendar

I suggest creating a “food calendar” (as mentioned above) on online so that you can access it anywhere and at anytime. I also suggest that you print out the calendar in a “monthly view” and keep it out in the kitchen in plain sight (on the fridge or with your recipes for the week). At the end of every week I pull out my food calendar (normally online) and print or pull the recipes for the dishes I’ll be cooking. I keep these all together in one stack and place the recipes in order of when I plan to make them. This is where “Menu Plan Monday” really helps out (see below).

Weekly Grocery List and Shopping

  • Keep a pre-printed stack of Grocery Lists with items listed that you frequently purchase. I have a separate one for Trader Joe’s items and BJ’s Wholesale Club. Email me at andyjess2002 at yahoo dot com, if you’d like me to email you these.
  • Before grocery shopping quickly look over the recipes you plan to make and add these items to your list.
(I stay flexible with ingredients, I don’t have to have the exact ingredient to still make a dish. Once you’ve cooked for awhile, you’ll learn what can be swapped out or substituted. I look at cooking as a general guideline, but like being creative and experimenting with my own ideas and flavors.)
  • On Sunday’s I flip through the newspaper and look over my grocery stores circular and the coupon inserts (date and save these– visit Money Saving Mom to see what‘s on sale at which stores and what coupons match-up).
    • Watch for sales and stock-up or rearrange your food calendar to accommodate.
    • Add any essentials to your list: milk, OJ, fresh fruit, bread, etc to the list and your all set.
(I don’t purchase bread weekly, since the two of us can’t eat a whole loaf that quickly, I keep a combination of bakery-style sliced whole wheat bread, whole wheat English muffins, whole wheat pita pockets, baguette, etc in the freezer and pull out and thaw a few slices or pieces at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or wrapped overnight, as needed. If it’s bread slices you can also toast them a couple times from the frozen state and they’ll come out perfectly toasted.)

Storing Printed Recipes

See my previous post on the recipe filing system I use.

Menu Plan Monday

A great way to get inspired on menu planning is to check out Org Junkie’s weekly Menu Plan Monday. I link to this weekly, you can find all my previous recipes and menu plans here.

Want More?

For even more check out my previous posts for photos on how I organize my groceries,

I would be glad to entertain any additional questions or to clarify/expand on the topic more.

1 Jessica Blog signature


Kevin said...

I do something similar for meal planning though I keep it all in a text file. I like to have the meal plan, recipes and grocery list done for the whole week so that I can get all of my grocery shopping done on one day and be set for the week.

robinbb said...

I really loved this post and the references to your past menu plans. Your blog has been one of my favorites for helping me plan healthy meals.

I would love to know what size food processor you use. I am looking to purchase one, to make recipes like your black bean burgers and would like advice as to what size would work when preparing meals that you have referenced on your blog. Thanks!

Christopher said...

Love this idea and am trying it out myself. I posted it to my blog as well. Thanks for a great tip!