Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tip of the Day... from menu planning to fixing girl's hair

Some of my readers had questions on last week's Tip of the Day about my monthly shopping trips.  A few of those dealt with menu planning.  I decided it would be a great topic to discuss for this post.  After this discussion, I have included some links that may be helpful.  They offer weekly and monthly planning calendars, some with grocery lists attached.

When I began grocery shopping once a month, I would plan out monthly menus and from those menus, I would make my shopping list.  This is quite time consuming, but I felt that in order to buy enough food to last a month, it was something that I needed to do.  It also took care of the hardest part of dinner: figuring out what to fix.

I began with a blank calendar with big enough squares to write my dinner menu for the day.  I started with tried-and-true dinners and put them in random places on the calendar.  I tried to have my kid's favorites, or at least familiar meals, three to four times a week.  Then I added some menu items that I had in my recipe book that I had forgotten about, and the majority of the family liked.  Finally, I filled in the remaining four to five squares with new recipes that I wanted to try.  I basically repeated this menu the following month, changing items around to fit new schedules and tastes.

I subscribe to Simple & Delicious http://www.tasteofhome.com/simple magazine and always find at least one meal idea to try from each magazine.  This is where I usually find extra meals to replace those that the kids don't like, also.

Now that I have been doing this for sometime, I have a master grocery list that I use every month, made from my usual monthly meals.  I read over this printed list just before I go shopping.  Sometimes, I have enough of an item left that I don't need to get it and I cross it off my list.  Other times, I realize that I did not have enough of an item to get me through the whole month and add more.  Finally, I add any new items I may need for a new recipe I'm trying or to cover any holiday meals or special occasions that month. 

Because I go crazy during case lot sales, I usually have a surplus of canned and baking goods.  This really saves me money because I don't have to buy something if I can't find it on sale.  I also buy meat in bulk and put it in the freezer.  At meat processing plants, you can buy a beef, (or half or quarter of a beef), a lamb, and pork in different cuts.  This allows you to be flexible on rush-days by having numerous ideas on hand for your dinner menu.

Finally, don't forget the ease and popularity of breakfast foods for dinner.  If I have been gone all day and don't have much time, pancakes and eggs are always a great choice.  My whole family loves this meal and I love the convenience.

I try to make dinner a good experience for my family.  We always sit down together at the table and I feel like we learn so much about each other by doing this.  Every once in a while, (about every other month,) I like to do something out of the ordinary.  Whether it's tin foil dinners cooked in the oven, a weinie-roast outside, or having the kids design their own pizzas, it adds a little flare to dinners.

 About twice a year, when peaches are in season, and again when apples are ready to pick, I make pies for dinner.  The kids think I'm the coolest Mom ever to let them have dessert for their meal and I like that they're eating their daily dose of fruit, (even if it is covered in cinnamon and sugar!)  Be sure to add some fun to your menu planning!

For the ultimate meal-planning website, check out http://simplemom.net/how-to-menu-plan/. This site tells all of the why's and how's of meal planning and shares some new ideas about it also.

To print blank calendars, menus, and shopping lists, go to http://organizedhome.com/printable.

There is a great weekly menu planning list with a grocery list attached at http://www.TheHomeSchoolMom.com/pdf/MenuPln.pdf.

A SIDE NOTE:  When asked by 'suzeeduzee' about what my family's favorite foods are and how I deal with picky eaters, this was my reply:

Some of my family's top menu choices are 1)self-made pizzas- I make the crust and they do the rest, 2)fried chicken- legs only!, 3)spaghetti- some like sauce, others like butter and salt, 4)Hawaiian haystacks- because you can put on only the ingredients you like, 5)tacos- once again, kids can choose their own ingredients ,and 6)taco soup- kids love dipping the chips, (had to mention this last one because it's so easy for me!)

If, or should I say when, the kids don't like something, I make them eat at least a spoonful amount, or one thing, like one asparagus, or whatever. The kids can then make themselves a jam or ham sandwich if they just can't handle what we're having.  (In the case of my pickiest eater, it's ham and jam together on the sandwich.  And he won't eat potatoes and gravy. Crazy, huh?) 

If you'd like a sample of my whole month's menu, let me know.  I could also give you a sample of my master shopping list if you would like that, also.


  1. Melanie,

    When I grow up I want to be more like you!



  2. I love everything you have to share...thank you so much!!
    I left a comment on last week's shopping blog, but don't know where it went-OOPS!
    I just TOTALLY identify with everything you mention! You have a real natural writing style that is entertaining and FULL of tips for those of us in similar circumstances. Thanks for sharing!! I am loving your blogs:)!!


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