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Simple Saving Savvy: Intentional Housekeeping: Part 4 - Meal Planning

Simple Saving Savvy

Practicing Wise Stewardship & Blessing Others Out of Our Abundance

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Intentional Housekeeping: Part 4 - Meal Planning

How's the organization coming? I've talked to a few people who are getting their belongings under control and they feel triumphant. I'll be the first to tell you that organization leads to productivity which leads to a cheerful disposition. There's a reason why God encourages order and hard work!

It's time to move on from basic organization of our things to organization of our responsibilities and schedules. Everything goes hand in hand.

This week we'll be discussing menu planning.

But before we jump into it, I have to offer a disclaimer for this entire series:

I, by no means, consider myself an expert in any of the subjects we are discussing. I am definitely not in the ranks of other gals like Lindsay over at Passionate Homemaking or Mandi at Organizing Your Way. I am simply passing on to you the things I have learned through trial and error that make my life as a wife, mom, servant-in-training, ministry director and mom blogger much easier.

Let's get started....what category do you fall in? Are you the woman who always knows exactly what's for dinner and often times has the prep done ahead of time? Or are you the gal who flies by the seat of her pants, deciding what to fix for dinner an hour before?

Whichever category you fall under, I hope you'll take some helpful tips away from this post.

I plan my menu on a weekly basis, sometimes moving into the second week so I know what items to keep an eye out for. (Some plan a month in advance and engage in freezer cooking. I, personally do not practice this on a regular basis although I do sometimes create a few casseroles for the freezer for crazy evenings or taking meals to others).

I have about 30 or so tried and true recipes I use on a regular basis and throw in a new one every now and then to mix things up a bit. If it passes the family test (hubby likes it and three out of five children) then it gets added to my recipe book.

I use this template for planning my weekly menus. This is similar to the version I shared with you awhile back except I have added a space to make a list of needed ingredients.

I do not include breakfast because we usually eat the same old things. And I do not fill in lunches unless the kids are home from school. The children do take lunches to school but I just make sure I have enough sandwich material, fruit, veggies, healthy snacks etc. on hand for those.

Here's what my menu looks like once it's filled out:

This week is a super busy week so I have planned easy one dish dinners. When planning meat entrees, I also write in the side dishes I will serve.

As I'm planning each meal, I similtaneously write in the ingredients I need in the spaces at the bottom. I do not use this as my actual grocery list (although some people do), but it does make writing my list go quite a bit quicker.

Also notice at the top of each evening I have written any activities we have going on. This helps in knowing when to plan something easier or when time will be sufficient to for a more involved recipe.

Since next week is a busy week (Thanksgiving), I have already begun planning my menu as you can see from the photo below:

The children will be on Thanksgiving break so I have filled in the lunch areas. The couple of days leading up to Turkey day will be full of baking and readying the house for company so I have planned crockpot meals.

Also, notice the check marks beside the meats on the ingredients list. These are items I already have in the freezer and will not need to purchase. I am also making use of leftover turkey and ham by remaking them in other recipes for Friday and Saturday dinner.

Once my menu is complete I can then make my master grocery list utilizing the ingredient list on the menu and adding any other items we need.

If you are not a menu-planner already, then this may seem like alot of work to you but trust me, once you get the hang of it and establish a routine, it takes very little time or effort. I can usually whip out my menu plan in less than 15 minutes.

To make it easier, I use a three-ring binder for the tried and true recipes I cook on a regular basis. I use sheet protectors and dividers to organize the recipes by category and type of meat entree. I also have a list of the tried and true recipes on a large index card tucked inside the cover of the binder for quick reference.

Now here's the crux of this whole post....

Why should I plan a menu???

Reason #1
It will be easier to stick within a budget. Even if you don't use coupons, menu planning will save you money. It helps you to be able to calculate approximately how much you will be spending before you go to the store and how much cushion you may have. It'll cut down on impulse buying or buying unneeded ingredients because you're not sure exactly what you have or need. It will also cut down on how often you eat out because you can't figure out what to make for dinner or you just don't want to hassle with it. If you pick a month's worth of tried and true recipes, you'll know what ingredients you use on a regular basis and will be able to find them on sale so you're not paying full price. IT WILL SAVE YOU MONEY!!

Reason #2
It will eliminate stress! Knowing what you're cooking ahead of time allows you to plan for those crazy nights of (insert activity of your choice) and still feed your family a nutritious (non-fast food) meal. And even on less busy nights, you know what you're making, you can even prep ahead if you want, leaving you with a more relaxed schedule and no need for rushing.

I'm sure there are many more good reasons for menu planning but these two sum it up for me. Saving money and de-stressing my life! I'm sold!



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