OK - I know what you are thinking, "You do menus?" Yes, I do. I spend a full day looking at old recipes that I have plus the new ones that I have found on pinterest then I plan a two to four week menu. Then I make my grocery list and hit the store for that 2-4 weeks worth of groceries.
Most people look at me like I am crazy when I say this, but really it is very practical. My husband and I started making a simple menu when we first got together. Believe it or not he was the one that was doing a very simple food menu before we moved in with each other. Here are the benefits I have found to doing a menu.
1. You save money. OK, the thought of dropping that much $$$ at the grocery store at one single time is sickening, but when you really add up what you spend we found it is actually cheaper to go this way. You do your menu you make your grocery list and you ONLY buy what is on that list. We have found that the longer the period we plan and shop for, the more money we save. Now about that saving money - here a couple of sub sets as to how this saves money!
a. A lot of people buy more than is on their list when they shop. So if you go to the store more often you usually end up spending extra money on things that aren't needed. Only going to the store once or twice a month means you spend less of that money on those "extra" last minute purchases.
b. Know the best prices. OK - for me I buy all our frequently used meat at Sam's Club. Down here that is the cheapest. Boneless skinless chicken breast is $1.77 a pound, and 90/10 ground beef is $2.79 a pound. We also get milk ($2.99 a gallon), orange Juice ($3.49 a gallon), butter ($7.19 for four pounds), chunk cheese ($5.28 for 2 pounds) and our paper products (TP and paper towels) at Sam's club. I use the dollar store to buy toilet cleaner, toothpaste/toothbruhes, bathroom cleaner, and some food (like tortilla shells). After Sam's and the Dollar store I hit Save-A-Lot. Here is where I buy our frozen vegetables, any frozen potatoes if we have any planned, spaghetti sauces, and our cottage cheese/sour cream. I end it with the trip to Wal-Mart for what is on the rest of my list. If I were in Michigan I would do all my shopping in Cadillac (cheaper than TC), and instead of Wal-Mart I would go to Meijers.
c. Always check the meat shelves. OK - for meat I plan to buy it is only ground beef and chicken, but sometimes you can get some great deals on the "we have to sell it today or toss it" meats. I will post my menu for the next few weeks at the end of this - and on there you will see t-bone steaks. OK - we would never buy them normally, but the last time I shopped I came across some T-bones that were on sale for $1.99 a pound. I picked them up to be used on the next menu cycle!
2. You safe time. OK , I know the thought of spending 3-4 hours making a menu and compling recipies doesn't sound like it saves time, and neither does spending a full day in the grocery store, followed by several hours at home putting food away and orgainzing bulk food so it can be used, but trust me, it saves time. First - you re only in a store twice a month (even when I do the full four weeks of menu I do have to do a milk/fruit run after two weeks). Think of all the time you waste just going to the store. And if you are like me then you have to haul kids into and out of the store with you. Really, one or two longer days a month vs. that stop several times a week (and I know some people who go to the store every day!) it really does save that time. On top of that, I know for me if I don't have dinner planned I do the, "Awww, what am I going to make for dinner tonight?" thing. You rummage through your freezer and cupboards and try to figure out if you have enough to make one meal or the another. By the time I figure it out the kids are screaming, yet it is still a full hour away from the meal being done. In my house, that is just not a fun thing.
3. One less thing to worry about. This goes with the above statement. You are buys, working, running the kids everywhere, dealing with the house work. . . .if the menu is already set then it is set. All you have to do is know when you have to start it. One day of menu planning leads to many days of not having to worry about it!
4. Usually more nutritious. Before I had kids this wasn't a big deal to me, but since having kids this has become a huge deal. Toss in the fact that we had a child on a Gluten Free/Casein Free diet for 4 years and I can say my menus saved my sanity. I could not have come up with unplanned last minute meals that would have fed him the way he needed to be fed. If I hadn't planned those meals he would have eaten nothing but Hebrew National hotdogs and Lays potato ships. . . . that planning is what allowed us to still feed him a balanced and varied diet that fit into his GF/CF needs. Getting past that, the one thing I do feel we do right as parents is that we have a balanced dinner every night at the kitchen table. TV off, just us, the meal, and the kitchen table. We all sit down, say grace and the eat and talk together. I try very hard to provide and offer a variety of meals, some old and loved meals and some new and adventurous ones. My family loves to try new things, and we really do like food. Doing this has given us three girls who love to try new foods (Evelyn especially). Doing menus really helps to make our diet more nutritious. In doing this you see the big picture and can adjust accordingly.
5. Less processed foods. This could have been in the above. My family does eat some processed foods - you will see that in the menu I have made - but we try to limit it. I personally think a lot of the health problems that are out there today are due to the crap that is put in our food. Our bodies were meant to eat food right after it was killed or picked. . . that was how we were made. . . I am not fond of processed foods.
6. Less waste. I have found a lot less waste when I use menus. I mean , when we have a roasted chicken one day, the next day we can boil the bones from the chicken to make a broth and make a yummy chicken and dumpling soup from that broth and the left over chicken. I always plan my menus that way! I hate tossing food! Plus - in our house lunch is always leftovers or a PBJ. ALWAYS!
So - with the things I love about menus here are the few things I don't like about them. . .
1. You get one week of fresh fruit and veggies and a week of canned or frozen. That is just how it works. Down here everything fresh molds so fast, so you have to make sure if you have meals that require fresh fruits or veggies that you plan them in the first week, and then the second week is more your frozen or canned stuff. Even when I do the month menu I do run to the store after two weeks to get another batch of fresh stuff.
2. Sometimes you just don't feel like having what is on that menu. For us - we just try to moves stuff around to something that we would like. The meals are still there to be cooked and you don't HAVE to make them on the day that is planned.
3. Lack of snacks or food that you crave. Sometimes I crave Doritos. I don't put them on the menu. I don't buy them. I miss Doritos. My kids get me a bag of Doritos for Christmas and it is the best gift ever! Also, the only snack food we buy is popcorn. A bag of popcorn kernels, not even microwave stuff. Sometimes you just want to snack on something and an apple isn't going to fill that craving. I do make homemade cookies and such, but if they aren't made then we don't have them.
OK - so here is my menu for the next three weeks. I do plan a few meals out. We do have some processed foods. Plus - I have a Dessert menu as well that I can just make when I have time.
Thursday (started yesterday) - Garlic Parmasean Chicken, Homemade Mashed Potatoes, Carrots
Friday - Pork chops (got on sale a month ago), Garlic pasta, Spinach
Saturday - Chicken Lachoy with rice (processed meal - Evie's loves LaChoy and requested it)
Sunday - Out - Columbia's restaurant (1905 day - all prices are rolled back to their 1905 price!)
Monday - Bacon, cabbage and noodles (a yummy polish dish that is just a mixture of these 3 ingreadients)
Tuesday - Hot Dogs (Hebrew National) and Mac n cheese (procesed food night). Broccoli.
Wednesday - Chicken Tacos (tacos made with chicken instead of ground beef)
Thursday - Pot pies (another processed food night)
Friday - Pollo Loco (this is an amazing recipe of rice, and chicken covered in a queso!), green beans.
Saturday - White Chicken Enchalladas (new recipe), salad from leftover Taco veggies.
Sunday - Grilled t-bones, Mashed Potatoes, Corn on the cob (T-bones got on sale on last shopping trip!)
Monday - Chicken fried rice (homemade)
Tuesday - Chicken and creamy orzo pasta (a yummy recipe with broccoli and tomatoes in it!)
Wednesday - Tia's restaurant (kids eat free night)
Thursday - Manwich, French fries, corn (processed food!)
Friday - Grilled cheese sandwich and mushroom soup.
Saturday - Goulash, cauliflower.
Sunday - Braised chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, carrots
Monday - Grandpa Johnson's restaurant (kids eat free night)
Tuesday - Slower cooker Potato soup with homemade beer bread.
Wednesday - Homemade Mac N Cheese - using the Panera recipe.
Thursday - Sausage and rice casserole.
Friday - Moe's restaurant ($5 burrito, chips and drink day!)
Desserts - all homemade
Bites size apple pies
Pull apart Cinnamon sugar pumpkin bread
Caramel apple bars
Red Velvet Cake
Chocolate Peanut butter cake.
So there it is, three weeks worth of menus for 6 people. I do so love my menu planning! Guess that is one of the reasons I became a dietitian :)