Menu Planning 101

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Menu Planning 101

Hello friends,

Let’s talk wifey work.  Now my definition of this is different than your definition of this and each probably has their own definition of what this looks like for them.  As many of you know I am a stay at home, homeschooling, marketing, refereeing, baking, IT running, wife and mommy.  My day in day out routine is probably different than yours. My days consist of teaching Micah, caring for Casey, playing with Patrick, making all our meals from scratch, running the marketing of our farm and a County Farmers market. God gives me the ability to do all of this and more.  I know it’s all Him.

I wanted to let you in on a facet that makes this routine work smoothly: Meal Planning.  This is a buzz word in the circles I run in now-a-days.  So many moms seem to get so stressed out over this and I honestly don’t understand why.

How to Month Meal Plan:

  1. Fill in the calendar.

About two days before the end of the month I sit down on the couch while my boys are all napping with all my cook books, a notebook, and my computer by my side.  (Note – boys are napping and I have a moment to do this and focus on this)  I print off a blank calendar from Word for the upcoming month.  I take a pen and write in all the things I know are happening that month.  Let’s look at February for my example:  For us I knew that the first weekend we wouldn’t be home we’d be away at a conference but I had to pack lunches for 6 adults for that conference,  I know that two Mondays a month I have a homeschool Co-op all day, so I write that on those days.  I knew that we’d be away the weekend of the 17th-20th. Finally I always write PIZZA on Fridays because that’s what we eat every Friday.  Remember to put in when you know you’re having guests over, or someone not being home.

  1. Make a list

Take your handy dandy notebook and write the types of meats your family eats.  Us, having a farm we eat lots of chicken and pork, some beef and rarely ever seafood. Under each heading of meat type I write some of my favorite things to make with that dish. Example:  Chicken- Whole baked chicken, Chicken Marsala, Orange Chicken, Chicken Cordon Blue Roll Ups, BBQ Legs and Thighs, Chicken Nuggets, White Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Milanese, Chicken Pot Pie, Baked Chicken Legs, Chicken Noodle Soup etc.  This is where your cook books and computer come in handy.  I love the Pioneer Woman and how she cooks and portions.  Her blog and cookbooks are staples for me.  That and my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook as well as Kay Robertson’s Cookbook are my go-to’s.  I make a list for all sorts of things I like to eat of those types of meats and get it all laid out by meat type.  Don’t forget simple non recipe things like:  Pork Shoulder Steaks, Pork Chops, Steaks, Sausage Dogs, Burgers etc.  Those are quick and painless! Also, don’t forget soups!!

Plug ‘n’ Chug

Fill in the dates on your calendar.  In our house Sundays are easy days for mommy.  I usually plan that to be breakfast-for-dinner night.  The rest of the days that are open on your calendar plug in the meal ideas you just listed on your grand list.  Don’t forget to do a leftover night every once in a while!

  1. Make your grocery list.

Take your filled in calendar and your notebook.  Go through each day and write what ingredients you need to purchase for that dish that you don’t have on hand.  Remembering to check the stock of your basics like: milk, eggs, Flour, salt, seasonings, onions, garlic, potatoes, BUTTER etc. I then go through my house really fast and write down things we’re low on.  Toilet paper, paper towels, garlic salt, shampoo, baby wipes, sugar etc.  Write it all down.

  1. Go shopping!

For us this is nearly an all day affair.  We live 45 minutes from an Aldi and major grocery store, plus having the 3 kids makes for a looong  day.  Plus, we pick up Raw Milk for our house and my in laws on this trip usually so that’s an extra stop.  Tips:  Buy blocks of cheese, there’s no added ingredients that you don’t want and it takes seconds to grate it yourself.  Melts soo much better too.  They’re cheaper and more versatile.  (Slices for sandwiches or grated in mac n cheese)

  1. What about out Lunches/Breakfasts.

In our house things are pretty straight forward here.  Breakfast is usually eggs in some fashion and a bread entity with some breakfast meat if we have it on hand.  My Micah likes granola over eggs so 2x a month I make a 20+cup batch of granola from scratch and that’s his breakfast and emergency lunches.  I like to make a “special” breakfast of waffles, pancakes, French toast, biscuits and gravy…. Etc. On Saturdays if I can, I make my own bread 1-2x a week (3 loaves at a time) and that’s usually breakfast.    We don’t eat store bought cereal for a few reasons:  1. I don’t like the ingredients I can’t pronounce/don’t want those in our bodies. 2. Doesn’t last as long in your stomach 3. More expensive.

Lunches:  My boys love PB&J’s for lunch every day.  That’s what they ask for so they get it!  My mother in law makes the jam for our business so it’s always around and I get a good natural peanut butter from Aldi.  For my hubs and I it’s usually leftovers from the dinner prior, a sandwich with a ham slice from the farm, or granola!  I use up my leftovers at lunches and keeping my fridge available for more real ingredients like Cheese and butter.

  1. What about sides?

Make a list of what you like for sides.  I have the benefit of a full freezer of all of last season’s produce frozen at my fingertips.  I “shop” for items like this at my in-laws house.  She keeps the frozen veggies, potatoes in the root cellar and carrots and onions stored up.  Basic meal for us is:  meat, a starch and a green/colored veggie.  I keep a steady supply of potatoes at my house, and a stock of at least 5 frozen veggies from my in-laws freezer in my freezer per week.  List should be simple:  green beans, broccoli, mac n cheese, (cheaper to make from scratch!), pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, carrots etc.  Then shop for these items at the store.  In the winter I get some organic lettuce package for us to have a salad for the first few dinners.  (Menu planning for the month = lettuce won’t last till the end of the month!)  I make mac n cheese, butter parsley noodles, butter parsley potatoes, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, baked fries, and other things regularly to pair with our other veggies.

What does it look like when it’s all done:

Here’s my month of February:

  1. Sausage burgers
  2. Steak
  3. PASA (conference)  Lunches- sandwiches, chips, fruit, cookies
  4. PASA
  5. Come home from PASA – pancakes
  6. Homeschool Co-op – Boneless pork loin
  7. Chicken Nuggets
  8. Spaghetti
  9. Pork Chops
  10. PIZZA- Peperoni
  11. Business Meeting Here – Orange Chicken
  12. Pancakes
  13. White Chicken Enchiladas
  14. Tacos
  15. Soup – Bean
  16. Left overs
  17. Iowa
  18. Iowa
  19. Iowa
  20. Homeschool Co-op – Sausage and Mac n Cheee
  21. BBQ Chicken
  22. Pulled Pork
  23. Chicken Marsala
  24. PIZZA – Black Olive
  25. Business Meeting Away
  26. French Toast
  27. Chicken Milanese
  28. Left Overs

–          Sides :  Mashed potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Corn, Mac N Cheese, butter parsley taters, crash hot potatoes, boiled potatoes, baked fries, butter parsley noodles,

From this I’d make up my grocery list.  We have all the meats and eggs on our farm, as well as flours, oil, olive oil, yeast and other dry ingredients in bulk.  {We also sell these items in bulk just letting you know! } I get Raw Milk as well from a dairy 40 min away.

Butter – 8 boxes

Cane Sugar – 2 4lb packages

Lunch supplies:  cheese, chips and apples

Apples for the house

Bananas

Clementines

Maple Syrup (2 12oz bottles)

Organic Spaghetti noodles

Organic Spaghetti Sauce (3jars)

Pepperoni (packaged from Aldi)

Mozzarella Cheese (5 blocks)

Cheddar cheese blocks (3)

Colby Cheese block (1)

Orange juice

Organic Black Beans

Organic Kidney Beans

Organic Pinto beans

Lemon juice

Parmesan Cheese

3lb box of Elbow Macaroni

Ketchup (2 ) (Hunts because it doesn’t have High Fructose Corn Syrup)

Mayo (2)

Half & Half

Cottage Cheese

BBQ Sauce (I like Stubbs brand)

3 bags Nestle Chocolate Chips

1package Br Sugar

1 package Powdered Sugar (I tend to make treats pretty often in the month)

Marsala Wine

Black Olives (2)

Green Peppers

Dish Soap

Toilet Paper

Tissues

Napkins

Garlic Salt

Baby diapers

Baby wipes

This is about what my list looks like for the month of February.

{For the Purists out there reading this who are chastising me for my groceries choices – I never claim to be a purist in the food realm.  We eat as naturally as we can within our budget.  I make all our meals from scratch.  I bake my own bread, rolls, biscuits and tortillas.  I know the ingredients in just about every item I buy and I am very brand specific because I don’t want unknown chemicals in my families bodies. So say what you will but this is how we work in our house.}

{For those who want to know how they can do that – make your own breads, tortillas, granola and watch ingredients – another blog post will be coming for you!}

Having this calendar made and posted squarely on my refrigerator in the kitchen keeps me calm as I know that I have all the supplies on hand for all the meals I want to make this month.  I hope that this helps someone get a better handle on how to make household work smoother.  If anyone wants ideas for recipes or tips please shoot me an email!

I’ll have another post about baking for the household!

 

Catch you later friends. May the Lord be with you.