One of the main topics that came up during the Coffee Table Conversations conference last night was menu planning.
This topic is dear to my heart, so I thought I’d share another post on it while I get my whole foods pantry post in gear for later this week.
If you’re like me, then you’ve endured your share of scrambling and stressing over the constant March of Meals that demands your time, attention and creativity each and every day. I love to cook, but my biggest “hassle” with preparing meals is planning them.
Enter: simplify menu planning.
Years ago, I stumbled upon an article on menu-planning; I gave it a try, and was hooked. The difference it made in my day was amazing!
With a little bit of organization, I could simply glance at my “menu” (posted conveniently on the fridge) and I knew instantly what foods I needed to prepare in advance, take out of the freezer, or put on my grocery list for later.
Here are a few easy tips I’ve learned to incorporate in order to simplify meal time:
- Print out an actual calendar page, write in the meals you plan to prepare each day, and post it on your refrigerator. Here’s a cute set I found online that you can download and print for FREE.
- Try planning just one meal per day. We usually eat a “quickie” (such as left-overs from the previous day, or a sandwich) for our second meal.
- Always keep a grocery list handy while preparing your menu. If you need an ingredient, write it down as you go. This will save you from forgetting to purchase something you need while you’re out grocery shopping.
- Plan your menu according to what you have in your freezer, fridge, and pantry. There are endless ways to prepare just about anything– soups, casseroles, stir fries, salads, pizzas, just to name a few.
- Find creative and delicious ways to prepare left-overs, especially if your family isn’t especially fond of eating the same thing twice. While it’s true that some dishes don’t save well, don’t just throw it out! I call these rerun meals “left-over make-overs.”
Using these simple ideas, here is a sample menu plan. I’m including breakfast and snack options; although I don’t necessarily “plan” these, I do keep a mental note of what we have on hand for each week.
- bananas (I bought a huge bag of overripe bananas at the Farmer’s Market today for $1!)
- banana bread (made from my cheap bananas)
- homemade granola
- toast (Ezekiel bread– cinnamon raisin, yum!)
- organic apple sauce
- Sunday– broiled fish (fresh crappie) with lemon butter, homemade slaw, organic sweet corn (frozen bag cost 79-cents with coupon last week)
- Monday– homemade chili, buttermilk cornbread, raw veggies (cukes and carrot sticks)
- Tuesday– tuna salad pita sandwiches, raw veggies
- Wednesday– garden chowder, spinach salad with poppy seed dressing
- Thursday– baked potatoes, Salisbury steaks, spinach salad
- Friday– spaghetti and meatballs, cooked veggie, spinach salad (again!)
- Saturday– grilled chicken, cucumber salad, basil-honey carrots
- raw veggies and Ranch dressing
- dried fruit (pineapples and raisins are what we have on hand right now)
- celery sticks and peanut butter
What works for you in simplifying meal time? Do you plan a weekly or monthly menu?
Kristy Howard is a pastor’s wife, second-generation homeschooling mom of five, and a passionate believer in friendship, coffee, and quiet time! Kristy writes about motherhood, ministry and life at KristysCottage.com.