Menu Planning

A few months ago, I had a poll here asking what my fabulous readers would like to see more posts on... and, I did listen, but sometimes life gets in the way of my plans with my blog!  One of the things that people wanted to read more on was menu planning. 

I try to plan a loose menu most weeks, but the summer has made that a bit hard to do since I never know what I am going to find at the grocery store that will simply beg to come home with me from the produce section.  Our grocery store has begun selling many more items from local farms so, I'm always looking to see what will inspire our week's meals.

Even so, I still like to pull out a handful of cookbooks that speak to the type of meals I am wanting to make for the upcoming week, such as the one's in this photo:

It's summer, and while our schedule has not been jam-packed with activities we are still busy running around trying to enjoy ourselves.  We recently decided that we would join a local pool, which means I need some quick and easy snacks and things to pack into a cooler to take with us.  Also, some nights we will want something after we get home to sustain us until breakfast each morning. 

So, the first thing I do - even during the busy school year - is look at the upcoming calendar to see what we have planned.  Could be some late day appointments, a few hours at the pool after the boys finish camp or just a quiet night at home.  After figuring out just how many nights we are truly going to be eating at home, I know how many "full" meals we will need and I search for recipes that will satsify everyone (or at least try to!).  On the busier nights, I keep some convenience items in my pantry or freezer that just need a bit of "dressing up" to fill out a complete meal in a matter of 20 minutes or so. 

This week, I am testing out a cookbook I found at the library that focuses on the busy family and things that can be made ahead and taken on the go.  I selected a couple of recipes to try so that I can build up a list of go-to things that will work once soccer practice is in full swing in September.  We will need some filling snacks for that time between pick-up at school and on the way to practice.  Then, something we can come home to that won't take forever to prepare.

Once I select 2-3 new recipes and plan for a few stand-by recipes I write up the shopping list.  Everyone has their own method, but I prefer to organize my list the way my favorite store is set-up.  I do it by memory, which was a bit trying a few months ago when they decided to reorganize everything on me!  But, now I'm back on track and can find everything I need in a reasonable amount of time.  Some people like to put their list into a spreadsheet or some other computer program.  I tried that for awhile, but ended up going back to good old fashioned paper.  It just works for me. 

I do one big trip a week to pick up everything.  The only things I go back for are additional produce we might have run low on and fish or any other seafood since I prefer to buy it the day I am preparing it.  Since time is a precious commodity, the once a week trip works best for us. 

My plan is pretty loose and sometimes I will pick up ingredients for something and time gets away from me or we just aren't in the mood for one of the meals that has been planned.  When that happens, it may get bumped to the next week or I will use the ingredients in something else. 

Now, that I've shared what I do when planning our meals... I'd love to hear how you plan for the upcoming week.  What are your challenges when it comes to weekly planning?  Do you use a set plan each week (i.e.: Monday - chicken, Tuesday - pork, Wednesday - meatless, etc.)?  I'm sure we could all learn a bit from each other when it comes to feeding our families!

Please note that all photos and content belong to Patsy Kreitman, unless otherwise noted. If you want to use something please ask first.
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amycaseycooks said…
Great post Patsy. I think the key to getting dinner on the table is to have a plan. Like you said, it doesn't have to be a rigid one, just one that works for your family.

My plan is similar to yours in that I like to try new recipes. I usually choose 3 - 4 meals depending on our schedules and like to vary the entree - chicken, beef, fish. We love fish at our house so I usually try to focus on it.

Thanks again for your ideas. I sure it will help me and your readers serve a tasty and healthy dinner to our families.
Shelby said…
I enjoyed reading how you plan your meals! I am not sure that I have started a blog dedicated to exercise and meal planning? If you haven't seen it give me a shout and I will send you the link.

In our home it is just Grumpy and I. For the most part, on Saturday morning, I will take the many magazines I have been looking through - for the most part Cooking Light, Light & Healthy, Vegetarian Times, Rachel Ray and Food Network. That said, most of my recipes come from Cooking Light and - and a few from the others. I choose about 4-5 meals for the 7 day week and place them on any given day. Some days I leave blank. I don't necessarily eat the meal on the day I put it on. That I play by ear. For the most part I have most of the ingredients on hand and the fresh produce and sometimes meat I have to buy. I rarely make just one trip to the grocery. It is convenient for me to stop on my way home from work and that way I have the freshest meat/seafood/produce I can have for the meal. This has been working really well for us and makes knowing what we are eating for dinner so much easier!
Jamie said…
I love this post Patsy because menu planning is so important, especially today when people are so busy. I do what many of you do. Usually on Saturday, with my cup of coffee and my eyes barely open, I start my grocery list. Pen and paper, nothing fancy. I take out some of my magazines with flagged recipes, one of my cookbooks or my saved recipes on my computer. I vary what we eat. I don't like to eat the same meat 2x in a row. And I always have a seafood recipe. My husband works near our seafood market and will pick it up on his way home.

I go to the store 1x/wk unless I need something which is rare. I look up my grocery stores (Publix) weekly ad on-line and I usually build my meals around things that are on sale or stock up on sale items so I have them in the freezer or pantry.

I also write down what I plan to make and put the list on the fridge. That way I can remember and plan on what to make that night. I don't specify a day. Sometimes, I'll ask my husband what he prefers. I have "light" night meals when things are busy with activities and I have "full" night meals when there is more time.

One last thing...I do like to try a few new recipes a week thrown in with some oldies but goodies. Sorry this is so long. I'm really a fan of menu planning and it has made life so much easier when the family asks, "What's for dinner?"
Fish is our fav here and love to make it all summer on the grill...then take long walks around the sub division. I do ask my hubby what he wants and plan ahead. I usually make alot of the same thing and do another dish with any leftover. Like Chicken on the grill can be a main meal, next day lunch on a salad, then chopped in with making a whole chicken... leftover fish isnt so tasty!

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