This week I want you to be thinking about menu planning. I’m convinced that it’s important if you want to cook both frugally and nutritiously for your family.
- more likely to choose healthy meals instead of relying on stand-bys that may or may not be the best nutrition for your family
- have the forethought to do healthy things like soaking your own dry beans
- easier to plan healthy sides and remember to get the veggies in
- can soak grains (more on this later)
- can avoid the microwave for defrosting and cooking (more on this later too!)
- have the forethought to do inexpensive things like soaking your own dry beans to save money
- avoid last-minute trips to the store
- pass up fast food
- make sure you’re buying items on sale/learn to stockpile
- able to use up all your perishables, produce and leftovers
- remember to plan in “low-budget” meals
- avoid last-minute trips to the store
- take advantage of “cook once, serve twice” strategies
- spend less time frantically checking for ingredients/deciding what to make right at dinner hour when everyone is already hungry (including you)
- big, pre-planned meals make big, useable leftovers
Happy family benefits:
- lots of variety!
- can answer the question, “What’s for dinner…on Friday?”
- less stress right before dinner…ok, no promises on that one, but it’s a nice thought
On Monday, I’m going to ask you to take a small baby step in meal planning if you’re a total rookie fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants every day kind of person. If you are already a meal planner, we’ll work on refining and making your system work for you. If you’re there already, just skip the Monday mission and try a new recipe instead! 🙂
At the end of the post, you’ll find a few links to meal planning resources/ideas elsewhere in cyberspace. However, if menu planning, especially keeping all the meals nourishing, seems daunting to you, you may want to check out a menu planning weekly helper like the one at GNOWFGLINS. You’ll get recipes, shopping lists, and even “what to do when” guides.
As Food for Thought, I’m going to share a recent two-week meal plan with you, not to overwhelm, but to inspire. I think it’s a pretty good one, filled with almost all the bulleted benefits you just read. Plus you can snitch some of my recipes!
1. Venison roast with potatoes, onions and carrots in the slow cooker, simple seasonings.
Prep for tomorrow: soak barley
2. Make venison into soup: add can of tomatoes, more vegetables, barley, frozen corn, more seasonings. Homemade biscuits.
Prep for tomorrow: soak cornbread, beans
3. Chili and cornbread (the beans cooked 8 hours)
Prep for tomorrow: soak beans (make with veggies for broth)
Prep for tomorrow: thaw refried bean cubes and meat, soak tortillas
Prep for tomorrow: soak beans
7. Oven-Roasted chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy (used up chicken stock thawed from meal 4)
prep: cut bite-sized chicken out of breast portion of another whole chicken, marinate for stir fry. Start chicken stock with one whole raw chicken, one raw chicken minus breast meat, and bones from tonight’s meal. Cook overnight. Soak beans.
Prep for tomorrow: add a ladle of chicken broth to stir fry chicken.
Prep for tomorrow: freeze broth and chicken (details coming in two weeks!), make dosa batter
10. Indian Dosas with shredded chicken, steamed veggies and coconut chutney.
11. Scrambled eggs with potato pancakes (leftover mashed potatoes from meal 7)
13. K of C Fish Fry at church
14. Creamed chicken (double batch) over Confetti Rice Squares (use rice cooked at meal 6)
15. Leftover white chicken chili and fresh homemade biscuits
The best part? Feed a family of four for under $350 in monthly groceries. Plus – save more! Tiffany has graciously offered an exclusive coupon for Kitchen Stewardship readers. Just enter the coupon code KS15 before checking out for 15% off the 3-month or annual packages. If you aren’t yet ready to commit you can download a 2-week sample menu OR purchase a single month to give it a go. You have nothing to lose!
Here’s my favorite part…watch this (you know how I like to save time and hate wasting food):
- Tortillas were used in meals 5 & 6 plus frozen for next week.
- Red onion was used in meals 4, 5, 6, and 10 plus on salads.
- Brown rice was soaked and cooked once, then used in meals 6, 9 and 14.
- Fresh parsley made an appearance in the chicken stock, plus meals 8, 10, 11, and 14 (twice). That’s something that would often get goopy and thrown out at my house!
- I made WAY too many mashed potatoes in meal 7, but compensated by shifting things around and having breakfast for dinner in meal 11.
- Here’s the ULTIMATE best part: for around $12 worth of whole chickens, I served meals 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, and 15 (either broth, meat or both), PLUS an incredible amount of broth and shredded chicken in my freezer. You’ll find out how much when I give the chicken stock mission in two weeks.
I felt like I’d never stop connecting meals together. This was a fun meal plan. You can do this too! Notice that I have a few leftovers meals that take no work, and for week 2 I had almost no major prep work because my broth and chicken were waiting for me!
If you don’t have a clue about meal planning, you can find resources online.
- The absolute basics on how to menu plan from Organizing Junkie.
- This is an incredible list of recipe sites, menu planning resources (free and for fee), and even gluten-free sites.
- Find very basic ideas, and a monthly meal plan calendar to print out here.
- For those who love the computer, grab this simple Excel meal planner calendar.
- Simple Mom has good details on how to plan with Google Calendar, if you’re a total computer junkie.
- Go to Stolen Moments Menu Planning if you want someone to plan your meals for you.
- Only for the brave of heart: click here for Menu Plan Monday, where almost 500 bloggers shared their menu plans for last week!!!
Be sure to come back for the Monday Mission!
Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. I am a guest lecturer and partner with GNOWFGLINS eCourses, so I will earn commission from any sales made starting here. Of course, the courses are also an awesome way to learn to cook real food, so I’d gab about them anyway.