Monday, March 14, 2011

Menu Planning

I learned menu planning from my mom.

My style has definitely evolved over the years.

First I would come up with 4-5 ideas for the week that I would pick from each night based on what we felt like after coming home from work when we were first married.  It worked for a while.

Slowly that became more of a hassle than knowing what we were going to have that night without having to think about it, and I started scheduling meals for nights.  And my plans still changed around a lot.

And now I'm here, where it's rare when we don't have what I planned for that night.  Less food goes to waste.  I rarely stress at 5:00 pm because I just realized supper should have been in the oven 30 minutes ago and I haven't even started.  I stress less over all with cooking because the decision was made days ago and I don't have to think about it any more.

How do I do it now?  I do my regular planning to give a variety of meals during the week, and making sure I use up any partial containers of ingredients to reduce waste.  But the thing that keeps me on track is having our menu displayed in plain sight, where I can glance at it on my way out the door to work and be reminded of what I have to do while getting dinner or doing dishes.

I printed out a sheet with the days of the week and stuck it in an old frame from some silly "certificate" at work.  Every week I get out the dry-erase marker and write out the plan for the week.  As the days pass and the meals get made, I erase them.  A lot of weeks my board is empty by Sunday, but if not it's easy to see the meals that didn't get made and are then moved to early the next week.

My style may evolve yet, but this is by far the most effective tool I've used yet when it comes to meal planning.

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