Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"What's for Dinner?"

I anticipate the first question I hear upon arriving home will be "What’s for dinner?” In past years I have been good about having a menu for kids to refer to – which sometimes increases whining upon their inspection. But as my life is now…my youngest and now only child at home determines what we eat after weekly review of the ‘Menu Master’.

Let me share with you, what works for us.

I often plan meals from the Menu Master in three various ways...

1- According to sales ads, coupon usage, etc.
2- What we already have on hand.
3- What sounds good or is EASY!

I made a master list many years ago (at least 10 yrs. ago) of all the meals I make. I listed them according to the main protein ingredient:
4.other(legume dishes or soups and stews).

I starred* the ones that every person in the house liked at that time. (Eliminating "yuk, why are we having that?")

I noted which were cooked in the microwave, oven, stove top or the grill (this is helpful in the summer when you don't want to heat up the house). This is done by adding a simple M,O,S,or G after the food item -it isn't as detailed as it may sound.

I included lunches and breakfasts with a list of several muffins the family liked as well. These lists are more basic and often lunch consists of leftovers. Lunch and breakfast aren't used often anymore but I do refer to them for dinner suggestions because occasionally I like pancakes for dinner.

I have crossed things out that I never make anymore (ie. spaghetti and swiss steak)and have added new things we have tried and liked (ie. Cali spaghetti, shrimp scampi and stuffed mushrooms).

I also penciled in a section on salads so when going to a pot luck I can scan that list quickly for an idea.

Meals tend to be more nutritious and a better variety. No pasta dishes being served two nights in a row here. I also can do planning where I cook a roast for Sunday dinner and plan use of leftovers for enchiladas or a stew a couple of nights later.

All this fits on 1 side of a computer generated 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper which I slip into a page protector and have it in the recipe drawer for quick reference.

If I haven't planned a meal ahead and I only have 1#of ground sirloin in the freezer, referring to the Master Menu takes the guess work out of planning dinner.

How Far In Advance Should Meals Be Planned?

-If you use this list to prepare a month long menu – planning your food storage needs based on what you use each month is a snap! Figure out what you use in 1 month and multiply it 12 and there you have what you need for a one year supply.

-If you plan according to sales, you may only plan one week at a time since new circulars come out each week. But if there was an especially great sale, you may have a surplus to use in your plans.

-If you are paid bi-weekly or bi-monthly - your grocery budget may determine the length of your planned menu. We used to get paid monthly so I did major shopping monthly and just saved enough cash for fresh milk and eggs weekly.

This may or may not help you in your menu planning but here is a somewhat current weekly menu I have used over and over because my computer printer in apparently on vacation. Notice the bottom has a suggestion box. Those who complain about the planned meals have a place for their voice to be heard(or seen)and be validated when next weeks menu is planned. I actually love it when all the space is filled in with suggestions. Very little planning needed on my part.

For those of you who love making lists - this will be quite pleasing to you.

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