Making a menu and sticking with it can greatly reduce some stress in your life. Finding a method that works for you and your family is the trick. I’ve listed a few ideas that I’ve come across as well as the one I use myself.
Planning a menu:
You can plan your menu on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. After creating your menu, go to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients you will need to make each item. The most common ways I have found are listed below. I personally use the list method. I like to be able to decide what I feel like having that day and know that I have all the ingredients for it.
Calendar – Fill in a calendar with the meal you plan to have on each day. I suggest leaving a few open for leftovers or going out. The benefit of this method is that you know what you are having each day and can see what you may need to defrost the night before.
List – This method is easy. You make a list of all the meals you want to have within your allotted timeframe. Then each day you just pick a meal and cross it off your list. You know you have everything to make any of them.
Cards w/recipe on back – This method takes some time to set up, but is easy to use once it’s done. You make a card for each of the meals/recipes you like to eat, including new ones as you use them. On one side of the card is the name of the meal. On the other side is a list of the ingredients needed. Store unused cards in a recipe card box and place the cards representing your chosen meals into a 9 pocket page protector. You can find these at craft or hobby stores. They are used to store baseball cards, etc. It is easy to make a grocery list or see what items you need to pull out to defrost.
What recipes to use:
Try new recipes – Don’t get in a rut by always making the same things over and over. Ask family and friends if you like something they make. Most people are happy to share a favorite recipe. Be willing to share yours too.
Magazines – My favorites are Taste of Home, Light & Tasty and Quick Cooking. They are all by Reiman Publications. They have pictures and clip out recipe cards. They also limit their advertising, so the magazine is full of recipes and food ideas.
Books – I like the ones with lots of pictures. I have to find at least 10 recipes I would try or I don’t buy it. I also like the little ones you find at the check-out. I have found some of my favorite recipes in them. My rule with those is 5 recipes I would try.
Internet – www.cookingupaproject.com – I know…a shameless plug for this site 🙂 I like www.allrecipes.com. There are different ways to search making it easy to use leftovers or what you have on hand. People post reviews of a recipe and can comment on what they did to tweak it. It’s easy to find a recipe for almost anything you are craving. You can also try www.cooks.com and www.recipegoldmine.com (It has recipes for children). www.melskitchen.com
Slow Cooker – THIS IS YOUR FRIEND!
They are so nice for busy days. You can make all kinds of food in them. When I first got married, I had a small crock-pot my mom had gotten at a garage sale for me to take to college. A roast was all I knew how to cook in it. Since then I’ve searched out many, many delicious recipes made in a crock-pot. Did you know you can make casseroles, lasagna, enchiladas, desserts, spaghetti sauce, apple butter, and even bread in your crock-pot? A meal made in the crock-pot typically takes all day to cook, but the hands-on-time is minimal. There are entire cookbooks devoted to this wonderful appliance. You can also find hundreds of recipes on the Internet. I use mine at least once a week. Sometimes I even have two of them going. I also use it to pre-cook my chicken. I put in boneless, skinless chicken breasts in with water to come about ¾ of the way full. I leave it on low for about 6 hours and then shred the chicken for later. If you spray the inside with Pam before you add your ingredients, the cleanup will be much easier.
Leftovers – What to do with them? Be sure to label them and use them in one of these ways.
Full meals – prep time for double the recipe doesn’t take much more time and you have a meal to go into the freezer to use later. It is best to thaw before cooking, but you can cook from the frozen state by cooking about 1 ½ times as long as the original recipe called for. Be sure to label with the directions as well as the name. Use masking tape on packages or boxes, then you can just pull it off and wash the container.
Individual meals – I package leftovers into individual containers. Monte takes them for lunches or we have fend- for- yourself nights and each person pulls out one that sounds good to them. You can add frozen veggies to fill up the container and add nutrition.
Create a new recipe from leftovers – Use an internet recipe site to search by the ingredient you have.