Tuesday, March 3

Planning your Menu?

I'm sitting here at my computer, working on planning my menu for the next 2 weeks. I do this, every two weeks, and every time I sit and struggle with the chore of it. My menu is a loose guide - I menu plan and then shop for the ingredients to fill out what I already have in the pantry. After the menu is made, up it goes on the fridge and I know I have everything I need for each meal. Then I pick off the list each night, sometimes going by the proper dates, sometimes not.

Michael likes Mexican food, we have that at least twice a week. I am loving my produce co-op which allows me to get way more fresh veggies and fruit for my grocery dollars. And the taste of fresh steamed broccoli does not compare to any frozen broccoli I've ever had. Fresh green beans? Same story. Fresh brussel sprouts, roasted? OH YUM.

There are several things that go on every single menu. Tacos, bean burritos, fajitas, my crock pot standards, a breakfast meal, and some sort of pasta with tomato based sauce. And then, it seems like my creativity goes out the window.

I usually peruse the ads for deals on meat and then go from there, but I'm taking this 2-week time off of major shopping, because right now I have a full-of-meat freezer, and when I say that I mean that I have ground beef, ground turkey, chicken breasts, some fish, various cuts of venison, and deli-shaved style ham (I buy a whole ham and have it shaved, then freeze it in 1 lb packages).

So help me today, friends. What is YOUR menu standby, or a tasty dish you've tried lately? Can you give me some ideas? Some links to recipes? Or actual recipes?


Abby Sokul Turner said...

I try to do my menu a month at a time based off of what we have in the fridge/freezer/pantry, then go shopping off of that (similar to you). A few of the standard meals we use (especially in the winter), is Taco Soup (YUMMY!), Pot roast in the crockpot, Salads (grilled steak, grilled chicken, grilled shrimp), and I've been trying to do a breakfast meal as well. Our favorite is Taco Soup - easy to make, few ingredients, and can be done in advance (night before) and started in the morning. I search a lot of the recipe websites, as well as cooking magazines and cookbooks I got for Christmas :-) Good luck! You'll have to share some of your good finds!!

nate, christina, and connor said...

i try to do the same 2-week plan. it did wonders for my budget and my sanity. but i have a very picky eater, so my list is very close to the one you shared and it rarely changes. i am the only one that doesn't enjoy the rut. :) but ptl on that freezer full! what a huge budget saver that must be!

Shelley said...

This is something I've dreamed of doing but never quite have followed threw with.
I just wing it by looking in the freezer, pantry, and fridge.
I admire people who do the menu thing.

Rachel said...

I'm with Shelly on this one...I'm not so good at the "planning" thing. The only dinner you didn't have listed, that is one of our favorites is BBQ chicken...I put frozen chicken (that's my favorite part, no thawing!)covered in BBQ sauce in the oven, and bake...add some kind of potato or pasta, and a veggie and there you have it! I second the "admiring those who brave the menu planning thing" maybe some day, we'll see :)

Busch family said...

I do a similar thing with my menu, only I often have to do it every week or 10 days. I have to say that my creativity faces challenges too. Kevin and Silas are a little picky, mostly in the sense that they like things plain. Branching out is kind of difficult for us too since I hate the thought of fixing something and then no one eating it because we didn't like it. However, Kevin came up with a fun idea. He suggested us taking turns picking a new recipe to try each month from the many recipe cards I have on hand. I organized them before Ruthanne was born so that he could find things more easily once we were home from the hospital. It was then that he realized how many recipes I had and never used. He sorted through them and came up with one to try. I thought that was an interesting idea.
Also, I have a yummy recipe for Taco Lasagna (it's not mine - my friend Anne was kind enough to share!). It's really easy and you can adapt it to fit what your family likes. It's probably my favorite mexican dish to make!

1 lb. ground beef/turkey (I've also used cooked chicken before.)

3 c. salsa
4 c. mexican cheese blend (I've used mostly cheddar and it turned out well)

1 can refried beans
1 pkg. taco seasoning
6 - 10" tortillas

Preheat oven to 350. Brown meat and drain. Add taco seasoning, mix well, and add salsa. In 9" x 13" dish, layer 1/3 meat mixture on bottom, then layer 2 or 3 tortillas to fit in dish. Add beans on this layer. Spread 1/3 meat mixture over beans, then 2 c. cheese. Add 2 or 3 more tortillas. Add last of meat mixture and the rest of the cheese. Bake for 30 min. Serve with sour cream, chips, etc.

Kevin doesn't like refried beans very much, so I've used 1/2 can or put beans on two different layers and it worked well both ways.

Autum said...

We have started trying to meal plan, but I need to start working out a system with going back to work.

One thing we do that works for us is have a file box of 3x5 cards with main dish ideas then pick out the ones we want for the week. You can also write on the card all the ingredients to do your shopping list.

I also struggle with meal planning, but I am loving it now that we have started. It takes a lot of stress off both of us with figuring out what to feed everyone. We meal planned one week then didn't the next and missed it. Once I get dinner down I want to start lunch and breakfast meal planning as well since we tend to struggle with those as well.

A recent favorite meal for us has homemade pizza. We all love pizza, but still haven't found a close enough pizza place that we all like (can't justify driving to the other side of Midland just for pizza) and we really haven't had the money recently to buy a pizza anyway. Meijer has frozen pizza dough in the freezer section that makes a very good crust for about $1.50 (maybe less) a ball then add your own ingredients and you have a pizza for around $5 or less.

Mainstays for our menu--
Spagetti, pizza, tacos all atleast once every 2 weeks

Alicia said...

Hey, girl,

Glad to hear I'm not the only one that finds menu planning a drudgerous (not sure if that's a real word) chore. Actually, I go in spurts. Some weeks I'm pumped about my menu and others . . . not so much.

Some of our standards overlap yours though I've been doing less spaghetti since Chloe doesn't like the sauce on her noodles. But if we're fortunate to have meatballs then she's stoked. And we don't do tacos because Chloe can not get the concept of folding a tortilla to keep the toppings INSIDE. Huge messes have ensued in this teaching process so we've given up for a while. What breakfast-for-dinner meal do you like to make? We're big quiche fans but pancakes, eggs, and smoothies are big hits too.

Some new standards for us are 1) rice & beans with guacamole and either tortillas, chips or quesdillas (my local grocery has a killer deal on wheat tortillas), 2) homemade mac-n-cheese, 3) homemade fish sticks using tilapia or some other sturdy white fish (aldi usually has frozen white fish for very good prices), 4) homemade pizza or decorate-your-own pita or english mufffin pizzas

Those are some of my recent favorite ideas. Figuring out a menu with the constraints of budget and ease-of-preparation while maximizing healthy content is like a complicated calculus problem to me. Some days I'm up for the challenge and other days I'm completely daunted! Praise God for His grace which is sufficient for each day (and the evil thereof . . .)

What I dream of is living on a farm and growing all our own produce and eggs and such. Of course that's largely because I have a very vague idea of how much work goes into a farm. :)

Rosemary said...

I have a one-pan meal that has been a regular on our menu since my kids were at home. I just made this up one day with ingredients that I had on hand and when my son asked me what we were having for supper, I said "Food!, we're having food!". The kids loved it and the name stuck. Here is my very general and flexible 'recipe' for 'FOOD'. (You could easily add mexican seasoning to this for your tastes.)
In a skillet (electric seems to work best, or a heavy skillet on the stove), brown any ground meat, onion, (peppers if you have them) and seasonings(salt, pepper, etc) in a skillet. Add some rice (a little for a smaller pan, or more if you have to feed teenage boys) and let that brown up a little. Add any tomato item that you have in the pantry (canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, etc.). Sometimes, I have thrown in some veggies: any that you have, shredded carrots, green beans, zucchini, broccoli, etc. Add water to cover, put on the lid, lower the heat and set the table. It will be done in the time that it takes your type of rice to cook.
Sit down, say grace, thank God for your 'FOOD' and enjoy:)

Rachel said...

Hey Jenny,

I love www.tammysrecipes.com. Recipes from her site that are keepers, in our opinion are:

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Three Cheese Baked Spaghetti
Italian Cheesy Bread
Enchilada Casserole - I've tweaked it a bit
Spinach Rice Cheese Pie
Farmhouse Chicken
Pumpkin Rolls - Carrie made these into sandwich rolls. What a great idea!

There are many more recipes from her site that are fantastic but these are some of our favorites.

I have been into Lentils, Barley Salad, homemade Hummus and Pita and Soups lately.
I also do a menu two weeks at a time. I keep it flexible though because that is what works for us.

We love BBQ Chicken Pizza and Traditional Pizza and have one or both of those at least once a week. I call homemade pizza my "cop-out meal". It's super simple to throw together. I always have homemade dough in the freezer and homemade pizza sauce on hand. Voila - easy and delicious supper:).

Tim and Richelle said...

i'm down to planning one week menus - our freezer has died again and until i get it fixed, things end up spoiling - plus fruits and veggies would never last two weeks here, even in the fridge.

some other standbys for our family that haven't already been mentioned:
fried rice
sweet and sour meatballs
sloppy joes
vegetable curry
homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese
samosas (baked or fried pies/turnovers with vegetable/meat fillings)
tomato based sauce with mutton served on rice
potato soup/baked potatoes with toppings (chili, sour creme and chives, cheese, salsa, chicken in white sauce, etc.)

those are some ideas - let me know if you'd like any of the recipes. with the exception of the moussaka, they are all relatively fast and easy.