Menu Planning

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FAll is finally upon us. The garden has slowed down the bulk of our harvest season is over. Our freezer is full, the cellar is full, we are ready for winter.

During the winter months we still try very hard to eat seasonally. We do not buy a lot of produce from the grocery store. We use the fruit and vegetables that I have frozen or canned during the summer. This makes menu planning so much easier. During the warm months, my menu is 100% based on what is coming out of the garden. If we have a huge cucumber harvest, we will be eating cucumbers for lunch and dinner. When the watermelon and cantaloupe start coming in, that is a huge part of our diet for the weeks when we are harvesting them fresh from the garden. We try very hard to eat, fresh, local and to eat what is in season at that time. As a result of this, I make our menu based on what is coming out of the garden or what is in season. Now that fall is here, I know what is in my freezer and I can make a menu for months at a time. It is so liberating to not have to think about dinner for months at a time! So… this is how I do it.

Index cards! I bought a pack of index cards and harassed my family. I asked every family member to list their favorite meal. If they gave me just a side dish, I pressured them to give me a main course to go with it. After I got tacos and pizza 50 times, then I looked through my recipes and recent Pintrest pins. What are meals I have made in the past that were hits and what worked? I just wrote the name of the meal on an index card. Think about soups, breakfast for dinner, 100% vegetarian meals, beef, pork, seafood, chicken and favorite birthday meals of the past. Write them all down, one meal on each card.

I then went through my index cards and wrote whether it was a beef, pork, chicken, vegetarian, pasta and Sunday/crock-pot meal. Here are some of my index cards in their categories.

BEEF: Sloppy Joe, tacos, meatloaf, hamburgers, steak, beef and broccoli stir fry, stuffed peppers, meatball sub, shepherds pie, and fajitas.

CHICKEN: Wings, popcorn chicken, chicken wraps, grilled chicken on salad, garlic basil chicken, fried chicken, BBQ chicken, chicken stir fry, Hawaiian chicken kebabs, and chicken enchiladas.

PASTA: Mac and cheese, baked ziti, ravioli, chicken mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes, lasagna, cal zones, pizza, Alfredo, spaghetti, and hamburger helper.

PORK: Open egg-roll, pulled BBQ pork, ginger garlic pork tenderloin, ham, egg and cheese sandwich, pork chops, ribs, ham steaks, pork fried rice, sausage gravy, BLT’s.

VEGETARIAN: broccoli cheese soup, potato soup, grilled cheese and tomato soup, salmon, tilapia, pancakes and eggs, baked potato and salad, quiche, mix veg stir fry over rice, beans and rice.

Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash

CROCK-POT: Turkey breast, tortilla soup, chili, pork roast, beef roast, chicken pot pie, roasted chicken, and kids pick.

Now, I just pick a card from each category. There are 6 groups, 6 meals a week and one night of left-overs or kid pick. On average I have 10 meals in a group, so that it 10 weeks worth of meals. Done! I fill everything into the calendar and if I need to buy something I add it to my grocery list for that week.

That easy! This system allows for you to plan two and a half months of meals at a time!

Next post we will talk about Lunch planning!

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