Simplify Your Menu Planning

By Leslie Sausage

Ever said to yourself, it's 5:00 o'clock and what's for dinner?!? Yikes!

A simple menu plan can eliminate this stress!

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To get started, check the family calendar. Grab the grocery sales ads, a sheet of paper, a pen and your favorite recipes or cookbooks. Yes, and pour yourself glass of iced tea or brew a cup of your favorite hot tea.

Next, fold the sheet of paper into eighths by folding in half, side-to-side, then fold in half, top-to-bottom and again top-to-bottom. open it back up and label the eight squares on one side: meat, dairy, produce, canned, bakery, frozen, staples and non-food. On the other side of the paper; label the squares with the days of the week.

Then, check the pantry, freezer and the refrigerator for what supplies you are starting with. Before you begin planning; check the grocery sales ads to see what the specials are.

Now, what will you have for dinner on grocery shopping day? This is important to decide. I've found that it is best to either make dinner with what you already have at home or plan an easy meal for this night, just depends on your schedule. Write down each day's menu, then list what side dish, bread, dessert or salad that you will prepare. Think about what you have already on hand to prepare the meal with and add what is needed to your grocery list on the other side of the sheet of paper. Continue with the other days of the week.

While planning, think about "planned leftovers" or slowcooker meals for your busy days. Slowcooker meals are also great for Sunday lunch when you come home from church. Cooking at home will save you tons of money over taking the whole family out for a meal. Make an extra meal (which can be frozen) on the days you have more time. Don't forget about plans for breakfast and lunch! After making your menu plan, add other non-food items that you will need to purchase this week.

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Go shopping with your list!

After shopping, think about what can be done as you put the groceries away. Boil some eggs for a quick egg salad later in the week. This is also a good time to squeeze in a double batch of Jell-o with fruit for dessert or snack this week. Instead of freezing that large roast you bought on sale, go ahead and start cooking it on low in the slowcooker. Even if the roast will not be for tonight's dinner, the cooked roast can be kept for a few days to make a nice dinner tomorrow or sandwiches for lunch sometime this week. You could also freeze the cooked roast. Just use freezer zipper-seal bags and add a little of the broth. About two cups of cooked meat equals one pound. This will be great on a night when you get home late or have an extra busy day. Just defrost and heat it up, adding a side dish like rice or mashed potatoes and a salad for a very quick meal.

You've taken the time to make your menu plan, and gone shopping to get what is needed to prepare the menu, now post it on the refrigerator to remind you of your plan this week. Each morning, before 10 o'clock, check to see what is for dinner...and whether the plan needs to be adjusted according to changes in your schedule.

About The Author: For help with menu planning, check out my Five-Week Menu and Shopping List. It is five weeks of dinner menu plans and the main ingredients needed to prepare the meals. Exact recipes are not included; you may need to check your favorite cookbook for that.

To get a quick, automatic reply by email which will include the free "Five-Week Menu and Shopping List", send an email to: 5weekmenu@frugalhomemaker.com

© 2004 by Leslie Sausage

Leslie Sausage is web designer, freelance writer and author of several e-books. For more creative, practical and fun ideas for your home visit Frugal Homemaker at http://www.frugalhomemaker.com

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