January 9, 2012

my obligatory new years post, part 3

oh i know you have been on the edge of your seat to see how i do menu planning. i just know it! sike!

okay to catch up, here's part one and part two of this little adventure.

i hope you are continuing to learn about yourself and your tanks. i am happy to report i'm pretty on track today--just getting over a cold. and while i still think it's so wrong to get up with the sun, but my waking up early transition is going well. i'm at a strong 6:30 right now (did i mention when i started this, it was 8am??).

so there you have it.


menu planning.

this always makes me hungry.

our calendar only reflects only dinners, since the first two meals of the day don't require much planning. dan doesn't eat breakfast and i almost always have bacon and eggs, or oats. dan almost always asks for the same thing for lunch, and i'm pretty happy with dinner leftovers. we work in sync like that. ha! and i truly love that with the exception of sunday lunch, wednesday and thursday dinners, we are pretty much always eating at home (or something from home). it's much nicer on the pocketbook, and also, our 'going out to eat' budget isn't very big.

while we talk about menu planning, i'm also going to mention how i write a grocery list. because i like y'all so much.

a good place to start is asking yourself what kind of food you like.

i like a variety in our menu. i also like chicken. a lot. my husband could eat the same three meals every day and be happy as a clam. his favorite food is chinese, and knowing this, i incorporate stir fry once a week. i think i'm getting pretty good at it!

let the planning begin!

pick a day that's good for you to consistently meal plan, and add it to your calendar. while you're at it, pick one or two times during the week where you can grocery shop.

i usually do my grocery shopping on saturdays and wednesdays. wednesdays are the days i have the car, and usually the point in the week where i'm like, 'oh i forgot ____ at the store. doh." (it's a good idea to factor these things in! you'll be less stressed later.) it is also a good time for me to buy some small things for lunch or dinner on thursday if i forsee the need (extra lunch meat, an extra ricebowl, you get the pic), and occasionally, our veggies for the last half of the week, just to make sure they are super fresh.

meal planning is something i've gotten in the habit of doing on monday morning and i always plan for the following week. so when i sit down to at the computer on monday the 1st, i plan for the week that begins with sunday the 7th, so that when i go to the store on saturday the 6th i'll know what to get.

so here's what our week tends to look like. and i will mention also, that the beauty of meal planning, is again, this idea of organisation that allows flexibility. you know what meals you have planned, you know you have the ingredients for these things, but lets say you forget to thaw out the meat for monday dinner. no problem! switch it up with saturday's salad night! done, and done.

sunday - meat and veggie night
monday - meat and veggie night
tuesday - soup night
friday - stirfry night
saturday - salad night

this rotation works pretty darn well for us. so after you've thought about what kind of food you want, this step is a cinch. write it out (may i suggest in a google word doc!!?) and save it somewhere.

next, is putting this into practice.

i love looking up new recipes, and sometimes dan has requested something specific. that helps me get started using the template above. lately we (i) have been on a squash kick. so searching recipes using ingredients that i keep on hand, helps a lot. i enjoy reading pioneer woman and smitten kitchen, but i use all recipes  probably the most. they have this awesome ingredient searcher, where you type in what ingredients you want to use and a plethora of dishes pop up for your convenience. i also enjoy their recipe box feature and the iPhone app.

each week, i copy and paste my template above into a new google document and plan away. i copy and pasted my menu from last week, here. have a looksie:

Jan 8 Sunday - Meat and Veggie Night
Dinner Guests: Bowmans and Taylors
brisket, beer beans, chocolate tort

Jan 9 Monday - Meat and Veggie Night
herbed chicken and yellow squash

Jan 10 Tuesday - Soup Night
butternut squash soup with sour cream, kale chips, biscuits

Jan 11 Wednesday - taking snacks to SG

Jan 13 Friday - Stirfry Night
chicken, snow pea and ginger stirfry, basmati rice

Jan 14 Saturday - Salad Night
Man Night (Movie Night, the guys are watching Robin Hood)
pulled pork sandwiches, jalapeno slaw, bacon wrapped jalapenos
make a pitcher of lemonade and water
make space in fridge for people bringing beer

after i plan, and sometimes as i plan, underneath this this section of my document, i type out all the ingredients i need for each meal and then delete the ones i already know that i have on  hand. alternately, you can print it out and take it to your kitchen and cross it off the list by hand. i always print both things off on or before grocery shopping day, because i tape my menu to the fridge to remind myself of any notes i needed to make, and take the actual list with me to the store so i don't forget anything (note: this does not always prevent forgotten items!).

last week's shopping list ended up looking like this:

7 pounds beef brisket
1 jar bbq sauce
1 bottle of champange (that's our marinade, it's awesome. try it.)
1 pound great northern beans
1 pound bacon
4 butternut squash
2 bunches of green kale
snap peas 
5-7 pounds pork loin 
2 cans of dr pepper
cayenne pepper
13 jalapenos
tub of cream cheese
red or purple grapes

then at the end of my list i add our breakfast and lunch items.

lunch meat
loaf of bread
a dozen eggs
1/2 gal of coconut milk

and then i take stock of other things i might need to pick up.

blue listerine
pack of paper towels
small trash bags

BAM! done.

i've seen people go as far as to list what special kitchen items they might need like a certain pan or specific knife. but i'm not that crazy. :) yet. maybe i've done it....once.


so, there you have it. menu planning and how to write your grocery list. sometimes for fun, i cut and paste my grocery list items around on the page, to reflect the order in which you find them in the store. basically, because i'm cool like that.

happy cooking and shopping, my friends!

thanks for reading.

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