Menu Planning: Save Time In The Kitchen
That's it! The bare bones of menu planning. You've made a draft plan, shopped from a list, retained flexibility in the marketplace, firmed up your plan and held yourself accountable.
The devil, however, is in the details. Here are some points to ponder as you bring menu planning under control.
Build A Personal Shopping List
Planner companies, gift shops and generous desktop publishers all compete to produce cute little shopping lists for all persuasions and occasions. Bear-shaped shopping lists. Long skinny shopping lists. Shopping lists with winsome graphics, kittycats and teddy bears. Awwwwww.
[We even offer some, too, in the printable planner pages library .]
Only one problem: why aren't you using them?
Because they don't work, that's why. Teenaged sons play stuff-the-hoop with the empty cereal box and the trash can, but have you ever known one to neatly write "Cheerios" on the list? Blank shopping lists fit about as well as one-size-fits-all stockings.
Solution? Build a pre-printed family shopping list on the computer, listing all the foods and sundries your family consumes. Print 52 copies each year. Post them on the refrigerator. Boys who don't circle "cereal" on the list when they empty the box must eat hot cereal for the rest of the week.
Make your list work for you: organize it by aisle. Next shopping trip, grab a hand-out supermarket map as you leave. Construct your personal shopping list according to the order you shop the store. You'll speed your way out the door in record time!
Coast in the Calm of a Routine
Yes, there are some well-organized souls among us who don't make formal meal plans. Look close, and you'll discover that household meal service dances to a routine.
Sunday's a big dinner, and Tuesday gets the leftovers. Monday is burger night, and Wednesday sees spaghetti, year in and year out. Thursday's the day for a casserole, and Dad grills on Friday. Saturday night, it's take-out or pizza.
Create a routine around your menu planning. Sure, you can try new recipes--just don't let your enthusiasm for the cookbook trick you into doing so more than twice a month.
Find cues in the family schedule to help you plan a routine. At-home days with more free time can handle a fancy meal--or can signal soup, sandwiches and Cook's Night Off. The night you drive the sports team carpool is a great time to plan for pick-up sandwiches. Make the routine yours, and it will serve you well.
Consider Cook's Choice
Build flexibility into your plan and serve the aims of thrift with a weekly Cook's Choice Night. Traditionally held the night before grocery shopping, "Cook's Choice" is a menu planning catch-all designed to account for real life. Use it to tie up loose ends before the next round of menu planning.
You can slide a neglected dinner into Cook's Choice, or chop up the contents of the refrigerator for a clean-out stir-fry. Either way, you'll feel smug at your frugality and good planning.