Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kitchen Tip Tuesday--Question Answered

Taking the time today to answer a question by a reader....

Megan writes:

I came across your blog from MoneySavingMom! I am absolutely amazed!! I wish so bad I could plan out what was for breakfast,lunch, and dinner each week. I wish I could make a bunch of things on Sunday and freeze them for the week! I know it would save me SO much money because, when I get off work it is just so much easier to run and go grab something but, I need to cook!! It is only my boyfriend and I so there should be no excuses!! Any tips you could give me I would greatly appreciate!!!

Megan, here is what I do for my cooking and menu planning system. It is not a flawless system, I still have convenience items in my pantry and freezer for those nights that are rushed or I don't feel like cooking. We also still eat out on occasion as well.

I have a system that works well in my house. It is multi-faceted and some times seems complex but it works well when everyone in my family participates! I have made up my own Master Grocery List in MS Word and I print it off each month and put it on my fridge. Then when we are low or out of something that I normally buy the item gets circled or highlighted by the person who is using the last of it or says they are taking the last one. This way, I know I need to get it from the store the next time I do my shopping.

I also have a blank monthly calendar page that I printed off of the computer that I put on my fridge where I write in pencil what the dinner meal was for that day. This is to helps me in two ways: 1. I know what the oldest things are in the fridge so they are used up before they spoil. And 2. I know what order of single serving leftovers to stick in dh's lunches.

I have also made up a MS Word document for my weekly meals. I take the time to plan out all of our meals and snacks for the week. If I didn't do this, my kids would eat the same snack item til it is gone! My kids would continue their incessant question("What's for ________?") before each meal! And I would be doing the 5'oclock rush/stress to figure out dinner and find that I forgot to pull meat out of the freezer so it will take til about 7'oclock or later before we are sitting down to the table for dinner or I just give up and order out. Ordering out though would not be good or healthy for us, esp. for dh who struggles with high cholesterol.

What I do while I am menu planning: I look at my calendar, if I am having a busy day then I make sure that lunch is something quick and the kids can get themselves, and dinner is not an elaborate meal. I look in my freezer and pantry to see what meals I can make from them. I look at the grocery ads for the week to see if there is any good sales or loss leaders that I need to purchase to complete my meals. I am one that likes to have a stocked freezer to choose meals from so that if there is a week that doesn't have good sales at any of the stores, I can just use my freezer and pantry.

There is one last thing that I have took the time to do when setting up my meal planning system is I made a "Menu Suggestion Lists". I wrote down every main dish, sides, lunches, and snacks that my family likes and then I just plug in the items on different days to make up lunch and dinner meals and snacks. I have recently started planning breakfasts too!

As for the cooking part of my system is rather simple because I would rather bake than cook! I don't like to cook so I try to do meals that either will go well in the crockpot or that I can do from start to finish in 30-45 minutes each night. In order for me to spend so little time in the kitchen, I do some prep work after each of my grocery shopping trips. It is similar to the Once A Month Cooking method but it works better for my family of picky eaters. You can read about my version here. I also make sure that when I am making up meals that I make extra to stick in the fridge for having leftovers during the week or the extra gets put in the freezer for a quick pull for later in the month.

I would love to hear your tips!!! Anyone else have the same problems as Megan? If so, what have you found to help you get meals on the table rather than getting take out?

To read other's tips, recipes and more, check out Kitchen Tips over at Tammy's Recipes!! Today Tammy tells us about her egg salad shortcut and asks for other shortcuts.


Lynn said...

Great tips. I love menu planning. It makes things so much easier. I always tell people that are new to menu planning to start slow. Plan a couple of meals a week or just plan a few basic meals but don't plan them on specific days. Another idea is to just start with one meal a day. Don't try to start by planning all three meals for all week. Start simple until you get used to it. It will help you not seemed ovewhelmed at first.

Extraordinary Ordinary Life said...

I love this post. You always have so many helpful tips! And, yes, the cheese at Meijer was on sale 3/$6. But, now that I look at it, I think they were actually 1/2 lb. blocks. So I will correct that on my pantry list. Thank you!

~*~Megan~*~ said...

Thanks so much!!! I LOVED this post!! You definetly helped so much!!! I am going to try this Sunday to sit down and plan a few meals for next week!! You really did open up my eyes to menu planning and I really do appreciate it!!

Kate said...

Such a great post. Our kitchen methods are very similar, aren't they? Wouldn't it be fun to get together IRL and freezer cook sometime?

BarbaraLee said...

I have a question for you. What is the diff. between muffins & quick breads? You have blogged about putting q.brds. in muffin pans. Looking at some recipes I have been trying to figure out the diff.