How to plan a menu

So you’re convinced that you need a menu plan but don’t know where to start, huh? Or, you’ve been menu planning for ages but just know there must be a better way, right? I’m not going to say that I’ve decided the perfect way to plan a menu, but I will say that I’ve found what works for us. Here’s how it works in our house:

1) Decide what meats you plan to serve. You can base this off of what you have available in the freezer, what’s on sale at the store, or just what you feel like eating. We are pretty frugal so we base it around what’s already at the house and what’s cheap at the store this week. Generally we have pork loin, ground beef, and chicken.

2) Find recipes that fit with your meat choices. In this house we are careful to only use recipes that don’t have specialty ingredients that will only be used for one dish. We make exceptions on occasion and have found some real winners that now line our pantry (i.e. balsamic vinegar and sweet chili sauce), but we’ve also discovered a few things that we hate (the rest of the world may love it, but coarse ground Dijon mustard will NEVER again come into this house!)

Don’t be afraid to experiment some, we usually have at least one new recipe a week (mostly because I get bored cooking the exact same things over and over again.) We also have at least one cheat meal (a quick and easy meal that can replace any other meal during the week.)

I like to have a good stockpile of recipes that our family loves, and I organize them in my control journal according to the type of protein used. It saves me so much time to have all my recipes arranged that way all in one centralized location. When I find a new recipe on the internet that I want to try, I bookmark it in a folder labeled for its main protein. I can’t tell you how convenient it is for me to organize this way! I don’t have to sift through twenty chicken recipes to find that one pork recipe I am looking for, I just open up the pork folder and there it is!

3) After deciding on recipes its time to plan. Do you have days where your cooking time is minimal? Plan a crockpot meal that day. Do you have a special feast day for your family? We like to do something special on Fridays, sometimes that means a full seven course meal, sometimes that means pigging out on nachos and hot dogs, plan accordingly! If you homeschool plan around any large projects that may be coming up. No one wants to spend hours helping with a project just to turn around and spend the rest of the day in the kitchen. Plan your meals around your life, not your life around your meals! Be sure and make a back up copy, I can’t tell you how many times my menu plan has been used by a toddler to sop up spilled milk!

4) Make your grocery list. Start by making a master list of everything that you will need for every recipe. Even if you think you have it, write it down so you can double check yourself. be sure and write down how much you need. If you have three recipes that call for a whole onion, don’t just write down onions, write three onions so you know exactly how much you need.

Now that your master list is done, check your pantry, fridge, and freezer. If you have the items needed, cross them out. As you find the items be sure and set them in a special place, like the front of the pantry or the top of the freezer so they will be easy to find when you do need them!

5) Go shopping! Be sure and either pre-approve take out with your husband, throw something in the crockpot, or designate another member of the house as chef for the day before you leave. You may come home ready to rock, or it may be one of those days where nothing went as planned and you are absolutely exhausted when you finally make it back home. Sit back and relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Why plan a menu

First things first, why in the world would anyone want to take the time to make a menu plan? There are close to a gazillion different reasons, and I can’t attest to all of them, but I will explain why we do it.

First, without a menu plan I have a tendency to procrastinate. (As in, I’ll figure out what to make for dinner later. Later comes and goes and suddenly it is six o’clock and I have six hungry mouths screaming for food. Add to that the fact that my youngest goes to bed at seven, and you can see just how precarious of a situation this is!)

Second, careful menu planning saves me money. What’s the use in buying 20 pounds of chicken when it is on sale if half of it gets freezer burnt before you use it up and even the dog won’t touch it? And yes, unfortunately that has happened in this house more than I care to admit!

Third, I am a busy mom. I am a homemaker, homeschooler, and small business owner. It may seem like I have no time for menu planning, but the reality of it is that I don’t have the time or money not to plan! When I don’t plan I get caught up in the moment and end up spending $50 on pizza delivery instead of $10 on healthy and nutritious food for my family. By the time I realize that I have nothing for dinner it is already six o’clock, so by the time the pizza is delivered it is already close to seven. My youngest (who is sure to be VERY cranky by this point in time) falls asleep in her highchair before she has finished eating. This just means that she will wake up even earlier in the morning screaming for breakfast because she is starving. My other kids will stay up later than usual, because not a single one of them can seem to go to sleep until their food has had time to digest. So, the next day starts out with a screaming toddler waking me up an hour earlier than usual, and three other kids that I can’t drag out of bed. They are exhausted and lethargic so it takes them forever to finish their schoolwork. This puts me behind getting my chores done, and before you know it, it’s dinner time again and I haven’t accomplished my tasks for the day let alone started dinner. Okay, so maybe life isn’t always that bad if I have to order pizza, but it’s not far from the truth either. Seriously, menu planning adds hours to my day!

With a menu plan I simply check in the morning what we are having, set any meat out to thaw, throw everything together in the crockpot or set an alarm to go off when I need to start dinner, and then I don’t worry about it again. So simple, so stress free, and so completely worth every minute it takes me to put the plan together!

Menu planning

Many times in my married life I’ve sat down and made menu plans. For some reason I always get on them, do wonderfully, hit a snag, and give up. Unfortunately that’s been a resounding fact that applies to a lot of my life in general, try, succeed, hit snag, fail, give up. Not a good cycle! So, once again I’m back on a menu plan and I’m determined to make some changes!

My first change is the fact that I’m cutting myself some slack. Sure I WANT to be perfect, but that only lasts for so long and then it’s too much to handle. The second is that I’m throwing some cheat meals in the plan as well. No matter how good a meal sounds when you are making your plans, eventually there will be one day when you go to check your list and realize that the meal sounded great yesterday, the day before, and will probably sound good next week, but today it’s the last thing that you want to eat. That’s just life and what’s the point in planning if you don’t factor in the inconsistency of life? I am always prepared for days when what I have planned doesn’t sound good, for I prompts road trips on days when I have planned a seven course meal, and for those days when you just wake up wishing that you could stay in bed for the entire day.

I plan my menu, and then add a few “cheat meals”. They may be a quick meal that my daughter can make all by herself like spaghetti, a meal that Hubby would be more than happy to make like grilled burgers, or just something quick and easy like chili dogs. These cheat meals have been such a plan saver! I’ve never lasted more than two weeks on a strict menu plan, but with these cheat meals I am now finishing up month 2 of daily menu plans and loving it!

Stay tuned for menu planning 101 along with my personal menu plan:)

Seasons of life

For a long time now I’ve been fighting the idea that my Grandmother’s picture perfect house is the goal I should be striving for. I’ve spent many nights obsessing over how I was going to accomplish this goal in the morning, and many afternoon nap-times lamenting the fact that once again I was no closer to my goal than I was the night before when I made all those wondrous plans. I finally broke down and did some serious praying and soul searching to figure out what my problem was, why I couldn’t seem to accomplish the goal that I had set for myself. (Why do I always wait until I am stressed to the max to take it to prayer?)

One day, during a praying session it finally dawned on me! My first problem was that I was striving to live a life of perfection (perfection-such an ugly thing wrapped up in such a beautiful package), and I was setting goals based on someone else’s season of life, not my own. My Grandmother is a wonderful woman, who just so happens to live with one adult neat freak male and no one else. She also is blessed to have a cleaning lady come once every other week to do all of her dusting, vacuuming, etc.

What does my life look like? I am married to a wonderful man who seriously thinks that every flat surface is the perfect place to set his wallet, keys, and whatever else may just happen to be in his pocket at the time. I have four beautiful children who believe that the living room is one giant toy box, the kitchen table is the only place to keep all of their treasured art supplies, and that every thing they have ever worked on is a masterpiece and needs to be saved for the future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

That doesn’t mean that I have to live in a house of chaos and confusion, but it does mean, that for at least this season of my life, my ideas of the perfect house will have to be placed on hold. We homeschool, we spend 90% of our time at our house instead of out and about everywhere else, and to top it all off I am pregnant with our fifth child and having a difficult time just getting up and moving, let alone spending hours a day on my hands and knees scrubbing.

My Grandmother, on the other hand, is in a much different season of life. She rests, relaxes, makes dinner when she wants to and eats out if it is more convenient. She has no little ones to clean up after, and at most has two place settings to wash after dinner. She also has two of her children who live close by and randomly stop at her house and make sure that she doesn’t need help with anything. So different than my world!

After much thought and deliberation I’ve come to realize that my world isn’t so bad. One day my house will look just like my Grandma’s, but for now, the art projects, muddy footprints, and oatmeal covered high chair are just reminders that I’ve been blessed with an amazing bunch of children and I need to remember to enjoy every moment I have with them. Much too soon they will be all grown up, and I will have my wonderfully clean house, but without the laughter of my children playing or the sweet cry of a hungry baby. Enjoy the season of life that you are in!

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my new blog! I’m so glad you found me, and I suppose your looking for a little explanation as to what this whole blog will be about. I’m not building one of those niche blogs that specifically covers one tiny topic in depth until the dead horse has been officially beaten (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I love some of those blogs!). I don’t have the time, energy, or the dedication to keep up with something like that. My mind wanders from one subject to the next, seemingly at warp speed some days, and my slightly obsessive mind just won’t allow me to focus on something that I’m not “into” at that moment in time:)

This blog is about whatever is making me tick at the moment. Since I’m a homemaking, homeschooling, business owning mom of five you can be pretty sure thatwhatever I’m talking about will revolve around at least one of those subjects. I hope you all enjoy your stay here and find what you are looking for!