Menu for the week

Here is our menu for next week:

Sunday: Spanish style rice (we have found a delicious bulk rice mix that is pre-seasoned, yum! I will add some bite size pieces of pork and some mixed vegetables to it.)

Monday: Jammin Jambalaya

Tuesday: Pork and rice (I cook pork all day until it falls apart, cook some rice and frozen mixed vegetables in the pork broth, add the meat back to the pot, and season to taste. The seasonings vary according to my mood, but I usually add seasoned salt, a touch of rice wine vinegar, garlic and onion powder, and a dash of cumin.)

Wednesday: Peking Pork Chops

Thursday: Dirty Rice

Friday: Pork Chops Yum Yum

Saturday: Tender Pork Roast


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!