30 May, 2019
Making Your Own Menu – A Simple Four Step Task
I have found that making my own menu helps lower my food budget, frees up time to spend with family, and best of all, keeps me from scrambling trying to find something for dinner. I have peace of mind knowing I can make healthy homemade meals and not have to serve my family unhealthy convenience foods. Each day I get up, I check my menu, lay out any meat that needs to thaw and then plan my schedule for the day, knowing exactly how much time I need to allot for that days meal. The stress of knowing what to cook has been taken care of! Let me show you how you can do this too in four easy steps.
The first thing you want to do is to have some easy accessible supplies. This can be anywhere from a simple notebook to a computer software program that makes fancy menu templates that you can make on your computer or even an app for your phone. Be as elaborate as you want to be, but simple is great! The main thing is to make it work for you and everyone is different. I tend to be more old school with my pen and paper rather than my phone. Okay…my age is showing! I simply use a small clipboard and a small yellow (or white) legal pad of paper with a good writing pen. I like my small clipboard because I can take it with me to the store and then drop it into my purse when I am finished.
Remember, this is your choice and preference. There is no right or wrong here and everyone is different. Choose supplies that are going to help you and work for you.
Before making your own menu, go through your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Make a list of things you would like to use. Do you have something about to expire? Have you bought in bulk something that was on sale and you just haven’t gotten around to using it yet? These items can give you a lot of ideas to put on your menu. I found a stray can of re fried beans in the back of my pantry the last time I took inventory. That made me realize we had not had tacos in a while. So tacos went on the menu that week!
Now take a look at your list and see if there are any meals you would make with your ingredients. You don’t have to have every ingredient for the dish, we are just looking for menu ideas. Sometimes the hardest part of making your own menu is getting ideas of what to make.
Grab Your Sales Papers
Another great place to get ideas for menus is in your local store’s sale paper. I try to get an actual sale paper sometime during the week. If I have to I will go online to my store’s’s website and look at it there. Being old fashion, I prefer having an actual paper to look at. Go through these sales ads and see if there are items you use on a regular basis that are on sale. I especially pay attention to meat sales because that is one of my most expensive parts of my menu. Use these sale items as menu starters. Is chicken on sale? Maybe you can do BBQ chicken that week on the grill? Chicken breast? How about chicken parmesan? Now add these items to your ongoing list.
Make A Menu
Take a sheet of paper, computer program, calendar, or whatever it is you are using to make your menu on, and write down the days of the week on it. Computer programs and phone apps will have this done for you already. If you are like me and like doing it the non-tech way, then make sure you leave enough space between lines to put each of these headings:
You should have seven days worth of headings. I usually start with Sunday because I shop on Saturday’s. You could also do two week menu option or even a month. Do what fits your families needs and how often you are able to get to the store. If this is your first time, you might want to do it a week at a time so that you are not too overwhelmed. I only do a week a at a time because I have to feed 8-10 people (sometimes more, when the kids have friends over) and I do not have enough storage space to hold more than a weeks worth of food. Once in a while, I can squeeze in my cupboard enough for two weeks worth.
Now take your list from your inventory of your cupboards, refrigerator, freezer and your list from the sales paper to make menu entries in the above headings. If you need more menu ideas, ask your family if there is something they would like to eat. If your family is anything like mine, 90% of the time you are going to get the answer “I don’t know” or ” I don’t care”. But, sometimes they surprise me and I will get good ideas from them! You can also go online and start searching recipe ideas for that chicken that is on sale. I like to try new recipes at least once a month to give us a change. Your menu should start looking like this example:
Lunch: Ham and cheese sandwiches
Dinner: Meatloaf, parsley potatoes, peas and a salad
Snacks: Popcorn, granola bars
Congratulations! You Made Your Own Menu
Remember this is a guideline to help you throughout the week. Keep it where you can see it. I keep mine either on computer desk or pinned to the refrigerator. Just because it says meatloaf under Monday, does not mean you are stuck having meatloaf that day. Maybe you forgot to thaw the meat out, but you know the sausage you have on Tuesday’s menu can be thawed faster. So switch them! The nice thing about a menu, is knowing it is planned, and you have everything you need to make that meal. There are times when I have had an impromptu meal out so I just moved one of my menu items over to the next week. Don’t become a slave to your menu, but let it work for you!