I make a monthly menu for 4 reasons:
1. It saves us money. When I plan ahead, I know exactly what ingredients to buy for exactly what meals I'm going to prepare. So I'm not buying food we don't need.
2. It helps me know what to take out of the freezer to thaw in the mornings when I'm walking around in a stupor, well before my morning coffee.
3. I know exactly what meal to make. There's no thinking during the week, no questioning, no "cooker's block." I do all of that at one time so that it can be all rainbows and puppy dogs the rest of the month...er, at least on the cooking front.
4. I'm a planner. I like to plan things. Did I also mention I'm a list maker? I like to make lists- a lot of lists.
By the end of the month, here is what a typical monthly menu looks like. Sometimes I deviate from the schedule if Justin has a special request or if I have a craving for something. So, that's the reason behind the check marks...I check off the meals as I cook them so I know that I've already done that night. This calendar, courtesy of Northstar Bank of Texas, is on the side of the fridge to be my beacon of light through out the month.
My planning starts out as really a brainstorming session. I write meal ideas on the back of a printed calendar that I find off the web. Most of the time I dig out my cookbooks and find some new recipes to try. Once I have about 10 meal ideas, I place them on the calendar very strategically. The meals that will make the most servings, like casseroles, are always planned for Tuesday nights so that we have leftovers on Wednesdays. On Wednesday nights we have Bible study and I don't have time to cook. Nicer meals or more difficult, time consuming meals are saved for the weekends. I also try to arrange by food type so that we aren't eating chicken for 11 meals in a row, or something. I love chicken, but not that much! To fill in the gaps, I ask Justin if he has any thing in mind and scribble those meals in.
So, when I'm finished, I transfer everything over to my handy-dandy Northstar Bank calendar and stick it back on the fridge. It's pretty ugly, but hey, it's free and in the words of my sister-in-law "free is better than cheap, fools." ok, ok, I added the fool part...
Now it's time to make my grocery list! This is its own process in itself...
How do you plan your meals? Or do you plan at all? I'd love to hear how you run your kitchen!