Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Menu Anniversary.

Yesterday marked my 1 year anniversary of menu planning.
Okay, that's not quite right.
I've menu planned for ages. I just used to be really sporadic and haphazard about it.
One year ago yesterday, I started a new way to menu plan and I've stuck with it.
Some times I menu plan for a week. Some times for a month.
Which ever way I do it, I think it saves us big time money.
I don't wander aimlessly through the stores anymore, stocking up on stuff at random.
Gone are the days of eating spaghetti and burritos every single week.

{I don't take pictures of my food. Here's a picture of Ben eating an apple. You're welcome.}

I menu plan in an Excel spreadsheet and I keep adding to the same sheet.
Planning this way has really diversified our menu.
I pay attention to how many nights a week we eat ground beef and work in more chicken dishes and even better, more meatless dishes.
I pay attention to what we're eating and when we last had those burritos and I don't plan them weekly anymore.
I'm loving Pinterest to keep track of the meals I want to try (rather than my really long list of bookmarks I had before).

Our menu has had some hits (Bacon Wrapped Teriyaki Chicken) and some misses (Orange Chicken in the crock pot). I'm trying loads of new recipes. I try at least one, if not two, new recipes as week.

I'm not strict with when we eat our meals. I shuffle them around and eat them out of order, but I almost always cook the meals I've planned. If we happen to eat out or go to family's for dinner, the meal that would have fallen on that day gets either pushed back a day or added to next weeks menu.

My next goal is to start planning for lunches. See, I grocery shop from my menu plan.
I plan my menu, I type out (under the meal name) every single ingredient that goes into that dish.
When I go to make my list, I compile the ingredients and check to make sure I'm not out of something (like a random spice I only use for one dish).
That list gets copied over to Cozi (where I keep my household calendar and our shopping list).

{feel free to click this guy and make it bigger - the purple fields are meals I've made, so I know where I am. This isn't actually quite accurate - tonight I made the tortellini dish instead of the BBQ Cowboy Beans dish but I haven't marked it off yet.}

Unfortunately, the only grocery items that make the list are those needed to make dinners. And since I only buy what's needed to cook my menu (I don't stockpile - couponers gasp now!) this doesn't leave a lot of options for lunch items, unless we have leftovers.

My friend Susan and I have started a challenge and we invite you to join us.
For 30 days (ours started Monday) we're on a No Dining Out Challenge.
We want to see if we can go one whole month of eating from our own kitchens.
It should save us big bucks + it should be a lot more healthy for us.
So, I'm striving to take my menu planning to the next level (oh yeah, this just got real lol) and plan for lunch.

I know several of you menu plan. What method do you use? Do you plan by the week or the month? Do you batch cook or cook daily? Do you plan for all meals or just dinner?


  1. Interesting, Sarah. We plan weekly...mostly because I can't pull my act together for a monthly menu. I'm not using quite the organized manner that you are. I think I may steal your excel spreadsheet idea, though...that would help me remember meals so I don't have to work so hard to come up with a menu each week. lol

    My MIL sends me a lot of recipe magazines. A LOT! So I plan from those mostly. It helps keep things from getting boring. And we have our "fall back" meals to fill in the blanks. We have enough fall back meals that we probably only visit each once a month or every 5 weeks.
    I sit down every Sunday, look at my calendar, and plan meals around the daily activities. We have an erasable magnetic board on our fridge that I write out everything going on during the week, and the meals for each day so that everyone knows what the plan is. Always toward the end of the week, we have one night planned for the "leftover buffet." That's my "bye" night. lol
    We do plan breakfasts, lunches and dinners, but I will admit that I really only plan for Sunday-Thursday, and sometimes Friday. We are BAD, BAD, BAD on Saturdays, and about 50/50 on Fridays. I have fall back stock in the freezer/pantry in case we decide to stay home on those nights, but for the most part, we go out. I'm going to ponder the No Dining Out challenge. We'll see if thought turns to action. (I know, I'm soooo bad!).
    Good luck to you and Susan, though!

  2. I do pretty much the same as you, only just on a random sheet of paper instead of excel (list of dinners on one side, ingredients on the other). I don't really put the breakfast & lunch items on the list unless there was some special thing I wanted to try. We typically have the same things every day (PB&J, juice box, chips or crackers, and fruit), so I just grab them when we're low (I am a couponer, so I stock up ahead of time). We usually only eat out a couple times a month anyway, so I don't think I'll be joining you on your no dining out challenge, but good luck! Hopefully it saves you lots of money!