Monday, January 23, 2012

Menu Monday

Today's Menu Monday serves a dual purpose.  Not only am I sharing with you about our family's meal plans for this week, but I'm also kicking off a full WEEK of fun blog posts from the kitchen.  (I don't know about you, but it seems like the kitchen is the room that I spend most of my time in!)  My friend Kathi Lipp, speaker, author and blogger is hosting a blog tour this week.  Each day she has issued a challenge to our readers, with a fun give away to be done later in the week!  Last month I shared with you the What's For Dinner Solution, by Kathi Lipp.  This week I'm going to be telling you some of my "take away" wisdom from reading this helpful household handbook!

As you know I am BIG on meal planning, and have blogged about it extensively.  I feel it is one of the ways that we have successfully lived on one income and continue to remove debt from our lives!  In my Menu Planning 101 post, I have detailed out for you three different (but equally efficient) methods of meal planning.  I have used all three methods at one time or another.  You will find what works best for you and your family based on how you function.  A while back I came across this menu planner that offers a weekly menu as well as a version with the list on the side. The blog that I link to each week for Menu Monday, offers this incredible list of menu planners and resources!  Kathi's blog also offers you a printable tool to help with this sometimes difficult task. (and this cool list of 50 dinner ideas!) Even with all these options... I've found that nothing works better for me than...scratch paper.  What?  Yes, it's true!  I could type out my format and print it each time, but to be honest, it's faster and easier to scratch it out on the back side of my child's coloring page!

Here's how I outline things... I always plan with my calendar in front of me.  I have a large monthly calendar that I use wet-erase pens on.  (I actually try to plan for a month at a time... I figure I might as well do it all if I'm sitting down to take the time for one week!)  I plan meals around our activities, who's coming over for dinner, how many nights we might possibly eat out in the month, as well as how many times we can eat leftovers; tomorrow's blog post will touch on exactly that!
I write the activities on the calendar in orange, and the meals in yellow, then the hard and fast, never moving items I put in brown.  Then, with the menus forming on my calendar I add items to my grocery list.  When I plan for the month I have four lists going at once.  The first list is my BIG shopping trip.  I use a large sheet of printer paper for this.  On this trip I purchase all the non-perishable items, and items that can go directly into the freezer!  Trust me, it takes a bit longer but later in the month when you get to "shop" from your pantry and freezer instead of running to the store you will be SO grateful.  The other three lists are pretty small as they only contain the "fresh" items I will need to purchase for weeks two, three, & four.  I fold the printer paper in thirds and make my lists on these as I write down recipes.

Hmmm, have I lost you yet? Maybe a picture help?
This is how I organize my lists... like I said "scratch paper" works best for me.  I organize my list based on how my store is laid out.  The produce section is first, followed by the bulk foods.  I then make my way through the middle isles of the store (though I do my very best to avoid this section!  It's healthier to shop the exterior isles of the store because they hold the freshest foods!)  The deli is at the back of my store, so I shop for my meats and dairy before hitting the frozen food and bakery!
I usually takes me about an hour to shop for the month.  When I stick to the list it makes things fast and easy!

This week's menu is listed below, and as always feel free to leave your menu in the comments or link to your own Menu Monday!

Monday: Chicken Enchiladas
Tuesday:Safeway Chinese Food (Sometimes I just can't resist take out.  An their $9.99 dinner for "two" feeds our entire family!)
Wednesday:Chicken Parmesan (Love this "lighter" version without the bread crumbs!)
Thursday:Zuppa Toscana (yep, I make this Olive Garden favorite at home. I've even had reviewers tell me it tastes better than the original!)
Friday: Family Pizza Night
Saturday: Leftovers

Note: The above menu was prepared before I posted this about
 my more recent convictions on eating healthy!  
My revised menu looks like this:

Monday: Almond Encrusted Salmon with side salad and a selection of fruit.
Tuesday: Brown rice and "Stir, without the fry" (Though we are not eating totally raw, I'm excited to try recipes like this one!)
Wednesday: Lentil Soup
Thursday: Pho (yep, still a family favorite, so it's gonna be on the menu.  It's what is considered a "clean" soup.)
Friday: Mixed greens salad with "raw ranch" dressing 
Saturday: Farmers Market Surprise!  Leftovers means it's time to clean out the fridge to make room for all the things we purchased at the farmers market that morning.

Join me tomorrow for my post on Leftovers...

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