If there is one thing, apart from our overall schedule, that has helped save me time, money, and much unnecessary thought/stress, it would be making a weekly menu/grocery list.
I haven't always been faithful at doing this. But every time I take the time to think about and plan out a menu for our week, every single meal time that week (that would be 21 times plus daily snacks!) I'm sooo thankful that I did!
When I don't plan-
*I often don't know what to make
*I often make something convenient due to my lack of planning (no meat thawed, not having this or that on hand...) which is often more expensive to make and not as nutritious
*I end up buying things we don't really need or use
*At the end of the week, there is often nothing I can put together to make a meal and I have to run to the store again.
*I often don't look forward to cooking.
When I do plan-
*I don't have to ever think about what to make. I just look over my menu each morning. I know what to make and I'll look over the menu for that day and the next to see what prep work I might need to do (pull meat out of freezer, soak beans, start bread etc...)
*We have better tasting, more nutritious, meals.
*I end up spending less money and we eat better!
*I have on hand just what I need to make what I planned. I don't need to make extra trips to the store and while at the end of the week, my pantry may be getting bare, we've had what we needed all week to make good, wholesome meals and snacks.
*I really enjoy cooking when it's been planned out!
To make our menu, I have used my computer, or I simply grab a notebook and write the days of the week, Sunday through Saturday, in a column on a piece of paper. Across the top, I write Breakfast, Lunch, Supper.
Then I simply fill in the meals for each day. The less I have to think about it the better. I know Sunday mornings, we'll need something quick, easy, portable, and light. Quick and easy because you know how Sunday mornings go!! :) Getting everyone ready for church, out the door early so we can do our bus routes, and wanting the house to stay in decent shape because we try to have someone over for lunch Sundays. Portable because often we'll grab breakfast and eat on the way to church to save time. And light because often at church, the ladies will brings fruit, bread or another snack for the children.
I have a list of 3 or 4 meals that fit that description, so I just choose one and write it down. Last week it was a drinkable yogurt and a banana. The week before we had homemade muffins (made the night before) and milk.
I know what days of the week might be more hectic in the morning (such as Monday mornings...yikes!) and those are good days for maybe cornflakes and toast. Days where I know it will be more calm and we have more time, I'll make something more...pancakes and eggs, special burritos, french toast, etc..
I know what night is our date night (Tuesdays!!!!!), and so I pick a kid friendly meal that the children love and the older ones can prepare on their own...pre-made homemade pizza, nachos, hot dogs, etc...
Friday night is family night...the only evening (besides Tuesdays) that Daniel is home in the evening. That's when we celebrate birthdays, bbq, take the kids out for sabritas/sodas, and have fun together.
I have a list of our favorite meals and I'll share a few of them here:
*Cereal and Milk
*Yogurt and granola or fruit
*Muffins/Cinnamon rolls (made the day before)
*Bean Burritos (beans made the day before)
*Pancakes and Eggs
*Burritos de machaca (meat and potato)
*Eggs and something (beans, potatoes, toast, tortillas etc...)
*Bistek ranchero with beans (meat and potatoes)
Lunches (usually quick and easy):
*Sandwiches (PB and J or ham)
*Soup and homemade bread
Suppers (I divide them into categories):
Too many choices to list
*Chicken and Rice
*Chicken Pot Pie
*Ham, Cheese, Crackers
These are just a few of them off the top of my head. I use to think I would need a hundred different meals so nobody would get bored. But I've found that if I have just 10-20 of meals I know our family loves and enjoys, they don't mind at all eating them on a rotating basis.
I bring variety to our meals by making different side dishes often using things we have on hand or what is on sale or in season.
I love to find new recipes and try them out, but I usually only do that once or twice a month. If we find a keeper, I just add it to our list. Sometimes I find something that everyone loves, but the time/money/effort to make isn't worth it really.
When I'm ready to make my menu, I just fill in the blanks using meals from my list. Some meals I don't have to think about...we always have cereal on Mondays. And for most meals, I have to think really little...I like that! :) For example, Mondays is always Italian night. I keep in mind our activities for the week, what days I'll have more time in the kitchen and which ones I won't, what special events we have (church fellowship meal, birthday meal, having a family over for a meal etc...) and plan accordingly.
If we have a light breakfast, like cereal, I know the children will probably want a little more for lunch. If we have a more filling meal in the morning, like pancakes and eggs, probably something lighter for lunch will be fine.
Each week, I plan snacks to have on hand. Kids eat. A lot! So some things I might plan to have on hand are:
Apples, oranges, bananas
Other seasonal fruit/veggies
Bread for toast
Homemade granola or energy bars
After my weekly menu is done (and this normally takes me about 15 minutes or less) I write out my grocery list. The way I do it is simply look at each meal on my menu and jot down on my list what I need to buy to make that meal. I know how much of each ingredient I need to make each meal, I know what I already have on hand, and so I just go from meal to meal and write my list. This usually takes me about 10 minutes. Then I shop and buy only what is on my list.
So for less than 1/2 hour of my time, I save probably hours in having to think of what to make each day and making trips to the store. I save money because I have a plan and avoid spontaneous shopping. And I save lots of stress/brain overload! :)
Do I always follow our menu exactly? No.
Do I have days where what we have planned just doesn't sound good? Absolutely.
Do we ever have times when I burn the beans or someone shows up right when I need to cook and the meal doesn't come together and I have to make some changes? Of course!
Does Daniel ever say, "Let's go down to where they roast chicken today"? He loves my cooking but he loves to spoil me when he can, too! :)
But like with our schedule, even if we don't follow our menu 100%, even following half the time is waaayyyy better than having no menu/plan at all. And since we all need/like to eat, I usually stick to it pretty well :)
|Do your children help you cook? |
Of course! It's fun! :)
|Since I save so much time using a menu, I have more time to clean up :)|