Memories and healthy recipes for your dinner table.

Menu in the Mix

If you are new to creating a menu, it can seem daunting a first. I use my computer, but a pad of paper or a calendar works fine. Start off simple. You could begin by selecting a theme for each day of the week. Something like: soup or breakfast on Sunday, Try Something New Monday, Taco Tuesday’s, seafood on Wednesday, Mexican Thursday’s, Italian Friday’s, Saturday’s dinner salads, ect. When you are putting together your menu, include a main dish and all sides. Ex: Wednesday Dinner: Poached Salmon, roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus, water and strawberries. With time and some practice it will become easier.

I caved in and started making a menu because I was spending too much time sifting through cookbooks or browsing the internet every night looking for something healthy, yet good. Everyday at 4:00, I would go into a panic over what to cook for dinner. Before I knew it, the clock read 5:25 and my nose was still in a book or I was standing in the kitchen mulling over what I could make from the few things we had in the pantry and refrigerator. Frustrated, I tried to make a menu but nothing changed; it still was taking too long to come up with a recipe to fill in the blank. Then, I decided to assign a category or theme to each day of the week to narrow the search. Now, I had to only come up with one recipe and if I found others that looked interesting, I plugged them in the subsequent week’s spots. Wa-la, a months worth of meals, done!

Not quite. The kids, became pickier and I did not have a ton of time to spend in the kitchen anymore to experiment with new recipes. There was a period after our third baby was born where we had the same dish on the same day each week. Creating a menu is really about what works for your family. My sister-n-law has input from her kids on menu suggestions.

Sometimes things come up. A menu is just a guide. Maybe you do not feel like eating what is on the menu for that night. It is perfectly ok to switch nights around or pull something together from items on hand. However, you decide to do it remember to keep it simple and do not forget to post the menu where you can see it. Otherwise it is easy to forget what is for dinner. My other sister-n-law makes a copy of the recipes she plans on using so she does not have to go hunting for it later.

To save money on groceries think back to college. When I was in college I did not have a lot of money to spend on groceries. I planned meals around each other so nothing went to waste. If you plan on trying a new recipe think of other recipes that use the same ingredients. It may seem boring or monotonous but it saves money. Savy shoppers arrange their menus around what deals they pick up at the grocery store that week. Or they stock up for next months menu.

Finally, create a shopping list based on the ingredients needed for each recipe. Make sure to list the quanties. If a recipe calls for two potatoes and later in the week you plan on having mashed potatoes you’ll need to buy more than two potatoes. Once you have your list, it is time to go shopping. Some people like to shop once a week, while others push for every two weeks. See how long you can go without having to go to the grocery store. You will be surprised at what you can come up with using the items in your pantry, freezer and refrigerator. Save the money you would have normally spent and use it to stock up on sale items you use most.