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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Menu Planning for Many

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

My first post here at The Co-op is one adapted from my blog early this year introducing what became the bulk of my posts there for the year to date... Inspired by Eileen’s record and grocery challenge on her blog, about nine months ago I decided to share my menu plans each week.

Here’s how Menu Planning works at our place:

I have a sheet of paper on the side of the fridge listing all meals for the week, who’s cooking, baking to do, outings, birthdays and other reminders for the whole family.

On Sunday night I take one of these sheets of paper (they’re printed from a Word doc on the computer with days of the week etc and spaces to hand write all details)… I write the next week’s outings, visitors etc on the list. On the days we have busy afternoons or are home late, I choose a meal from the freezer (I cook in bulk and freeze), or a quick meal. Then I think about what fresh produce I have from the garden, markets or co-op to use up. This decides the available meals early in the week so that nothing spoils in the fridge.

Next I think about what’s already planned and choose other types of meals to slot into the plan - we divide our usual meals into lists depending on what they’re based on: egg, legumes, rice, potato, fish or bread. At times I challenge myself to include new recipes, other times I try to use up a lot of frozen homemade meals and pantry basics to save a bit of money. Overall, the menus are well-thought out so they work.

Sometimes we have unexpected visitors or leftovers to use up, and meals change or are inter-changed. But normally, the plan means that once I’ve spent 10 minutes thinking ahead on a Sunday evening, I barely have to think about meals again for a whole week.

Main meals at our place feed least eight busy people and I view it as an important family responsibility to ensure that they're nutritious, on time and within our budget. I share the responsibility of cooking with four of my children, aged 9 to 14 years.

If you go to the Downloads page on my blog, there are sample menus and grocery lists put together by my friend Sam a couple of years ago. Her menus rotate every four weeks. There are many ways to menu plan, I hope that by sharing ours someone else can enjoy the freedom of those ‘What’s for dinner?’ woes…

If you have any questions about our method of menu planning, please use the Comments function of this post.

If you’d like a helping hand to get started with menu planning, I recommend Mealopedia and Menu Plan Mondays at Org Junkie for inspiration. Some good advice can also be found on this page of the Hillbilly Housewife site.

For many examples of our family’s mostly-vegetarian menus, they can be accessed here. Happy mealtimes!


sarahtee said...

Looking forward to reading more of your posts, Bel :-)

silversewer said...

I have menu planned for over 30 years. I also shop just once a month for basics with a shopping list I have on my computer.

Shopping for fresh fruit each week and we use whats ready from the allotment for veg. We got over 100lbs of spuds from 22 tubers this year, and they are lovely potato'se grow things which are expensive to buy as well as staples such as onions carrots garlic turnip etc.

I ejoy reading the new blog...keep up the good work........people need to go back to living simply, stop wasting so much food and refuse to buy anything that is 'overwrapped'.

The mobile greengrocer who calls at our unit uses brown paper bags which can be re-cycled.

Carolyn said...

Great post.

I usually just wonder around in the kitchen and stockpile area and see what needs to be used and then find or use recipes I have.

Bel said...

Hi Sarah, Silversewer and Carolyn! Thanks for your comments.

Carolyn, if I relied on getting around to creating our meals the way you do, we'd eat a lot more take-away, or starve! I just get so busy in the afternoons that I don't even want to think about planning for and preparing a meal. This way, it's planned, some prep may be done in the less-busy mornings and we're eating a lot better, and cheaper than when I didn't menu plan (years ago). Sometimes I wish for more spontenaety, but time has proven that this works for us.
Happy cooking!

claudia said...

You must have been listening in on my thoughts from yesterday. I was just thinking that there has to be a better way to do the meals around here and save money and time. I have to go to work now, but when I come home I am coming directly to this blog and do some studying. Thank you!

libby said...

HI Bel,

Great post. It amazes me that some people don't menu plan. I've been doing it for so long I really can't remember not doing it. Mind you that was probably back when I first got married and we had takeaway 4-5 times a week (and I promptly put on LOTS of weight). I love menu planning!!! It makes life so much easier.


Jude said...

I think MommyCoddle has a fab couple of posts about this issue. It is on her sidebar with everyone's comments and suggestions. Also Melissa Goodsell has a little scrapbooked menu planner on her fridge that is fab too.

Bel said...

Thanks All for your comments.
Jude, I wonder if you mean:
both great blogs!

Chookie said...

I started menu planning years ago, before I had children, though what I have now is a lot more sophisticated than what I did then! I love menu planning because while I can be spontaneous if I want to, I don't have to think hard if I'm tired or pressed for time. Also, having a menu plan is handy if you ever have a change in diet, as all your regular purchases are in there and it's easy to work out what to change. I have four weeks of meals planned, one set for summer and the other for winter.

Bel said...

That does sound sophisticated - two sets of four menus! Thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

It is a putty that your link to your guide on menu planning leads to a dead end. I would love to learn more about menu planning. Perhaps your other blogger links will be more willing to share. Jane Robinson