Saturday, 18 October 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!