Monday, March 1, 2010

How To Write A Menu Planner

For as long as I can remember I have written a menu planner.   I was originally inspired my a Women's Weekly publication that gave you a month's worth of 2 course meals.   I remember eagerly awaiting the next edition and then I would get busy shopping and planning our meals.

Why do I use a menu planner
The answer is quite simple - because it makes life easier.  A bit of thought and preparation means that my (and therefore my family's) week runs smoother.   I find nothing more frustrating than when the kids ask "what's for dinner" and I have no idea, or back when I worked in the city I use to drive home in peak hour trying to decide what I felt like eating ... this would inevitably mean a trip to Woolies and us not eating unti 7 or 8pm.   And on a bad day I couldn't be bothered cooking so we'd buy takeaway.   I also find a menu planner helps with the budget.  Nothing is more than a budget blower than going to shop without a plan!

Two styles of menu planning
1.  A simple list of meals - ie plan out 14 days worth of meals.   That way you have the flexibility of choosing which meal you feel like and.  Some people just can't choose a week advance what they want to eat.
2.  A set menu of meals - ie plan each day individually (as in my menu at the top of this post). 
I have used both methods.  I currently do the more set menu because it helps me plan better around when I'm working.   If I know I have a big day (eg Friday) I always plan simple/quick meals, and on a day I'm a home I can cook something which takes a bit more time.
There is no set way to do this, you have to find what suits you and your family best.
I have found that it helps to also write a list of "extras" or "treats".   I use to find myself browsing cookbooks, finding something I wanted to try, then buy the ingredients and not ever remember what I was going to make.  That is why I now have an "extras" section. 
Tips to Choosing Meals
I always do a quick stock of what I have in the fridge, freezer and pantry.  That way I can base meals around what I already have - no pointing buying more when my pantry is already overflowing.  
I try to do a variety of meals - my family doesn't like it when I cook mince 5 nights in a row.   Although at times that has been necessary and I've turned it into a game - the kids have had to invent something to cook & then come up with a name!
We also have a left over night once a fortnight.   I always freeze leftovers after our nightly meals and then use them up ... everyone then gets to choose which meal they want.  

Maybe we should have a Menu Planner Challenge.  Please post your ideas and tips ... and I'll send you a cyber chocolate!!!

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