Thursday, February 13, 2014

Menu Planning Part One

We all need to eat. And most of us women find ourselves responsible to fill the tummies of those around our table. Sue shares some insights on the topic of menu planning in this guest post.
The Benefits of Menu Planning
By Sue Hooley

5 p.m. 
 
Do you recognize that “exasperating hour” when the household starts to fray around the edges? Have you felt the lack of ideas while standing in front of the pantry or refrigerator door? Have you resorted to a frozen lump of ground beef in hopes of inspiration? 
 
My euphoria of “ground beef stimulus” is usually short-lived as I make choices and straightway eliminate them. “Sloppy Joes- no bread.” “Taco Salad- no chips.” “Chili Soup- no beans.” At the last minute, ingredients are thrown together that do not complement each other in taste or appearance, and… 
 
…the kitchen is a mess,

…I’m in a stress,

…the family tries to guess-

What is for supper?

I haven’t always been a menu planner. In fact, I was a bit dubious when I first heard the concept. Wouldn’t it take the fun out of preparing a home-cooked meal? What if I wanted to eat pizza on the day the menu said mashed potatoes?

After several months of menu planning, I discovered that there are many benefits. In place of spending much needed brain power on “what to make for supper,” my mind was clearer to focus on other things that required my attention. 

When the menu is only in my head, it is more difficult to delegate meal preparation tasks. As a result, I end up doing most of the work. Children are great helpers and most times there are little jobs that they can do. If the menu says: Pizza, veggies and dip, fruit and cookies, it is easier to assign small tasks. Someone can get a jar of fruit; another can prepare veggies and so forth. 
 
If you think about it, we are extremely repetitious in the kitchen. How many times do we grate cheese, chop onions and fry hamburger in one week? or two weeks? If menus are planned, we can look ahead to see if we will need to prepare those foods again. With little additional time and energy, we can easily double or triple those amounts and we have the convenience of ready-to-use ingredients. 
 
Like in other areas of homemaking, our persona, budget, seasonal food, work schedule and our husband’s preferences are a factor in menu planning. What flows well for one homemaker may be completely different from what is comfortable for another. You know your family and your schedule the best, so customize menu planning accordingly. 
 
Consider the following benefits of menu planning:
  • Grocery shopping is easier
  • Meals are more balanced and include more variety
  • Money is saved
  • Added flexibility
  • More likely to try new recipes
  • Sale items taken advantage of
  • More prepared for impromptu guests
Menu planning does require some forethought and effort, but it actually saves time in the long run. It is a work in progress that will take practice, but the more you do it, the easier it will become.

Sue will be back in the next post with some practical tips on menu planning.

 Sue Hooley, wife of Dan and mom to six children ages 4-20 is a Mennonite homemaker in Washington state. After several years of motherhood and homemaking, she developed a Daily Planner that is perfect homemakers. www.homemakersfriend.com

5 comments :

  1. My mother was 'menu challenged'! We still have a family favorite though. It was thrown together out of desperation and impulse. When one of my confused siblings asked suspiciously "What is THAT?" My mother promptly responded, "Goop! Enjoy" We did, and no get together is complete without a pile of Goop. In later, grown up years, my sister even created a 'gourmet' version! Goop: pork & beans, fried hamburger and onions, Do you recognize this Sue?? ((grin))

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  2. My mother was a menu planner so it was natural to me couldn't think of going to the store without a list or even a family vacation without meal plans on deck. Now with 2 college students when they plan their friends getaway weekend I see a menu plan and shopping list. I mainly do menu planning because i hate going to the store more than once every two weeks unless for produce.

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  3. I must admit that I am not a menu planner. I do however try to make sure I have plenty of items that are quick to prepare. One of our favoites is bean in the pressure cooker which usually only takes 1/2 hour to prepare. I also bundle the meat is small portions that will cook rather quickly from a frozen state. I portion out vegetables etc in one meal portions in the freezer. We don't eat cassaroles much but if I have cooked chicken I might whip up a chicken pot pie. It's worked for me, but I can see where meal planning would be helpful. I have a one hour commute from work, so on my way home I am planning in my head what we will have for supper and if I need to I can stop and pick up small items I know I don't have if I want them. It works for me, but wouldn't for everyone. Thank you for sharing you thoughts. God Bless!

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  4. I am actually not a menu planner for every day meals, only for get-togethers like a birthday, anniversary, holiday. But I do many of the things you mention.

    I never chop up just the onion I need. I chop up one or two, use what I need and the rest go into a container labeled onion that goes in the crisper drawer.
    Same with cheese...if I am serving chili I cook up 4 times the noodles needed, same with the cheese. 1/4 noodles and cheese go with the chili on the table and the rest get made into macaroni and cheese. We always have a container of rice in the fridge. When we finish that one, we start another in the rice cooker. Cold rice is best for making fried rice anyways. I can make a rice pudding quickly or Mexican rice to go along with enchiladas.

    Every time I make a dish I put one meals worth of it in the freezer...like a quart of soup or chili (we only have 3 total at home now) or a smaller casserole dish. I make 10 pie crusts at a time and freeze them in discs so I can make a quiche or even get a pie baking while we are eating dinner (peach pie filling and apple filling were canned) . If I am using freezer food I get out before I go to work. Lots of times though I am thinking about what to make as I drive home from work at 3p...usually when I know there are a lot of leftovers to use up.

    We don't have anything like your famous family glop, but we do have a long standing (my 5 children are 20-29) tradition of "guess the secret ingredient" when I have combined lots of different things together to make a new dish. Unfortunately, these dishes are sometimes a hit but there is no real way to recreate them.

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  5. This is a great post to get people thinking about meal planning. I think the nice thing about our day is how much technology we have that can help us plan our meals. There are a ton of apps that make it easier. I have been using this one called Cook'n and it lets me plan meals and even make a shopping list based on the meals I want. It has made it a lot easier for me because it does most of the thinking for me. Thanks again for the post. This is great!

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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