The Benefits of Menu Planning
By Sue Hooley
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.
- 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