I love to cook. I love to shop for food. I love to go to farmer’s markets. I really don’t enjoy meal planning one bit. In a perfect world I’d be able to ride my bike or walk to the market and purchase fresh food daily and I would just buy what looks good and whip something up. I am pretty good at doing that.
The reality that shatters my Parisian open market dream that dances in my head is I live in New England and farmer’s markets are seasonal. The only winter one I know of is a good drive away into New Haven, which I then want to make day of it. Not a bad thing but not something I can do daily. I also am a busy mom who homeschools two boys currently, I am in school myself and starting a business. So running to the store daily is not going to happen.
So here’s how I menu plan and not go insane.
1. Use those store flyers.
Nothing is more helpful in planing our your meals, espcially if on a budget, than using the store sales flyers and seeing what meats and produce are on sale.
2. Plan out what your going to cook and when.
Meaning don’t plan on doing a pot roast when you don’t have the time to cook it. Nothing will send you to a drive thru or take out menu faster than not planning out. I always try to cook something fairly simple on a Saturday as I don’t know what the day might find us doing and when we might get home. Sunday’s I love to cook a nice family meal because typically we are home in the afternoons to do so. Nights I have activties I cook simple meals I can cook early, leaving food for family members to reheat when they come home.
3. Eat seasonally
4. Keep a journal
I started this a few years ago and am so thankful I did. First it will help you with eating seasonally as you write your menus into it you can look back over it the next year. My menu planning journal has all my weekly menu plans, where I can find the recipes and any comments about new recipes I try. I also have gone a step further and write the season we are currently in on the top corners of the page. This helps on those days I am feeling way less than insprired to plan a menu.
Another way this is useful is if I am stuck at what to cook on a night my son always has an activity. I an look back through (now two years) worth of menus and even look seasonally to find something fast to cook. Interesting side note. Just like January is usually the time of white sales and home good sales, I’ve noticed that certain things go on sale nearly the same time each year. You know like how fish tends to go on sale during Lent? Keep your own journal and see what you notice.
5. Use online helps.
There are lots of great sites to help you keep your online recipes in one place, make a recipe box, plan menus and even generate a grocery list for you based on what is on that meal plan. My personal favorite is Pepperplate. I use to store my menus which I then can access from my phone. It organizes my online recipes and can even generate a shopping list for you.
Happy menu plannning.