Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Monthly Menu Planning Overview

Almost two years ago, we moved to Costa Rica; and six months later, I was getting ready to have a baby. I decided I needed to do something a bit different than my normal menu planning, which really wasn't much planning at all.  I would figure out what I wanted to make the night before or even that morning from my list of meals and what was in the pantry.  With Language school, and then having a baby, I knew that wouldn't work for me much longer!  So, I started planning weekly menus. Walking to the grocery stores makes you a little more conscious of making sure you get everything you need for the week (and only buying what you need!) So, I had a weekly menu to go off of that I wrote down in a notebook.  And that worked well for a while.  And then I saw this on Pinterest!  What an AMAZING idea!!!  But oh my, the work involved was a little much for me at that time.  Slowly I came to the idea in the picture below and I love it.  It is very simple and doesn't take a whole lot of time!  Where we live now, this has become a necessity for me.  We have to go to the capital to buy butter, cheese, paper goods, most of our meat, and a number of things that we just can’t get up here in the mountains.  We try to limit our shopping trips to once every month or two.  Really, it saves us a lot of money in the long run because it is inevitable that when we go to the store, I will find some American thing that they haven’t had before and want to buy it, because you just never know if they will have it again. (And most of the time, they don’t!)  Well, too, you know how sometimes things just “jump” in your cart!  The food comes alive! Seriously!  So, anyway, here’s what I do…

The last week of the month I plan for the following month; usually it just takes an afternoon if I can stay focused on it (and don’t get too distracted on Pinterest, when I’m looking for new recipes!)  But I do give myself a week to get it done.  Our big meal of the day is lunch, so I keep that in mind when planning.  First, I print out a Word document calendar to use.  Then, above each day of the week I write the basic type of meal (beef, fish, chicken...etc.) we will have on those days.  And then I get to work.  The very first month would be the hardest since you are starting from scratch.  I plan a meal for every day of the week, knowing there will be days we will have leftovers.  The meals I don’t make in this month will go onto the calendar for next month.  Most of the time when it comes time for next month I have almost half the calendar filled out from the meals I didn't make.  I really LOVE trying new recipes so, I generally don’t repeat the same recipe within the month, and only a few will we have 2 months in a row.  But if you repeat meals, then you have less planning to do!  While I write the recipes names on the calendar, I make up my monthly grocery shopping list too.  I never make meals or special treats that have things I don’t normally buy in the recipe; so it’s a matter of calculating the quantity for my normal monthly grocery list.  After it is all written out, I put it in my 8x10 picture frame.

The cards hanging on the bottom are the recipes for the week. (My husband screwed in some little hook thingies in the bottom of the frame to hold the recipe cards.) I do my weekly grocery shopping on Monday and do try to get as much as I can up here instead of the capital.  So, on Saturday or Sunday, I will pull out my recipe cards for the next week. (I’m still working on getting them all printed out… haven’t gotten there yet!)   The first group is breakfast recipes, the second is lunch, and the third has my dinner list and also all the things I want to make that week.  I make my own bread, buns, and granola; so those stay there every week.  (Making those every week you would think I would have the recipes memorized by now, but I don’t!  Maybe it will stick one of these days!)  I make my grocery list from those recipe cards. 

Doing the calendar has helped me so much with getting things together the night before that need to be prepped, like getting meat out of the freezer or putting everything in the crock pot to be put on first thing in the morning.  It also helps with planning my day the night before with knowing right away in the morning what I’m making for breakfast and what time I need to start preparing lunch.  And yes, there are times where I just don’t have the time to make what was on the calendar or it really doesn't sound good; so I do a bit of switching.  I allow it to be flexible, but I really enjoy having the structure.
So, there you have the overview!!  Next week I will get more into detail about how to go about planning out a month’s worth of meals and not be overwhelmed by the idea!    


Jen said...

Thanks! I am always looking for ideas in organizing menus and such.

Carol S. said...

Thanks for sharing this. I would like to share it with my ladies' group. I especially like the idea of the little cup hooks on the bottom to hang the recipes for the week.