Sunday, November 23, 2008

How I plan meals

It's been a little trickier planning our meals since our 15-month-old started eating with us a couple months ago. She has allergies to milk and egg. It's not until you start really reading labels do you realize how many items have milk in them. The egg allergy has been easier to avoid and she actually tolerates it cooked in burgers and pancakes. We also just got another half a hog and ordered a quarter cow, which we plan to receive in about a month. This helps a lot in making menus.

At the end of each month I plan the next month's meals. I leave Saturdays and Sundays open for eating out and grilling (or leftovers). I will take a look at the meals I make (many posted here) and vary them. First I vary the week's menu with beef, pork, chicken and sometimes fish. Then I vary the meals throughout the month. Finally, I rotate some meals monthly. I will take ground beef recipes that are similar and spread them throughout the month -- hamburgers, sloppy joes, pizza burgers, tacos, goulash, chili, cas mac, etc. I make a roast a week -- I alter between pork and beef. And I will use different recipes for roasts from port-glazed roast to stew to crockpot roast. I'm always trying something new with roasts (they are easy to cut up and use in many recipes). For chicken, I vary the recipes and have tried some new ones recently. I also will freeze some chicken for future meals. Then I just pepper in other meals into the monthly menu, such as lasagna, kraut and kelbasa, tuna noodle, baked ziti, spaghetti, etc. I've been doing this for about six months and it only takes me about 10 minutes to fill out a calendar of meals for a month.

Working my daughter's dietary needs in has been a challenge, but what I do is make a little extra and put it aside for her without the milk or cream soups or cheese. I also will make batches of soup and freeze them for easy meals. I also freeze extra tomato sauce for a quick meal. I freeze them in the portion size she eats so there is not much waste. It's been working really well for us. We had some brats that we didn't really like that came with our last order of beef, but she loved them. My husband grilled them up for her one day when he was grilling and froze them into individual servings for her. Works great. I also don't add butter to any of our warm vegetables any more and if we have extra of those I will save them for her for lunches.

The key to menu planning for me is to have variety and to visualize it by placing it on a calendar. I still tweak the week before I go grocery shopping (for example if I have tacos planned for Friday, I might move it to Monday if I'm doing shopping early in the week so the lettuce doesn't go bad). I also can buy ahead if items are on sale. It's nice to have a guideline to follow and it alleviates a lot of thinking in the morning, not to mention the worry that I might not have all the ingredients. I hate shopping for one or two things, especially if I just did the grocery shopping.

1 comment:

Monica said...

Wow, I give you credit, your pretty organized. I'm lucky sometimes if I make a list. I usually have everything in my head.


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