Monday, January 24, 2011

Meal Planning

Meal Planning 101 - I wish!  I'm not sure if because I love to cook that I struggle with meal planning OR I struggle with meal planning because I love to cook.   I hear people say that they only buy what is on sale AND they have a coupon for but, it makes me wonder, what do they eat?  A can of beans with a pork chop?

I came across a blog recently that is based on the concept of cooking 1 hour and making 5 meals for the week.  Wow.  I love it already.  So, I take out one hour on Saturday, prepare the basics for 5 meals, and than Sun-Thurs, my meals are almost ready before the day begins.  It got me thinking.  I spend hours planning the weeks menu, looking through the ad, finding coupons (which I recently joined on a trial basis for two weeks just to see how it goes . . I'll post more on that when my two weeks are up!), and, of course, getting lost in new recipe ideas.  In my many years of experience (hahaha) I've learned that for every one GREAT new recipe, there area bout 15 ok, not so great, and just plain awful recipes out there.  See, the new recipe thing came from the fact that we were in a rut when both of us worked full time - often working 50-60 hours a week; than we had kids and I worked 40 hours a week but add in the time of running to and from day care, that added another hour or more to my day.  So the rut was : Spaghetti on Monday, Beef Strogenoff on Tuesdays, Tacos on Wednesday, Chicken on Thursday and out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday because I was too tired to care!!  Seriously, we had taco's EVERY SINGLE Wednesday for about 4 months and even I started to not like tacos. 

I'm trying to balance my desire to not be in a rut with the need to stop trying new recipes and wasting money on things we don't like :-(  So, I've created a simple spreadsheet (actually a word document with a table . . .) of our top favorite recipes in all basic categories.  I than created February's menu.  Yes, you read that right - F.E.B.R.U.A.R.Y.'s menu - a whole month!!  Well, it isn't quite complete - I plugged in 5 favorites each week.  That leaves two days open - to try a new recipe, for grabbing something quick, for eating appetizers for dinner, etc.  This makes me breathe a sigh of relief.  Half of my work is over.  Now, as I come across recipes I REALLY want to try, I can plug them in over the course of the month.  I miss some of our old "ruts" - so, I'll try this for a month and see how it goes :-)

Back to that 5 recipes in an hour concept - I like it more and more; I'm trying a few of her recipes this week; requested a free 1 week menu (yes, there is a fee for a three month membership) and am now looking at my own recipes in a new light.  I'm asking myself - how can I make these one hour prep recipes each week.  Just reading some of her ideas (click on the button above to go check it out!) helps me think outside the box for food prep. 

If you would like check out my current February Menu - just click here (ok, not quite yet - I wanted to post this but will update it as soon as I finish up that Menu; hopefully tonight).  You'll see blanks - those are for those new recipes and unexpected things - I'll fill those in weekly.  This should also help with grocery shopping because I can actually see other things I'm planning on making and buy things when they are on sale!!