Thursday, February 5, 2015

Menu Planning Helper

I don't know about you, but I tend to feel like we get into a rut with dinners in our house.  As each season moves along, I find myself looking forward to the next season and the different types of meals we will have -- right now, I'm so looking forward to Spring and Summer when the snow will melt and we'll be able to find the grill again!  Halfway through Summer, I'll be longing for comfort foods and my beloved Crock-Pot!  I have been looking for some ways to get out of this food rut and here is what I have come up with:

- I bought a little whiteboard that I put up on the inside of one of my kitchen cupboards.  This helps me in two ways.  Actually, three!  1) I post a list of meals on the board so that I can keep track of what we have eaten recently, so I am not boring everyone with the same thing over and over.  2) Having my meals planned out and listed there helps to keep me on track with grocery shopping - I know that I only need to get things for the meals on the board - and keeps me from wavering and deciding to order a pizza or other take-out -- it's on the board, that's what we're eating!  And 3) My girls used to ask me SEVERAL times a day "What's for dinner?"  I could tell them, and then 10 minutes later they would forget and ask again...  "Go check the board!"

- I think I mentioned this a few posts ago, but I recently blew the cobwebs (not really, my house is a little cleaner than that...  a little...) off of my recipe box and pulled out a few recipes that I had not made in a while, and even found one or two that I had NEVER made yet!  It's fun to go through and find recipes that you forgot you had, or maybe you have Grandma's famous recipe for (fill in the blank) and your kids have never had the pleasure of trying that!  And of course, my favorite place to look things up -- Pinterest!  I have literally over 1,000 recipes pinned on there...  I am trying to use those more when I am feeling tapped out of ideas.  I found an amazing roasted chicken recipe on there that has become a family favorite and this weekend I am making "Dirt Cake" for my teen's birthday sleepover (Dirt Cake was her request -- went on Pinterest, found the recipe!).

- And finally, my new favorite idea that came to me last week!  Do you ever go grocery shopping and you are standing by the meat case and you are thinking, "Ugh, what can I do different to chicken this week?"  Or, pork chops, or beef...  I tend to draw a total blank, especially if I don't have a great shopping list.  I will stand there and feel compelled to buy meat knowing that I will have to make dinners for my family, but have NO idea what I'm using it for, serving with it, etc.  And frequently, because I don't know what I'm making, I won't end up buying the other things that I need to make the meal and then I'm running to the grocery store 3 times a week (or sending hubby...).  That is not only a waste of time, it's super expensive!  Here's what I came up with -- I made a list of all of the meals that I could remember that are in my "repertoire" and then I sorted them by whether they were a pasta dish, a fish dish, chicken, beef, pork, etc.  I LOVE LISTS!  I put this one in the "Notes" section of my iPhone, but if I didn't have that, I could easily write it on a piece of paper and put it in my purse.  Now, when I am planning the meals for the week, or the grocery list, or if I'm in the store and see that something's on sale, I can quickly look at my list and see all of the possibilities of things I can make!  Love it!  And, by the way, I was pretty impressed with my list!  I have a lot of recipes that I make -- I can really mix things up to get my family out of the dinner doldrums!

What ideas do you have for menu planning?  Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share?