Menu Planning Tips & Resources
By Sheri Graham
We all know that meal planning is, a lot of times, the “last” item on our list of things to get done each week! It takes time to organize meals, make out grocery lists, and make sure dinner is on the table when our loving husbands return home. It is our heart’s desire to provide healthy meals for our precious family, yet getting it all done can be overwhelming at ti m es. We want to put good, healthy food on the table without having to spend hours planning and cooking.
While food is an “essential” part of our lives, as wives and mothers we have so many more important things to do besides spending our time in the kitchen. We have husbands to care for, children to teach, disciple, and have fun with, people to minister to, as well as our own times with the Lord! (I will say, though, that bringing your children along side of you in the kitchen can make for some of the most special memories and teaching times!)
Here are a couple verses the Lord brought to mind as I was contemplating what to name my first eBook on menu planning:
“Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing?” Matthew 6:26 (Amp)
“But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.” Matthew 6:33 (Amp)
Many times meal planning and preparation can become such a stress – a worry – in our lives. However, these verses show us that we shouldn’t worry about what we shall eat . . . because LIFE is greater than food! Isn’t that refreshing?
There are many things we can do to organize ourselves in this area of homemaking. I want to share some of the things that have helped me. Before you begin, you will need to determine how much money you can spend each month on groceries (if you don’t already have a budget in place, now is the time to do that too!). Below I have listed some ideas for how you can go about making out your menus. Whether you decide to plan a month at a time or just a week at a time, planning ahead will go a long way in making your life run smoother.
Here are some tips that may help you in your meal planning endeavors:
PLAN MEALS A MONTH AT A TIME
1. Start by making a list of all the meals your family likes.
2. Use a monthly calendar and chart out meals for a whole month, making days for leftovers, eating out, etc. if needed. Keep in mind if there are certain days during the week that you will be pressed for time. Plan quick and easy meals on those days, leaving the recipes that take more time for those nights you “have” the time! Also plan on an evening when you have more time to double or triple a recipe and put the extras in the freezer. Chart these “freezer” meals on your monthly menu as well, noting that they are in the freezer already.
3. Make master grocery lists for each week’s meals. Once you have done this once, you will have a whole month worth of meals planned, with grocery lists to go with it. You can then work new recipes in here and there in the months to follow, but the bulk of the work will be done already.
4. If you really want to get ambitious, you can do the once a month cooking, where you cook up meals for a whole month and freeze. I have never done this, but prefer to just double or triple a recipe and freeze it.
COOK IN BULK
1. Buy hamburger in bulk. Cook 3-5 pounds in a large crockpot by cooking on high until done, breaking up the hamburger and stirring throughout the day. I add some minced onion and garlic powder while it cooks. Once the hamburger is done, drain in a colander and rinse with water (this helps the flavor of the meat when you freeze it not to get that greasy taste). I let the meat cool, and then scoop 2-3 cups of meat in freezer bags and freeze. This meat is now ready for sloppy joes, casseroles, spaghetti, pizza, beef enchiladas, etc. This saves so much time and helps cut meal preparation down a lot.
2 Use this same concept when cooking cubed chicken or any other meat. Precook the meat and then freeze it in small quantities to use for meals.
3. Double up meal preparation when you can. If you are making a meal that can be frozen, 2X or 3X the recipe and freeze the extra for another day! I have done this and it is not that much more work to prepare enough for 2 or 3 meals while you have all the pots and pans dirty.
Many, many books have been written on meal planning, healthy cooking, organizing recipes, etc. Here are a few resources you might find helpful.
- Menu Planning Made Easy by Sheri Graham!
Instantly Downloadable eBook! This is the first eBook that I have put together and I had alot of fun doing it! This eBook comes with money-saving tips, cooking tips, 4 weeks worth of dinner menus, recipes, and shopping lists, menu ideas for breakfasts, lunches, and desserts, as well as instructions and forms to make your very own 4-week menu plan!
- Menu Planning by Sheri Graham
Is menu planning an area that challenges you? Would you like to save money AND be less stressed AND have meals on the table each night? Would you like to have your menus and grocery lists planned for a whole month? Do you need someone to walk you through step-by-step to making this happen? If so, then you might find this is just the ebook for you! Not only will I walk you through each step to planning a whole month of menus and grocery lists, but I will also provide all the forms you will need in the process….AND as an added bonus, I have included a few (over 25 to be exact) of my favorite recipes for you!
- Creative Homemaking’s “What’s For Dinner?” e-Cookbook
Downloadable eBook! This cookbook contains more than 250 quick, easy, family-tested dinner ideas.
- The Organized-Mom.com’s Freezing Cookie Dough e-Cookbook
Downloadable eBook! This cookbook shows you everything you need to know get started with freezing, storing, baking, and mailing cookies.
- No Coupon Clipping – A Guide to Receiving Free Groceries
Downloadable eBook! This eBook shows you techniques you can use to save money each month on your grocery bill using manufacturers vouchers.
You can save ALOT of money using coupons! Yes, it does take time to clip those coupons each week, but the savings are worth it! I have not seen this book personally, but it sounds like it might be a good resource for how to make the best use of coupons and vouchers to stretch your dollars!
USE COMPUTER SOFTWARE!
There are many different software programs available for making shopping lists, menus, recipe databases, etc. I will list a few that I found that may be helpful in this important area of planning meals:
- Recipe Builder
This is a complete software program to add, revise, and delete all your favorite recipes! The program comes with thousands of recipes already installed to get you started: crockpot recipes, diabetic recipes, poultry recipes, and side dishes (these can be deleted if you wish). The program has several options for printing the recipes too, to make them easy to use.
- Free Shopping List Software
Try this quick, easy, and flexible way to make your shopping lists. This program allows you to save and maintain lists of grocery items; point & click or drag and drop items to quickly form shopping list; edit, add, and delete items and categories; print shopping lists sorted by category or item; and save lists for re-use later!
I have downloaded this program and it really is a neat little program. You might find it helpful as well!
Here is treat for you to enjoy! My family LOVES this recipe. It is quick and easy to put together and won’t stay around long!!! Enjoy!
Yummy Homemade Granola
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 cups oatmeal (quick oats)
In a large, 4-quart saucepan, melt the margarine or butter and the brown sugar together. Stir it up and let it simmer for a few minutes (2-3 minutes). Add the salt and cinnamon, then the oatmeal. Remove pot from heat and stir until all the oatmeal is coated. Spread the granola onto 2 cookie sheets (with sides) and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Cool granola completely on pan, then break up into pieces and transfer to a container. Add raisins or nuts if desired.
[My husband and kids just LOVE this recipe! It is so much better for them than the boxed cereals and so much more filling! It is so easy to make, too! My husband told me that if he eat s a bowl of the granola in the morning he isn’t hungry until lunch! The other boxed cereals don’t “stick” and he said he is always hungry by mid-morning.]
Portions of this article were taken from my eBook entitled Menu Planning Made Easy! Because Life Is More Important Than Food! by Sheri Graham. In the eBook I share what I have done to make meal planning easier. Included is 4 weeks worth of meals, recipes, shopping lists, and tips to make your life easier! Along with the 4 weeks of menus, recipes, and shopping lists, I have also included forms and instructions for you to make up your own menus that will reflect your own family’s taste in food! PLUS, I am including some ideas and recipes for breakfasts, lunches, and some desserts.