Monday, September 14, 2015

Menu Planning

 The most dreaded question of my day is when my husband calls from work and says "What's for dinner tonight?"  I don't know why he does it, he just does.  I think it might be because he knows his wife and knows that thinking ahead is not my strong point, which leaves me looking in the fridge at 5 pm in a panic that I don't know what to fix for dinner.

Or, I'll wake up in the morning to find some sort of meat out of the fridge, sitting on the stove (generally with nothing under it so it puddles), and have no idea what it's out for. Those are the days I call him at work and ask what it's for, and he'll tell me "Oh, I thought we'd have ... for dinner tonight." Like I'm supposed to read his mind and know exactly what he was thinking.

Neither one of these really works for the day, let alone for the grocery shopping.  So I went looking for a system of menu planning that would work for us.

I am not a notebook sort of girl, so those household planning notebooks that are so popular don't work for me. If it's closed away in a notebook on a shelf, I'll forget it's even there.

The lists on the fridge worked, but then you've got to remember to print them and plan the week, and they give you no help in the planning part of things.

I needed something between the two, and since I couldn't find someone else's I had to make my own.

So this is what we came up with.

I made mine out of wood (mostly because I found a really awesome sale on craft wood at the craft store - which is the only reason for the filigree at the top and bottom, heaven knows I'm not that ambitious to do that by my own hand!)  It could just as easily be done printed on a piece of cardstock and a couple of those dollar store magnetic cups for lockers they sell during back to school season.

All you really need is a few magnets and a couple of boxes to hold the cards. A clip to hold the menu cards would be helpful, too, if you like that better than a plain old magnet. If you want to use what you already have, set a couple of mugs on top of the fridge to hold your cards. You can even cut a plastic soda bottle in half and glue a couple of magnets to the back of that to make your boxes - anything that will keep the cards in sight and in easy reach.

So here is how it works.  First, you make up the menu cards for the dinners you like best. I like to write the dish at the end in small letters so you can see what the card is for without actually taking it all the way out of the box (you can see this in the pictures of my board below).

Here's an example of some of mine:

Here's the beauty of these cards - they don't just list what is for dinner, the box at the bottom includes what I need to put on my shopping list! It's not everything the recipe might need, I leave off what's likely to already be in my pantry normally, I only ever buy things like heavy cream when I have need of it, so it's listed. Yeast I may or may not have in the cupboard at any given time, so I list it anyway, knowing I need to double check whether it's already there or not.

I have almost 50 of these cards printed  - so when I'm planning for my next shopping trip, which is every two weeks on the day after payday, I pull out the cards.  I choose 14 or 15 cards, whatever dinners I want to have "on tap" for the next two weeks.  

Using the cards I choose, I make up my grocery list. (Gotta remember to add breakfast and lunches to that list, too, since these are only dinners!) What I am going to need is already listed on the cards, which makes it so much easier than trying to remember, or pulling out the actual recipe cards. I you're in too much of a hurry to jot down a list, you can slip the menu cards in your wallet and take them to the store with you, your list is right there on the cards.

Once my shopping list is done, the "on tap" cards go in the box at the left. The rest of the cards go in the box on the right, like so:

So that's it, really. Simplified. In plain sight. Easy to use. You can even take turns deciding what's for dinner - pick a card, any card! Great for kids, because they can help choose - when you're deciding what dinners you want to put on your cards, when you are planning your week's (or two week's) meals, and/or each day when you're deciding what to have or dinner that day.

I hope this is helpful. This is a perfect example of adjusting a system to work for you and your family. This is the way I do it, but if something like it, but a little different, works for you - then use that little different system. The only "right way" to do it is the one that works best for you!

Here are the blank cards for you to add your favorite dinners to.

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