A Week At A Glance

Since I’ve been sick for oh, 5 days now, last week’s menu plan really went out the window. It happens, and the beauty of it is that some of the things I’d planned for this week just get bumped to next week- and since I shopped for that last week, everything’s already here for those dishes. Today’s menu plan is also going to be a bit longer, as I’ll include a few days from this week, just to have down what I’ve made so I can keep track.

I’m also going to do my best to link to all the recipes I use. Occasionally there will be something that doesn’t use a recipe- but I’ve been working on getting my basic “toss-in-a-pot” meals down on paper.

So here is my meal plan for this past Monday through next Wednesday. I’m still on the fence about tomorrow’s pork dish, so that may change, but this is the plan anyways.

Monday: Chicken Noodle Soup

Tuesday: Frittata, Apple Pancakes

Wednesday: Cheezy Chicken Noodle Soup

Thursday: Southwestern Pork and Sweet Potatoes, Garden Salad, Fruit

Friday: Fish-N-Chips

Saturday: Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti, Salad, Homemade Bread

Sunday: Sloppy Joes, Pickles, Cheese Slices, Homemade Rolls

Monday: French Toast Sticks, Bacon, Fresh Fruit

Tuesday: Broccoli Chicken Supreme, Salad

Wednesday: Repeat of Sloppy Joes

Just a few notes about this week’s menu. You’ll see fish is on the menu, this is the time of year to buy fish if you usually don’t because of price. With the lenten season, fish comes down to a very reasonable price, and I like to stock up this time of year. Frozen fish is excellent in my part of the country, and it keeps in the freezer for several months. You’ll likely see fish on the menu a few times in the weeks ahead. Fish-n-chips is one of our family’s favorite things to go out for, and since we aren’t dining out as of late, I’ve managed to find a batter that we love here at home.
The chicken dishes on Saturday and Tuesday are new for me this week- I’ve not made them before. I have high hopes for both, as I would love to find casserole dishes that we enjoy eating. (We’re just not big casserole people.) I’ll be buying a large roasting chicken this week, and then using that one chicken for both dishes- it will provide plenty of chicken for both days, and I’ll only have to cook it once. I’ll probably roast the chicken so that I have the carcass for a roasted chicken stock as well, but I’m still not sure about that. This is where I am flexible though, because I know a good roasting hen will be about 8 or 9 dollars, and if I see a sale on frozen chicken breast this week while I’m out, I may just go that route instead. Either way, both dishes should work out great.

The French Toast Sticks will be made from an extra loaf of homemade bread from Saturday, and you see last week’s Sloppy Joe’s bumped to this week. My shopping list should be very reasonable this week.

Quick Tip!

Here’s a quick little tidbit for anyone just starting out with menu planning.

Don’t get all fancy-schmancy your first few times out there. Start with recipes or meals that you already make well. Maybe make a list of your standby tried-and-trues to refer to. Then as you get more comfortable making a plan, then start incorporating some new recipes.

Remember- menu planning is all about saving you TIME and MONEY. It’s not supposed to cause stress and anxiety.

Organize Those Recipes: Part One

Wait! Don’t run away! I promise, it’s totally do-able. But first, I need to warn you and let you know that it’s an on-going process. Seriously, if I sat down and decided to organize all the recipes in my posession…well, let’s just say that I would probably be in the same chair for two weeks straight, and I’d have just begun to make a dent. So we’re going to do this one step at a time, and this is the first post dedicated to recipe organization. I’m sure there will be many, and as always, I would LOVE tips, hints, suggestions, questions, or anything you do to try and maintain some semblance of organization.

So let’s start today with my worst offender: Magazines. Let me start by saying I.Love.Food.Magazines. Love them. I love flipping through them, reading the articles, reading the recipes, imagining myself making them, and imagining my family enjoying said recipes. But I have a serious problem hoarding those magazines. So what’s a girl to do? It’s easy to say I’ll purge and just throw them out, but to actually do it…you never know when an older recipe is going to all the sudden speak to you. (Please tell me I’m not alone with that feeling…!)

Currently, I subscribe to and receive these magazines:

Cooking Light
Eating Well
Home Cooking
Gourmet
Vegetarian Times
Better Homes and Gardens

I also sometimes pick up Bon Appetit, Everyday Food, Rachael Ray, and Taste of Home. That’s a lot of magazines floating around my home! So here’s what I do. First, I got myself a basket, it looks like this:

In that basket I keep up to 3 issues of each magazine- just the most current ones. This gives me a place to automatically put magazines as they come in the mail, and anytime I have a few minutes to flip through one, I know where they all are, and can find them here. As I flip through each magazine I circle, star, or otherwise notate the recipes that interest me, as well as write them down in my To-Try notebook. (You do have one of those- don’t you?) All that goes in my notebook is the name of the recipe, and what magazine it is in. Here’s an example of that list:

This way, when I’m making my menu for the week, I can glance at this page if I want a new recipe. By writing down the issue and page number, I’ve totally streamlined the process, and I can find that recipe in a matter of seconds when I want to give it a closer look. This list is an excellent resource when I’m making a recipe that uses something like leeks or fennel, and I want to find another recipe to use up that bulb of fennel.

After the basket, magazines get bumped to the shelf. I have one shelf with a small space devoted to putting my magazines. Here’s a picture of that:

By having a small space, I have to be picky and choosy about what I keep. My Cooking Light magazines I always keep for one full year, and then I pass them on after I’ve received the annual. This way, I can go through the annual and mark recipes I’ve made and enjoyed, as well as recipes I wanted to try, but never got around to. You can see too many CL’s on this shelf, and I really need to sort through them and pass them on now. I keep my Eating Well magazines as well because they are a wealth of information and recipes. Although now that I’ve been receiving it for over two years, I should probably think about culling them.

All the rest of the magazines get shelf space until I find the time to purge. Gourmet is an excellent example of that. Usually when I have about 6 months worth of issues, I sit down and flip through them. I tear out the recipes that I am interested in and toss the magazines themselves. Then I take those torn out recipes to the computer and find them online. Then I either print them off, or save them to my computer, and throw out the torn recipes as well. I do the same for the Vegetarian Times magazines. In the case of a recipe that I can’t find online, I look carefully at the recipe and decide if I think it’s worth the time to type it into the computer. I’ve tossed many a recipe because it was very long and daunting and I didn’t want to take the time to type it in. It’s also interesting how sometimes a recipe will speak to me, and after a few months have passed I’m no longer interested- or something else will strike my fancy that wouldn’t have before.

But what if you don’t have the space to store all these magazines like I do! When we lived in a much smaller apartment, I had to be very careful about what I kept. I would keep the CL magazines, but everything else would be kept until a new issue showed up. Then before I flipped through the new one, I would flip through the old one and tear out any recipes that interested me. I kept a file folder near the computer, so these recipes would go into folder until I had time to either look them up online or type them in myself. I know plenty of people who organize their recipes this way so as not to have extra clutter hanging around. It works great. The only problem I can see with tearing out recipes is for if you like to pass your magazines on. If you’re sharing with someone, then you should probably take the time to look them up online or type them in and not tear them out.

One final note about magazines. If you begin to notice that you tear less and less recipes out of a given magazine, you should probably think about not getting that one anymore- it just adds to the clutter if you’re not using it and enjoying it. I stopped getting Bon Appetit after I realized I didn’t try any recipes out of it except for the Thanksgiving issue. So now I buy only the Thanksgiving issue every year- and everything else I can look at while at the library. Home Cooking is my current dud. I don’t know what posessed me to subscribe…but it’s really not my cup of tea, and the recipes in it are nothing new in the least. At least not to me. I won’t be renewing that one.

Questions? Comments? What do you do with your magazines?

A Week At A Glance

I decided the best way to do a few meal plans here would be to show my week-at-a-glance, and explain a few things as I go along. I usually do my grocery shopping for the week on Thursday or Friday every week, so I make my plans go from Thursday to Wednesday. I do have a few constants each week to work around too. Sunday’s are always Sunday Company Dinner nights, meaning we have about 20 people that I cook for regularly- so this needs to be a crowd pleaser each week. I also don’t necessarily make the whole meal, so my meal planning involves only what I make, and may not reflect a balanced meal. Wednesday is crock-pot day due to my daughter’s evening dance class. Usually I just use the crock to gently re-heat something, as I don’t care too much for cooking in it.

Anyway, here is a weekly dinner meal plan. Later on, we’ll work on adding lunch and breakfast’s to the plan.

Thursday: Oven Baked Bison Stew, Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread, Carrot Cake

Friday: Pizza Night (topped with sausage, red bell pepper, pineapple, and cheese)

Saturday: Shepherd’s Pie made with leftover stew, applesauce

Sunday: Sloppy Joe’s, pickles, cheese slices

Monday: Roasted Chicken, Wild rice pilaf

Tuesday: Frittata using leftover pizza toppings, hashbrowns

Wednesday: Sloppy Joe repeat, fruit salad, chips

You can see most everything here is getting re-purposed a second day later on. The stew on Thursday will become an amazing shepherd’s pie filling two nights later. I simply cannot make a small pot of stew, and I used to freeze the extras. Except that I really don’t like the consistency of potatoes after they’ve been frozen- and I don’t like stew without potatoes. So instead, I plan for a hearty stew, and two days later I top it with cheesy mashed potatoes and bake it for a heavenly take on shepherd’s pie.

The sloppy joe’s for a crowd on Sunday will undoubtably produce leftovers, which will reheat perfectly in the crock pot for Wednesday’s dinner-in-a-hurry. If for some reason I decide against the sloppy joes a second time around, those do freeze wonderfully, so then they would be tucked in the freezer for another busy day to come along.

Monday’s roasted chicken doesn’t get re-purposed on this menu, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plans for him too. The carcass will be simmered for a batch of chicken stock to put in the freezer for one. Extra chicken meat will become a filling for my husband for lunch sandwiches during the week. Anything beyond that will be frozen for use in chicken soup, enchiladas, or pot pie later on.

The frittata is a great way to use extra pizza toppings up- the kids love pizza, and they love frittata, so combining the two is a win-win situation.

By re-purposing ingredients from day to day I am cutting way down on waste. I admit freely that I used to plan menus with no regard to the leftovers. I would say that by recycling the “planned overs” and by using up the odds and ends, that I have easily cut my grocery bill in half. This week I’ll need to buy most of the meat you see on the menu. Bison, ground beef, a roasting chicken, and pork sausage. Additionally, I’ll need to pick up fresh fruit, bell peppers, milk, eggs, and potatoes. Add some breakfast cereal and the fixings for homemade granola, and my grocery list is short and sweet this week.

My Basic Stocked Pantry

Since having a well-stocked pantry can be a major component of meal-planning, I thought I would devote an entire post to it. Stocking up a pantry and freezer doesn’t happen overnight. While you could take this list and dash to the store and buy one of everything on it, I tend to be the one to stock over time. I keep a mental checklist of what we have on hand and replenish what needs it, when it needs it. Keep in mind that everyone’s pantry staples are going to be slightly different. We all have our own tastes and our own needs, so tailor your list for what your family enjoys eating.

Two excellent resources I have found for helping plan out stocking the pantry and freezer are some unexpected books. Rachael Ray’s Express Lane Meals has excellent information on planning out meals and stocking the pantry. As does Robin Miller’s Quick Fix Meals. While I seldom cook out of these books, and can’t attest to the recipes, the other information is wonderful, and worth the addition to my cookbook library. Now for my list:

Canned tomatoes: diced, whole, crushed and stewed (fire roasted if I have extra $$)
Tomato Sauce: plain sauce, as well as bottled marinara
Tomato paste: I buy mine in the squeeze tube-well worth the added expense
Chipotle chilis in adobo sauce: Once opened, these freeze beautifully
Canned beans: Black beans, garbanzo beans, chili beans, kidney beans, cannelini beans
Dried beans: Any and all, including lentils in several colors
Rice: Plain white, plain brown, and basmati, occasionally arborio, wild rice
Pasta: Always spaghetti, gemelli, shells, and mini penne
Large pasta: lasagna sheets, mastacolli, stuffing shells
Sugar: white, brown (light or dark) raw sugar, powdered
Honey
Maple syrup: Both real syrup as well as Mrs. Butterworth’s
Flour: All-purpose, Bread, White whole wheat, cake flour, and self-rising
Barley
Oats: steel-cut, Old fashioned rolled
Wheat Germ
Cornmeal: fine and coarse grain, also masa harina
Grits
Quinoa
Cocoa
Chocolate: chips, baking chocolate, unsweetened, sometimes white chips
Oil: Olive, vegetable, chili oil, sesame oil
Shortening
Cooking Spray
Vinegar: white, cider, red wine, balsamic, rice wine
Soy sauce: low sodium, and tamari
Worcestershire sauce
Baking soda
Baking powder
Salt: table salt, sea salt, Kosher salt, pickling salt, grey salt, and fleur de sel, seasoning salt
Whole wheat couscous
Spices:
Whole: cumin, coriander, mustard seed, celery seed, dill seed, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, bay leaves, fennel, red pepper flakes, black pepper
Ground: Chili powder, cumin, paprika (sweet and smoked) nutmeg, coriander, dill, oregano, thyme, rosemary, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, curry powder, Garam masala, sage, Mexican oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard, lemon pepper
Tuna packed in water
Roasted red peppers
Olives: kalamata, black, stuffed
Pickles: An assortment at all times
Hot sauce: Sriracha (and Asian sauce), tabasco, Pickapeppa, Crystal Hot Sauce
Baking Mix: Heart healthy Bisquick, Krusteaz pancake mix
Bottled Pesto
Clams and clam juice during soup season
Chicken soup base
Beef soup base
Vegetarian vegetable soup base or bouillion cubes
Dried onions
Dried Fruit: Raisins, Craisins, blueberries, apricots
Canned corn
Canned artichoke hearts
Canned beets
Peanut butter: crunchy and creamy
Rice milk
Coconut milk
Evaporated Milk
Sweetened Condensed Milk
Powdered Milk
Potatoes: Baby red when in season, Russets, red skinned potatoes
Onions: yellow, sweet when in season, red
Shallots
Garlic
Citrus: Lemons, limes, oranges (sometimes these are in the fridge)
Nuts: Walnuts, pecans, cashews, peanuts (store in freezer if in a warm climate)
Asian sauces: Hoisin, oyster, duck, black bean
Drinks: Coffee, assorted teas, hot cider packets, kool-aid, hot cocoa, decaf coffee
Jam: Always strawberry, peach, raspberry

Things to store in the Freezer:
Espresso Powder
Yeast
Frozen Peas
Frozen green beans
Frozen spinach
Frozen mixed vegetables
Stuffed pasta: Tortellini and ravioli

Refrigerator staples:
Nut butters (almond, cashew, natural PB)
Butter: salted, unsalted, and vegan margarine
Milk: either 1% or skim-organic if possible
Half & Half
Soy coffee creamer
Dijon mustard
Creole Mustard
Mayonnaise
Miracle Whip
Parmesan cheese (yes, the green can will do in a pinch)
Cheddar Cheese
Eggs
Yogurt: Plain, Fruited
Buttermilk
Celery
Carrots
Bell peppers
Apples
Pears
Fresh Herbs
Tortillas: Flour and corn
Reduced fat sour cream
Lemon and Lime juices

Obiously, there is much more, but a lot of it revolves around the seasons. You’ll find a lot more produce in my fridge in the summer, and a lot less in the winter. You also don’t see meat on the list here, because that is always changing. As a general rule I always have bacon, sausage, chicken, pork, beef and fish in the freezer. The bacon I freeze in 4 strip portions for cooking with. I also didn’t include bread, because that is ever-changing. Sometimes I go in streaks where I simply make all our bread- but sometimes I’ll prefer to buy it.

The canned beans I’ve also been shying away from- I much prefer to buy them dried and cook my own as I need them. However, I have the time to cook them from scratch. There’s nothing wrong with using the canned variety.

So did I miss anything? What’s on your pantry list that’s not on mine?

Part 1

I’ve been trying to think of the best plan of attack for menu planning…there are so many avenues that can be gone. But I think what we’ll do is just forge straight ahead down one way, one method of doing so, and then we’ll come back and try a second method. And maybe a third method or a fourth method, as far as it will take us.

Today we are going to walk through planning a menu for two days. It may not sound like much to begin with. But we’re going to connect the two days together through common ingredients, to keep waste at a bare minimum. To me, that has been one of the toughest parts of menu planning. You plan a dinner, and buy the right ingredients, but then you have all this miscellaneous left over, and it goes bad before you can get around to using it.

The first step, is to decide what is going to guide your planning decisions this week. Do you already have something in the fridge that needs to be used up? We should start with that. Are you on a slim budget this week? We should pull from the freezer and pantry then. Maybe you have a craving for a particular cuisine, let that be your starting point then. Another method would be to just begin with one recipe- one that you’ve been wanting to try, pull it out of your pile and let that be day one and we’ll go from there. Or maybe it’s -40º outside and you’re thinking a hearty soup will be perfect for dinner- then that would be your starting point. That’s how it’s going to be for me today. Today, It truly is -40º with the wind chills, so I am going to menu plan day one with soup. Specifically, a recipe from Cooking Light for Cheddar Chicken Chowder. Let’s look at the ingredient list, shall we?

2 bacon slices
Cooking spray
1 pound skinned and boned chicken breast — cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves — minced
4 1/2 cups fat-free chicken broth
1 3/4 cups diced peeled red potatoes
2 1/4 cups frozen whole-kernel corn
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% low-fat milk
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese — (3 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

First, we write down on Day 1: Cheddar Chicken Chowder, and we always include the source of the recipe in our notation, so we know where to find it when it comes time to actually make it. So my entry will look like this in my notebook:

Day One: Cheddar Chicken Chowder, CL Annual 2002 pg. 340

Next I will make a list underneath that entry of ingredients in the soup that are not always on hand. So in my case, I need to write down Bacon, Chicken breast, red bell pepper, red potatoes, and cheddar cheese. The onion, garlic, chicken broth, corn, salt and pepper I have on hand at almost all times. The other things I don’t always have on hand, so they will likely go on my shopping list. So now my notebook entry looks like this:

Day One: Cheddar Chicken Chowder, CL Annual 2002 pg, 340
Bacon
Chicken Breast
Red Bell Pepper
Red Potatoes
Cheddar Cheese

Now we need to find a recipe for our second day. The key to the second day is to find a recipe that may use one or two of the more perishable ingredients on your list. In this case, the perfect recipe will have red bell pepper, cheddar cheese, or red potatoes in it. Bonus pounts if it uses the bacon and chicken breast (which extras of freeze nicely if we don’t use them all). I score by looking through my recipes and deciding to make Herb Roasted Mushroom, Chicken and Vegetables. Here’s that ingredient list:

1/3 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-1/2 inch pieces
1 pound fresh white mushrooms, halved (about 6 cups)
1 pound small red potatoes, halved (about 3 cups)
3 medium onions, cut in wedges (about 3 cups)
1 large red bell pepper, cut in 2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
6 large garlic cloves, peeled

My next entry is going to be much smaller, and it will be underneath the Cheddar Chicken Chowder.

Day Two: Herb Roasted Mushrooms, Chicken & Vegetables, Mastercook
Mushrooms
Dried Rosemary (check this one)

Everything else in the recipe, I will already have from the Chowder, or will be on hand. I make a note to double check and make sure that I have dried rosemary as well, 3 teaspoons is a lot, and I’m not sure I’ll have enough. So let’s look at my new list, and then I am ready to make my shopping list, and I also have a few more thoughts about these two days and how they will automatically turn into four!

Day One: Cheddar Chicken Chowder, CL Annual 2002, pg 340
Bacon
Chicken Breast
Red Bell Pepper
Red Potatoes
Cheddar Cheese

Day Two: Herb Roasted Mushrooms, Chicken & Vegetables, Mastercook
Mushrooms
Dried Rosemary (check this one)


My shopping list will look like this:

Bacon
2 pounds of Chicken Breasts
2 Red Bell Peppers (3 if on sale)
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
1 block of medium cheddar cheese
2 large packages of mushrooms
Dried Rosemary
Flour tortillas
Sour Cream

You’ll notice the two additions at the end. I’ve decided that since I have all these ingredients already in the house, that it will only take some tortillas and sour cream to turn these into quesadillas with some salsa I already have in the pantry. Leftover roasted chicken and vegetables will make wonderful quesadillas, so now I have a third day planned that I hadn’t intended to. And finally, that fourth bonus day? The Cheddar Chicken Chowder makes plenty- more than enough for my family to eat out of the pot twice. For us, the trick is to not eat the same thing two days in a row, so my week will end up looking like this:

Day One: Cheddar Chicken Chowder, CL Annual 2002, pg 340
Bacon
Chicken Breast
Red Bell Pepper
Red Potatoes
Cheddar Cheese

Day Two: Herb Roasted Mushrooms, Chicken & Vegetables, Mastercook
Mushrooms
Dried Rosemary (check this one)

Day Three: Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Quesadillas

Day Four: Cheddar Chicken Chowder Repeat

Just like that, we’ve got four days menu-planned, and we’d only intended to really do two. One of the things that I’ve found really helpful with menu planning is to think of the leftovers, and most often, how they can be transformed into something completely different. The roasted chicken and veggies will be delicious the first night- the second night I’ll want different flavors. So by adding the cheese we already have, the salsa, sour cream and tortillas, we’ve given it a whole new flavor from south of the border. The chowder is served three days apart, so no one will mind eating it twice- especially if accompanied by homemade bread.

And look at how small our grocery list is too! Part of that comes from having a well-stocked pantry, and that does take some time to get to the well-stocked point. My pantry staples will be a part of a future post here with Menu Planning 101. I have two posts in mind for the week ahead- one will be planning out a whole week at one time. The second post will be devoted to attempting an organization method for recipes. (Of course, on second thought, maybe that will take more than one post.) As a reminder, Menu Planning 101 will take place on Wednesdays and Saturday’s for now.

Introduction

Why Menu Planning? Well, I’ll tell you, it has really been an asset to me, and I really think that anyone can benefit from even the smallest bit of menu planning. Planning out what you’re going to eat during any given period of time is a benefit in so many ways. First of all, it’s a money saver- you’re not heading to the store every day of the week and buying much more than what you need. Secondly, it’s far healthier for you. How many times do we look in the fridge, decide we don’t feel like cooking, and either order in or head out for dinner. I’m not against dining out, but it’s a quick way to drain a budget doing it over and over, and it’s also almost a less healthier version than what you can make at home.

I am far from perfect at it, and there are still nights where I decide I don’t want what I have planned for that night, but then I also know what else I have on hand, and I can decide accordingly. What I am going to try and do with this blog series is present menu-planning in a not-so scary light. Sometimes, it can be really overwhelming. I remember when I really first started doing it, being daunted by the empty calendar in front of me. And then further on, being daunted by the sheer volume of groceries and ingredients. I promise, I can help make it much easier. I’ve also decided to do this for now on this blog. However, if it takes off, and I end up with a volume of posts and eventually the interaction I’m thinking of, then I’ll move it all over to a new blog specifically designed for it. Right now, though, it’s a bit of an experiment.

So…the very first step in menu planning is to decide how long you would like to plan for at a time. This is a decision for what fits you best. For someone brand new to menu planning, perhaps starting small with just one or two days would be progress. Maybe you’d like to plan according to a pay day, resulting in planning for one week or maybe two. I know some people who get paid monthly and plan ahead for an entire month at a time. Personally, I range between one week and ten days. I plan for a week at a time according to when Andy gets paid, so for me, I plan for Friday through Thursday. And then, because life happens, and I never really know if I’ll get to do my shopping when I want to, I often like to plan a cushion of an extra three days. But for this purpose, for Menu Planning 101, I’ll stick with planning for a week to make it easier. Whatever you decide, make absolute certain it’s manageable for you at this point. I would hate for someone to get overly ambitious and then give up before even getting started.

I should also mention, that when I do my menu planning, I don’t do a full day at a time. We always have an assortment of breakfast foods and lunch foods on hand, plus leftovers for lunch on occasion, so also for Menu Planning 101, we’ll be planning the dinner menu only- with occasional suggestions for leftover lunch or breakfast uses. You will also find that I’ll be adding the Menu Planning 101 label to my postings. This way you’ll have a handy way to reference all the wonderful tips we’re going to explore together.

I think we’ll do Menu Planning 101 twice a week for now- on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We’ll do it one step at a time, and take our time as well. My goal is that by the end of this series, anyone will be able to go through the series step by step and learn how to menu plan. And as always, comments, suggestions, and questions are always welcome.

So step one is actually a two-piece step. First, you need to choose your time frame for planning. And second, you need to choose your format for planning. I like to use a notebook myself, but maybe you’d prefer an electronic means. What I like about the notebook is that I can use the same notebook week after week and then look back at past weeks when I need inspiration. You could also use a calendar and write on each day if you prefer, or maybe a white board hung on your fridge or in the kitchen somewhere. You could use a day planner, or your blackberry, Microsoft Word, or maybe even start your own menu-planning blog. If you already blog- that would make an excellent weekly post. Maybe you could share your preferred format here in the comment section.

Be sure to come back next time with a manageable time frame in mind, as well as your preferred format. And then we’ll start tackling the menu planning process.

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