Menu Planning

As I’ve said in My Schedule (see the tabs above), long ago I had a full-time job with professional and personal commitments that kept me extremely busy.  However, eating out all of the time was not a fiscal option, and fast food was not a healthy option, so I made sure that I cooked dinner every night.  The only way to be able to do that with the lifestyle we lived and to be able to eat before 9 o’clock every night was to have a menu plan.

Not knowing that such things had a proper procedure, not knowing that blogs even existed (if they even did back in 1998), I devised a system that made sense to me.  With a yellow legal pad, I created different pages with protein headers like “beef” “poultry” “fish” “vegetarian” and spent several days writing down every meal I could think of that I made under those headings.  I also wrote out the starch, vegetables, and bread that would go with that protein.

After I spent about a week pondering meals, I cut out the slips of paper that contained the meals and put them in a large envelope.  I also poured through cookbooks, and when a recipe stood out to me, I’d put on my piece of paper, “Southern Living, page 84, Beef Stew,” etc.  This is, seriously, how I menu planned.  I sat down with a blank calendar with the month in front of me, and pulled out slips of paper, one at a time, and assigned them different days in the month.  If I had a certain vegetable that needed to be eaten, or an over-abundance of some meat in the freezer, I made sure that I incorporated them all into meals.   It was kind of like a meal lottery.

After about a year of doing it this way, I no longer needed my slips of paper.  They were just my method of not doing the same meals over and over again.  I was able to do it in my head and just space out meals on the calendar.  However, keeping a list is a good idea.  It helps you remember a dish you might enjoy making but haven’t made in a while.  (Unpacking a box in my basement, I came across my envelope of meals.  I felt a very strong sense of nostalgia and thought about going through all of the papers and seeing if there’s a meal in there I’ve forgotten that I make.)  I also do new recipes constantly, because I want to keep new meals coming to you, my wonderful readers.  You can tell the weeks that I have a lot going on, because almost all of the dishes are linked to recipes on the blog instead of being something new.

Now there are blogs and books that specialize in menu planning methods, who sell materials to help you plan, who provide tips and strategies for planning.  If you need something like that, that’s great.  I just needed to know what I cooked, and I needed a blank calendar.

Up until now I’ve used a weekly calendar pad that I just scribble out the week’s menus.  Recently, I purchased a system type pad thing that I found on clearance and that I wanted to use to do menu planning and blog planning with the intent of starting the first of the year.  However, I was super sick the first week of the year, and this week have been scrambling to cover the soup kitchen while the head cook has been in the hospital and getting ready to go to Kuwait.  I have done neither menu planning nor blog planning since the new year.  I’m really looking forward to making that system work for me (and reporting back to you!)


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