December 30, 2016

Menu Planning 101

Yesterday, I discussed why everyone should consider menu planning, but I know that many people struggle with even getting started with the process.

Here's how I do menu planning. 

First column - Date
Second column - Day of Week I just use Su,M,Tu,W,T,F,S
Third column - Description of food (i.e. salmon fillets, corn, biscuits). If it is a new recipe I color the cell light blue
Fourth column - Advanced prep - this is where I write on Tuesday to pull out ground beef to thaw for Thursday or assemble casserole for tomorrow night.
Fifth column - What's going on - this is where I write what meeting is that night, if someone is visiting, etc.
Extra columns - Summary - I use this one sometimes just to get a quick summary of what I am making. For instance, I may list the main dish - beef, poultry, pork, seafood - so I can see what percentage of each I am making. I may list the prep method, like crockpot, make ahead casserole, freezer dinner, etc. I don't do this every month, and sometimes I just do and erase it, just to make sure I am fairly balanced or because I am curious about something.

In the past I have done something similar using the calendar templates, but the calendar squares just weren't big enough for my purposes and to make them bigger was making the calendar month more than one page long, so I didn't like that (though I can certainly see why people would like it).

During the month, if I make the food as planned, I color the cell bright yellow. If I make something different than planned I color the cell light yellow. If I blow off the menu and we order in pizza or takeout, I color the cell red.

That shows me at a glance how we are doing through the color coordination.

I added a sheet to that workbook for tracking my freezer inventory, so it's right there when I am planning my menus. 

I also have a separate sheet for a Master Recipe Listing, which is just a master list of all the recipes I have in my monthly menu plans (with columns designating them by category (i.e. Beef), type of cooking (crockpot), portion of meal (dessert, entree), where I got it (which cookbook, internet url, etc.). I'm finding this very useful for making sure I mix up my recipes every month. 

I also have a sheet for new recipes. As I am seeing recipes in my cookbooks that I want to try later, I add them to this worksheet (in a format that will match my master recipe list) so that i don't forget about them. This way I will just have one place to look instead of dragging out a gazillion cookbooks when I am doing my monthly menu planning.

I hope you can see that a small investment of time upfront will make menu planning an easy and painless process for you!

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