Friday, May 4, 2012

Monthly Meal Planning Ideas

I've always hated going grocery shopping. To be more specific, I've always hated putting on non-pajamas and leaving the house except in cases in which FUN is the main thing on the agenda. My kids, while normally well-behaved and not given to begging, become little green-eyed Gollums upon entering SuperWalmart, screaming, "my precious!" while passing marshmallow-laden cereals & the like. How can I avoid this trauma?
In studying (stalking from afar, while looking studious) families with LOTS of kids that manage to live on a budget I noticed A LOT of them grocery shop once a month. Due to the viewing of many a Psych/Mentalist/Sherlock episode, plus my own super sleuthing skills, I deduced that they must also make out a grocery list for the whole month & therefore, must also (gasp!) make out a menu for the whole month. There are services you can use for this, like E-meals, but I like control and I have picky eaters, so I spent the time listing out different meals I already know how to make & figuring out what works best for our schedule.
We eat something easy on Sundays, chicken on Mondays & Thursdays, beef on Tuesdays, Fridays is pizza or nuggets for kids (date night, sushi takeout, or appetizers for parents), seafood on Saturdays, and Wednesday is pork, leftovers, and occasionally cereal because of church.  Friday is also our dessert night, and having it designated helps keep the kids from begging all throughout the week, and helps the grown-ups become more disciplined with sweets. I have 2 monthly menus so far in the rotation & plan to do at least one more once winter arrives. I have shared my list below:

Chicken: Chicken Cordon Bleu(Sams), Poppyseed Chicken (Southern Living Weeknight Favorites) & Rice, Margarita Chicken & Mexican Rice, Italian Roasted Chicken, Chinese chicken (Sams), cold chicken salad (Nerrylee), grilled chicken salad, enchiladas, fettuccine Alfredo w/ grilled chicken & veggies, Chicken Piccata(Sams), Parmesan chicken, chicken & dumplings, Chicken Matzo ball soup, Chicken sausages on hotdog buns w/ sweet potato fries, chicken pot pie, chicken manicotti (Reed)
Beef: sloppy joes, beef stroganoff, spaghetti w/ meat sauce, meatloaf, hamburgers, country fried steak(Sams), tacos, enchiladas, taco salad (Penny), philly cheese steak sandwiches
Seafood: Crawfish & corn chowder, shrimp etouffee, fish tacos, salmon w/ dill sauce, Parmesan crusted fish w/ cheese grits(Grandma), talapia w/ pineapple salsa, shrimp kabobs, shrimp poboys, crab cakes (Sams)
Pork: tenderloin, ham, BBQ pork sandwiches, pulled pork w/ mashed potatoes& gravy, sausage gumbo w/ rice
Fun/Fast: Frozen pizzas, hotdogs, mac-n-cheese, appetizers,frozen lasagna, chicken nuggets, pancakes, quiche, egg rolls & lo mein, Sausage or chicken biscuits & scrambled eggs.
Winter or Vegetarian: Potato/cheese soup (SBTS Faculty Wives Cookbook-Mary Mohler), Singapore chicken stew (Sunset magazine), Tortilla soup, Eggplant Parmesan, Pasta Primavera.

You may notice that we eat quite a bit of prepared things from Sams, which work great for us on Sundays, or busy homeschooling days. Currently, most of Sam's boxed meals & roasts, will feed our family of five twice, some of them 3 or 4 meals. I try to stretch out meat by serving more veggies or sides. When I make roasted chicken, I usually cook 2, then de-bone and shred the leftovers for meals like enchiladas, pot pie, soups. I have one friend who cooks all her ground beef & chicken (to be shredded) on one day a month (grocery day), but I haven't been that disciplined yet. I make double or triple batches of spaghetti sauce & have a "soup day" in early winter where I cancel school & make 4 different triple batches of soup (one soup on each burner) that will provide 1 meal for 12 weeks in the "winter" (Louisiana winter only lasts about 3 days, but I try to indulge my inner northwesterner).  I like to add a new recipe every month or so, since you never know when you'll find a new favorite. Include regional foods from places you've lived (my list has lots of Louisiana & Seattle dishes), or have a missions night where you make couscous and pray for Morocco, or make curry chicken & pray for a missionary in India. Make food to go along with what your kids are studying in school.  Everyone's likes/dislikes vary: some love leftovers (my husband detests them), some of your Mississippi husbands may not tolerate a big salad or soup for dinner ("Where's the beef?!"), or maybe your scarf-wearing hipster family only eats meat a few times a week. Be flexible, but have a plan. I've made venison when we've been given some by hunters in our church. I've adjusted the menu when our boys have grown lettuce in their new garden, or when I've been given huge bunches of basil. I just vote a frozen meal to the end of the line, since I want to eat fresh basil fresh, and the frozen meal can wait. Hopefully my list will give you some new ideas, and you can add comments of your family favorites that I could try!

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