Menu Planning Tutorial Part 7: Food Storage

Food Storage

All your hard work can go up in smoke if you don’t store the foods you buy correctly.

In the pantry/cupboard, put your newer items behind any you already have of the same item. Use the older foods first. This is vitally important, especially to foods with a short shelf life such as fruits, vegetables, breads and meats.

Wash and chop vegetables when you get home from the store. If your veggies are in the fridge and ready to use, you’ll be more likely to use them. Proper storage will also keep them fresher for a longer period of time.

Freeze whatever you aren’t going to cook in the next 2 – 3 days. If you purchased anything in bulk, such as ground beef, separate it into the amounts you will need for recipes (typically 1lb) and freeze right away.

Here is a link to a government site that provides safe food storage and handling information:

Tomorrow is the final installment of the Menu Planning Tutorial. I’ll go share with you how I meal plan, make my list, shop and store – step-by-step.

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Menu Planning Tutorial Part 6: Your Grocery List

Your Grocery List

grocery listToday we are going to talk about how to create your grocery list. Start planning your meals according to that is on sale at the grocery store each week. You would look through the store’s circular, or “weekly ad,” which can usually be found in the local Sunday paper as well as on the grocery store’s website.

If the store is running a sale on whole chickens, you may want to buy several and plan on having roasted chicken, chicken stir-fry and a chicken casserole that week. If ground beef was on sale, you may want to plan for meals such as meatloaf, spaghetti, tacos, and chili.

Once you have decided on the meals you would like to make, write out the ingredients you need to make those meals. If some of your meals need the same ingredients, write-out a tally, such as 6 pounds of hamburger.

Next, go through the items you already have on hand and cross those off the list. As you are looking through your cupboards, take a moment to add any staples to your list that you are running out of, such as flour or sugar. Now that you know exactly what you need from the store, you’re ready to go shopping.

Stay tuned – you’re not done yet. Tomorrow we’ll talk storage.

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Menu Planning Tutorial Part 5: Your Recipes

Your Recipes

In order to effectively plan your family menu, you need to have your recipes organized. If you’re a collector of cookbooks and recipes like me, this can be a daunting task!

I’ve found the best way to collect and organize recipes is a three-ring binder. My binder has tabs to separate the categories. Each time I find a recipe I want to try, I either print it or photo-copy it, three-hole-punch it, and file it in my binder.

I like having a binder for a couple reasons:
1- It’s organized! I might be a little addicted to binders, but seriously they are a great way to organize any paperwork.
2- Because I either write, print or copy onto 8-1/2×11″ paper, there is plenty of room for notes like ingredient substitutions, changes in cooking time, what pan to cook in, etc.
3- I have less cookbooks. Awhile ago, I went through my cookbooks and copied the recipes I wanted to keep and put them in my binder. Then I donated the cookbooks to the library.

There are other ways to organize your recipes such as index cards. Figure out what will work for you and get them organized!

In part 6, we’re going to create our grocery list!

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Online Shopping (Thrifty Thursday)

I’ve written before about how I save for my son’s education by joining Upromise (click here to read that post), but here two sites you can join to save money and get free stuff!

Shop at 1200 Top Online Merchants and Get Up To 25% Cash Back at!

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Do you have any Thrifty Thursday tips to share? Leave me a comment!

Menu Planning Tutorial Part 4: Your Family Calendar

Your Family Calendar

Use your family calendar to plan your meals for the week appropriately. You wouldn’t want to plan to make a roast that requires 3-4 hours of time in the oven when you have an appointment that will keep you out of the house.

Or maybe you’re going to be babysitting for an evening. You want to make sure you plan a generic, kid-friendly meal for that night.

Knowing what’s on the schedule for the week helps you plan your menu. If you don’t have a family calendar – start one now! Enter all appointments, practices and activities you can think of. Do it now! Besides meal planning, having a family calendar helps in so many other areas of your home management.

See you tomorrow when I go over using and organizing your recipes.

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Menu Planning Tutorial Part 3: The Basic Methods

The Basic Methods

Today, we’ll go over the basic types of meal planning. If you are short on time and like to mix prepared foods with fresh foods, you can try short-cut cooking. In this example, you may pair a rotisserie chicken from the deli with a homemade side dish.

If you like to prepare your weekly meals at home, you may want to start planning your leftovers in order to create new meals out of yesterday’s dinner. For instance, that rotisserie chicken from yesterday can be picked apart and made into chicken pot pie, chicken quesadillas or chicken stew.

If you would like to get a month’s cooking out of the way in one weekend, you can try freezer cooking. In this method, you will cook a whole month’s worth of meals over one weekend and put them in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook them, you simply take them out of the freezer, thaw them out, and pop them in the oven.

Stay tuned for Part 4: Using Your Family Calendar.

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Menu Planning Tutorial Part 2: Taking Inventory

Taking Inventory

Today, you can start by taking stock of what you have on hand. Go through your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer and throw away anything that has expired and  is spoiled or stale.

Keep a box or bag handy for dry goods that you feel your family won’t eat and donate the items to a local food bank.

After purging, take time to organize the space.

  • Group like foods together; for example, store all canned foods in the same cupboard and all dry goods, such as rice and pasta in the same cupboard.
  • Keep breakfast cereal, poptarts, etc. together for a breakfast area
  • Create a sandwich shelf or drawer – keep cold cuts, condiments, etc. all in one area for easy access when you make sandwiches
  • In the freezer organize by type of meat or product: keep frozen veggies on the door, keep chicken on one shelf, beef on another…
  • Keep regularly used items front and center. You’ll save time by not continuously reaching and bending for these items.

Next, make a list of what you have, and the quantities. You want an inventory of the ingredients you have on hand to refer to when you begin menu planning and creating your grocery shopping list.

I have a simple hand-written list of everything I have in-stock, with little boxes next to each item. The number of boxes corresponds with the number of items I have on hand. So each time I take something out, I put an X through the box. This not only helps me with my menu planning, but assures that I never run out of something!

See you tomorrow for Part 3: The Basic Methods.

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Menu Planning Tutorial Part 1: Why?

I cannot begin to stress how important it is for me to do weekly menu plans. It is important for me to provide nutritious foods to my family. Without planning ahead, I’d be lost!

So over the next few days I’ll go over some basic concepts of meal planning.I ‘ll also go over a few ways you can start to plan your family’s meals. But first, let’s go over why it makes sense and how it can save you time and money.

Meals plans can:

  • Meal planning saves time. When you start to plan your meals, you’ll no longer waste time at the grocery store every day, scrambling to find something you can make for dinner. Instead, you’ll go to the grocery store once a week and pick up all the items you need to make healthy and delicious meals for an entire week!
  • Eliminate (or at least decrease) the “What’s for dinner?” questions. I’m willing to bet you hear this question at least once a day if not repeatedly. You can create and print your meal plan and post it on the fridge for the entire family to refer to.
  • Make it easy for the kids and hubby to pitch in and help. When you post the meal plan for all to see, other family members can easily be assigned the duty of helping to prepare dinner or their own lunches for the next day. This is a great way to teach kids important skills and remove some of your daily stress.
  • Saves Money. you can plan your meals around your local grocery store’s weekly specials. This will be a lot cheaper than buying regular priced groceries, and as you know, regular priced groceries are still a lot less expensive than going out to eat or ordering take out!
  • Lessen unnecessary trips to the store. When you plan your meals ahead of time, there’s no need for quick stops to pick up dinner because you already know what you’re having and have bought it on your regular grocery trip.
  • Decrease impulse buying or guessing. You can quickly and easily create a grocery list for everything you need (and ONLY the things you need) when you go shopping.

I’ll be back tomorrow with Menu Planning Tutorial Part 2: Taking Inventory.

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Part 2: Taking Inventory

Part 3: The Basic Methods

Part 4: Your Family Calender

Part 5: Your Recipes

Part 6: Your Grocery List

Part 7: Food Storage


How To Freeze Vegetables From Your Garden

I’m beginning to harvest veggies from my garden! We’ve been enjoying fresh veggies every day for about a week now. But I’m beginning to harvest more than we can eat before they’ll go bad.

So this weekend’s project is to start freezing vegetables harvested from my garden. I found an informative, but short video that goes over the basics. I’m using our FoodSaver® to freeze everything (one of the BEST purchases we’ve ever made!), but you can use containers or zip-lock bags.

The video refers to a vegetable blanching timetable. This one from University of Missouri is excellent! It’s not just a timetable for blanching, but also gives great information on how to blanch, thawing and using, as well as some great tips. I printed it out and filed it in my Household Operations Binder.

How is your vegetable garden doing? Are you going to start freezing your harvest too?

My Hubby Helps With The Daily Chores!

Yesterday I shared my daily housekeeping chore list. Today I want to share a story of how this list has helped get Hubby’s help. Yes, believe it or not, my daily chore list got him to assist in completing the tasks!

Each night Hubby would announce he was “going up” which means he was heading to bed. I would of course be 20 minutes behind him. One night he asked me “Why don’t you come up with me”? I simply told him there were a few things that needed to be taken care of before I could.

Him: “What are they? Can I Help?”

Me: “Oh that would be great honey. I have a list on the fridge. Whatever isn’t crossed-off.”

Him: (he goes to my list) “Ok, I’ll do this and that.”

Me: “Thanks honey. I would like to get these things done so I can go up with you.”

He helped me that night, and we went up to bed together. That’s all I’ll share – TMI!

And so began Hubby’s habit of checking the list each night before going up to bed.

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