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.

Looking for the next Lesson?

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

 

Menu Plan Monday – It’s Been Awhile…

menu plan monday

It’s been quite some time since I posted a menu plan. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing it. I’m back this week to joining the menu plan train.

Here’s my plan for this week.

Breakfast
Choice of cold cereals, blueberry or banana muffins, eggs, pancakes or breakfast roll-ups

Lunch
Choice of egg salad, tuna, PB&J, cold cuts or leftovers

Snack
Choice of hard-boiled eggs, carrots & celery with hummus, yogurt, muffins mentioned above, popcorn, nuts, bananas, apples and berries

Dinner
Monday: BBQ Chicken Drumsticks and corn and sweet potato fries
“Toddler” Tuesday: Little Dude can choose from franks & beans, fish sticks or ham steak with mac & cheese
Wednesday: Shrimp and steak sauteed in pesto with tomatoes and yellow squash served over spaghetti (the steak is left over London Broil from last night – BOGO Free this week!!)
Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner! Probably eggs or quiche cause I have an abundance of eggs this week.
Friday: Soft tacos and Spanish Rice
Saturday: Bacon Cheeseburgers and more sweet potato fries
Sunday: Baked ziti with meat sauce (from the freezer)

I mentioned that I have an abundance of eggs this week. Somehow I have 2 1/2 dozen! So this morning I’m hard-boiling a bunch for egg salad or just snacking. I wrote about hard-boiled eggs a while back and included a recipe: Left Over Easter Eggs and Scalloped Ham & Eggs recipe

Have a great week!

PS: Join me on Facebook as meal planning is the topic right now in the discussion!

Menu Plan Monday: 24 Reasons to Gather Around the Dinner Table

How often does your family have dinner together? If you’re like most families nowadays, the answer is probably, “Not very often.”

It’s understandable. Modern families are busy. Both parents work and sometimes get home at different times. Children have activities to go to, and Mom’s got to drive them all over the place. Really, who’s got the time and energy to even cook dinner every single night?

You, that’s who! Eating together is good for you and your family. So you better make time and find the energy to make home-cooked meals and sit down and eat together more often.

Researchers have found many benefits to home-cooked meals. Watch this video to learn about some of them. In my own experience, though, there are many more. Here are 24 reasons I have found to share family meals more often:

1. Families who eat together eat healthier, because home-cooked food is healthier than fast food.

2. Family meals allow busy families to catch up with each other.

3. Young children learn a lot of verbal skills just by eating with their family members.

4. It gives everyone a chance to unwind after a busy day.

5. Having family meals more often forces you to end your working day and other obligations in time for dinner.

6. Home cooked meals are not only healthier, they’re also cheaper than takeout food or eating out.

7. Eating together forces everybody to tell stories.

8. Cooking at home motivates you to be creative with your meal planning and cooking.

9. Children can get involved in cooking meals.

10. Cooking and eating together creates happy childhood memories.

11. Eating together is an opportunity to explore different cuisines.

12. Eating with your family is more fun than eating in front of the television (or the computer).

13. Eating together gives parents a chance to talk about current events from their point of view, injecting their personal values without giving a lecture.

14. Eating together helps family members bond and get to know each other better.

15. You’ll be surprised what your kids reveal when you’re in a relaxed environment, such as a family meal.

16. Kids are less likely to roll their eyes when you reminisce and tell stories from your childhood while eating a meal together.

17. Family meals can be good teaching moments, even for small children. My toddler learned how to count by counting after-meal treats on his high chair.

18. Eating together is a good opportunity to teach and model good manners.

19. Family meals give a good transition from work or school to home life.

20. Family meals are also good times to share music together.

21. Family meals teach everyone valuable life skills, such as sharing and taking turns.

22. Stopping and sitting down to a meal gives everyone a chance to quiet down and regroup.

23. Family meals provide an additional occasion for family members to pray together.

24. Eating home is more eco-friendly than eating out or ordering food – less waste!

Dine Without WhineIf you think having family meals is too much work, don’t despair. You can get help for everything from meal planning to putting your weekly grocery shopping list together. Check out Dine Without Whine for kid-tested, quick recipes that will help you put together family meals with less effort. Dine Without Whine’s weekly shopping lists will also help you get food shopping done much faster, and even save money on groceries.

As you can see from the list above, the extra time and effort you spend to have family meals more often are worthwhile.

PS: I posted more about Dine Without Whine here.

Menu Plan Monday

Because of a super busy week coming up, I did my shopping a day earlier (Sunday) and spent most of the afternoon preparing foods for the week. I made veggie quicke cups, pancakes, and cooked a whole box of spaghetti. I cut up carrots, celery, yellow peppers, strawberries, pineapple, watermelon. I froze some of the fruits to make smoothies (previously mentioned fruits plus blueberries and pre-cut bananas. I froze on cookie sheets; once frozen, I tossed them into bags) I even popped popcorn and bagged it into individual servings for the Little Dude.

Breakfasts: cold cereal, veggie quiche cups, pancakes or smoothies

Lunches: veggie quicke cups, mac & cheese, PB&J, salad, tuna, ham & cheese,

Snacks: fruits, cut-up veggies with hummus or cream cheese, popcorn, cereal bars, graham crackers, yogurt, pretzels

Dinners: Each dinner is served either with a salad or a veggie side.

  • Sunday – bacon cheese burgers and sweet potato fries
  • Monday – spaghetti & meatballs (spaghetti pre-cooked, sauce and meatballs made by Hubby and in the freezer)
  • “Toddler Tuesday” – I let my Little Dude choose dinner. He chooses from chicken nuggets, fish sticks, hotdogs or pizza. He also has to choose a vegetable. (9 times out of 10 it’s peas – yuck!)
  • Wednesday – steak and grilled veggies
  • Thursday – pork roast with apples and sweet potatoes (crock pot) with egg noodles and salad
  • Friday – open (see note below)
  • Saturday – grilled chicken (I’ll probably reheat the left over grilled veggies with a can of diced tomatoes, add the grilled chicken and serve over left over spaghetti)

I only planned 6 dinners this week because on Friday, Hubby and I are going to the ACDC concert (I’m so excited!!). We’ll probably have left overs or go to the diner where as Little Dude will be spoiled rotten with my parents and will probably get pancakes for dinner.

So what’s your plan for the week? Did you even plan? If not, you should! Did you catch my talk show guest starring Laura from orgjunkie.com? Take a listen to the two of us get all giddy over meal planning!

Visit Laura and join in the Menu Plan Monday fun!!

Episode #27 – Meal Planning How and Why

First, I share my thoughts on Alice.com – a new website to order household goods from.

Alice provides you a better way to manage all of your household essentials online. You tell Alice what you buy—choosing from great deals on 1000’s of products—and Alice goes to work. We organize all of your products, find coupons and deals for you, remind you when you might be running low, and help you order just the items you need so you can avoid that trip to the corner drugstore or the big-box store. And all this convenience comes direct to your door with free shipping included.

I LOVE ALICE! It cut my time in half in the grocery store! That alone is worth a try!

Next, I’m so super excited to be joined today by Laura from I’m An Organizing Junkie. I’ve wanted to talk with her for some time now about menu planning. After all she is the super fabulous hostess of Menu Plan Monday!

Not only does she tell us how and why she began meal planning, Laura provides such useful information on dealing with food allergies. This is a must for moms having a hard time planning menues around someone with food allergies. Bottom line – it’s not as hard as it seems!

You won’t believe how much fun the two of us had discussing meal planning! We talked, and talked, about:

  • How we each meal plan
  • Planning around food allergies
  • Using themes in meal planning
  • Getting the kids involved (and the hubby)
  • Where we get our recipes

Both Laura and I hope that after this show, you’ll be convinced to start planning your family’s meals!

If you need help meal planning, I have a how-to guide just for busy moms. For less than the cost of a fast-food dinner, you can be on your way planning your menus. Click here for the Meal Planning Guide.

Links I Love

While the boys are napping, I’ve FINALLY been able to go through my Google Reader to catch-up on blog posts for the past two weeks – yikes! Over 1,000 unread! Between Little Dude in the hospital with pneumonia (he’s better now – thanks!) and my surgery, I just haven’t had the time to blog hop. Now that I got my fix I want to share with you some of my faves.

How about some natural skin care recipes from my pal Carrie.

Laura explains in plain english how to meal plan.

My friend Jim from Rubbermaid posted an audio you just have to hear about how to get organized around the house.

Ivy teaches us how to max the use of our fridge and lessen food waste.

Mandi guest posted at SimpleMom and debunked some organizing myths for us.

And finally there are classifieds for parents of special needs children to find or get rid of supplies.

Thrifty Thursday + Giveaway

Plan for left-overs.

Each time I sit to do my menu for the week, I do my best to plan for leftovers. These make perfect home-made microwave dinners – or lunches in my hubby’s case.

He works the night shift which means there is no other option than to bring lunch with him. So by planning to have left-overs, he has a nice selection of microwavable meals right in the fridge and freezer.

I simply put a serving of the dinner, including side dishes, straight into a Rubbermaid container and pop it into the freezer. He has his own shelf of meals so he can just grab and go.  Easy and cheap – just the way I like it!

And speaking of Rubbermaid, my Twitter pal Jim (@rubbermaid) sent me a little something to give away! It’s the Rubbermaid Premiere food-storage containers – a 20 piece set! To enter, all you have to do is leave your Thrifty Thursday Tip in a comment! How easy is that?!?!?

For more entries you can share this post with your friends and followers by Twittering or including a link on your blog. Just come-on back and leave another comment with proof :)

Comments for this post will be close at 10pm Eastern time on Tuesday, February 10th and the winner will be announced.

Oh, and if you’re looking for organizing ideas, information or inspiration, head on over to the Rubbermaid blog – Adventures In Organizing. Jim and his crew do a fantastic job!

Meal Planning Works For Busy Moms

Yesterday was on of those days where NOTHING went right. It started first thing with spilling my first cup of coffee. I should have realized it would go down-hill from there.

In the afternoon I had to take my dog Molly to the vet to have a boo-boo taken care of. And Little Dude came with us. Oh what an exhausting experience! A 45-pound nervous and hurt dog and a 35-pound toddler – not a good combination when you have to wait 1/2 hour in the waiting room!

Then to top it off, there was an accident so we got stuck in traffic on the way home. UGH! After all was said and done, the whole trip took almost two hours! Twice as long as I had anticipated.

What does this hectic day have to do with meal planning?

The whole ride home (actually the whole time we sat in traffic) I was starting to panic because dinner time was very soon. I was anticipating a toddler melt-down.But when I arrived home, dinner was already cooking! All I had to do was steam the veggies and set the table!

How did this miracle of miracles happen?

Hubby realized we were running late. So he looked on my meal plan list for the week, saw what was planned, and did the job. And because I prepared in advance, all he had to do was throw it together and pop it in the oven!

Meal Planning Saves Time and Sanity

Each Sunday afternoon I plan our family’s meals for the coming week. I post the menu for the week on my fridge. I create my shopping list. I pull ingredients from my freezer and pantry to have them handy.

Advanced meal planning saves me time at dinner time (aka The Witching Hour). Because I know what to make, and have the ingredients ready, cooking dinner is easy-peasy! And the bonus is that Hubby can jump in and help when needed. I didn’t even have to tell him what to do – everything was ready for him to just put together.

Do you meal plan? Do you need help planning your family menu? I have a how-to guide to help you get started. It provides step-by-step instructions on how to save time and money by planning your family meals in advance. Chapters include The Strategy Session, Making The Shopping List, Short Cut Cooking, Plan Your Leftovers, Storage And Reheating Tips, Recipe Suggestions and more. Click here to learn more about Meal Planning for Busy Moms.

Learn to Cook for the Week Ahead and Save Both Time and Money

Okay, so you’ve worked hard to get your home organized and you’ve developed some strong skills to use at the office as well.  You might be thinking you have it all covered at home since your pantry is organized immaculately and everything in your kitchen has its place.  It doesn’t change the fact that you’re still busy working all day and driving kids to practice, running errands or taking care of your household in the evenings.  Another thing you can learn to do to simplify your life is to plan your meals and cook in advance.

Meal planning and bulk cooking are both wonderful techniques you can utilize and modify to fit your families needs. The idea behind this is simple. The principle is that you cook and or prepare your meals ahead of time and then preserve them by either freezing refrigerating them. It can also help stretch your food budget dollar further, since you can cook one large meal and get two or three other meals from it with the proper planning.

Start by writing down a list of your favorite meals and plan on preparing a grocery list that will coincide with your menu. Since you’re learning to cook in bulk, your shopping list will have to change accordingly so you’re sure to have enough ingredients on hand when the time comes to do the cooking.

The most important tool in meal planning and bulk cooking is your freezer. Freezer bags are a great space saver if you have a small freezer.  You can fit many in the same space of a few storage containers.  Be sure to incorporate lots of quick and easy meals that your family can warm up and serve themselves in the event you’re not able to be at home for dinner or you just need to grab something that’s quick.

You’ll also learn to love your slow cooker.  Experiment with different recipes and variations on your favorites.  They also make easy work of cooking whole chickens or roasts which can be frozen or refrigerated for later use very easily.

You’re only limited by your own imagination when cooking in bulk for the week ahead.  Factor in the time you save by not having to do a lot of after dinner cleanup or dishes, and you’ll be glad you took the time to master this important organizational skill.

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