(Just to set the scene, my son is on the porch watching PBS kids, Addie is combing my hair remarking on its smoothness, and the baby, who was rausiming olgeta samting—an indispensable Tok Pisin phrase for “tearing stuff up”–is now ankle biting and reaching for the mouse.)
So does all this couponing and sale shopping mean that we eat constant hamburger helper? No. Although I do not belittle the greatness of any kind of helper. I typically create a monthly menu based on the foods I have been able to stock during the previous month. That way I am not obligated to pay full price for ingredients that I “need,” but rather can plan based on what I already have. Here are a couple of ideas that inform my menu planning.
1. I usually follow categories for each day of the week. These change on a month to month basis, but it helps me think of ideas. (ie: hot sandwich, pasta, vegetarian, salad, soup, beef, fish, leftovers, pizza, see below etc.)
2. I am not a foodie or a food snob. Maybe one day I will be, but for the most part I have to pick “regular” foods that are inexpensive and easy to prepare. So the occasional cheat night is not a crisis in our home. But typically we don’t eat convenience food every night.
3. I don’t make separate meals for my kids. This is part convenience and part training. If they don’t like what we’re having, they don’t get dinner. After dinner, if they are hungry, they can have toast and milk, but nothing else. I only offer this boring option as a motivator to eat dinner. If the pre-bed snack was something interesting, I’m sure they’d never eat dinner again. Addie doesn’t like onions and green peppers, so I might sort of avoid them, but I also tell her to avoid them or tell her “No, it isn’t pepper, it’s capsicum.” Or “It’s a scallion.” This may seem deceptive. . . .Well, it is deceptive.
4. We aren’t picky. The only food I don’t like is goat cheese. Jeremy won’t eat egg salad. That’s about it. I am trying to get the kids to follow this pattern.
5. We aren’t brand conscious. Only with Cheerios. Tasteeos are nasty gut-straw. But other than that, I buy the deals and we eat them. I do try to get somewhat healthy foods and have lots of produce on hand. But even though Addie prefers the “stirring kind of yogurt” (fruit on the bottom Dannon), I get whatever kind is on sale and she eats it, hopefully appreciating the stirring kind more when we have it.
6. I buy a month ahead or plan a month behind, depending on how you look at it. The plan that you will see below is based primarily on deals that I bought last month and froze or put in the pantry. This month’s deals and purchases will become July’s menu. In this way, I am able to buy the deals and then figure out how to use them rather than having to buy expensive non-sale items to suit my menu. Of course, this doesn’t work for every ingredient, but in general, I save money this way. I’m sure you could try it week by week, but I think in terms of months since Jeremy is paid once a month. Of course, in the summer he isn’t paid, but I still think this way. Of course, if I find a great deal for something I want to make immediately, I just DO–because ultimately the menu is just a suggestion.
7. I use allrecipes.com because it has a feature where you can type in the ingredients that you have and it gives you ideas for recipes. This works great for me.
Below I am attaching a basic monthly menu that I partially created for my sister who has gone back to work. I wanted to select primarily meals that she’d be able to prepare quickly when she got home or prep the night before. I’m kind of following it this month too since who wants to make up two menus!? But this menu should be even less labor intensive than usual for the working moms.
MAY-JUNE MENU PLAN
May-June Menu If you want to print as a document or change it.
|SILLY SUPPER||PASTA||HOT SANDWICH||VEGETARIAN||CROCKPOT/ FISH||PIZZA/ CHEAT||LEFT OVERS|
|18 BLTs||19 Baked Potatoes w. topping.||20 Chicken Potatoes and Carrots||21 Red Baron Pizza (Free w/ SD and E-vic @ HT this week)||22|
|23 Omelets||24 Spaghetti with meatballs||25 Subs at Dylan’s B-day||26 Loaded Nachos with Black Beans, Rotel, cheese||27 Barbeque Pork w/ sweet pot (Wrap pot in foil and place ontop of meat/ sauce)||28 Hamburgers||29 Hot Dogs|
|30 Cereal||31 Pasta w/ Vodka sauce||1 Cheese Quesadilla & Soup||2 Potato Chip Salad
(Bagged Green Salad—add veggies and crushed up chips or cheez-it—YUM!)
|3 Baked Tilapia w. squash and zucchini
(Marinate fish overnight. Pre-mix breading/ season to sprinkle on before bake.)
|4 Crispy Chicken Strips (Harris Teeter meal deal from week of 5-19)||5 Tacos|
|6 Pancakes||7 Stouffers Lasagna or Pre make w/ no boil noodles||8 Tuna or Ham Melt||9 Baked Sweet Potatoes, Sauteed Spinach, Brown Rice,||10 Swiss steak w/ potatoes and Carrots||11 Pizza||12|
|14 Beef Stroganoff w/ egg noodles||15 Sloppy Joes (premake meat and throw in crockpot on high or microwave)||16 Corn on Cob (wrap in wax. 2 mins per ear in micro) & Dippin’ Dinner. Veggies (cuc, carrot, celery, radish) w/ Ranch. Chips & Salsa/ Hummus.||17 Frozen fish or shrimp. Rice and bagged salad with leftovers from dippin’ dinner. Optional–Wrap fish in tortillas w/ cheese and salsa||18 Stromboli with Broccoli and Cheese (cooked chix or hamif you want/have)
(pre-make crust and refrig or Pillsbury crust)
|19 Going to Beach|