For a few years now I have been doing a weekly menu. I print it out along with any recipes and I post it on my refrigerator. This, of course, does not keep the teenagers from asking multiple times each day the age old question. Mom, what’s for dinner?
Before I started this practice that question could send me into a panic. In those pre-menu days I didn’t really think about dinner until around 4 pm and the answer was usually something like Hamburger Helper. Not that there is anything wrong with Hamburger Helper. It has saved the sanity of many a working mom but my Zesty Ravioli Skillet or Beefy Pasta Skillet are almost as easy, don’t take much longer to make and are miles ahead flavor-wise.
The worst part about deciding about dinner a mere hour before you want to eat is that you usually don’t have what you need on hand to make what you want so you end up settling or going to the grocery store far too often and making impulse purchases that put an unneeded dent in your wallet.
I will admit that creating the menu takes me longer than one might think but that is because I am a recipe hound. I collect recipes like politicians collect money (I mean campaign funding). So, when deciding what is for dinner I usually spend about an hour on Pinterest before I put a single thing down on my menu. Each recipe needs to be reviewed for ingredients that everyone likes, time to prepare and ease of preparation, especially if I am not the one who is going to be doing the cooking.
Then I have to consider thinks like I don’t want to do two pasta dishes in a row, even though T3 would eat pasta every day because “pasta is life.” Yes that is an actual phrase that he said.
Now making a menu doesn’t have to be this complicated. All you really have to do is decide on your protein and search your mental database for something that fits. Monday – ground beef – let’s make tacos; Tuesday – chicken – how about grilled buffalo chicken sandwiches with roasted vegetables; etc.
Once the menu is finished go right to the grocery list. Start with the first day and figure out all the ingredients and amounts that you need and list them all, even the things you are pretty sure you have because unless you live alone someone else might have finished it. Move through the days and don’t forget to add things like a bread or salad to go with the meal. If an ingredient is repeated then find it on the list and add it to the one that is already there. So like milk, you may need quarter cup for one recipe and a half cup for another. So change your list to reflect 3/4 cup milk (this is why I do it on the computer, changes like this are easy.)
Then print the list and check the pantry and fridge for ingredients checking off what you already have as you go. Then it is back to the computer to modify the list with only what you need. I make sure to put the list in the order that it appears at the grocery store so that I am not backtracking.
After shopping you know you have everything you need and when the kids ask what’s for dinner you can direct them to the fridge door where the menu resides.