I'm looking for tips or good links. Does anyone out there plan out their monthly menus? I tried freezer cooking one time but the cooking day was a major undertaking and some of the meal pkgs weren't as appetizing after a week or so. Is there another forum discussing this?
I canned quite a bit this year and have a lot in the freezer as well, now what? It seems like such a chore to start looking for recipes and planning it all out! I suppose I could write pizza in every Friday, soup and salad on Tuesdays... and go from there.
My menus are based on what's in season in the garden and at the farmer's market.
So it's more a weekly menu rather than a monthly menu. Do you need to do a whole month in advance?
If you are under snow this time of year, then perhaps rotating the pantry stock could be a starting place? It is helpful to have a few bags of soup or lasagne in the freezer in case the cook is too pooped to cook.
maybe you could plan friday to be italian night which could be pizza, pasta etc
monday soup and salad --which would allow lots of variety
sunday some kind of roast so you can use the leftovers for mondays soup
wednesday could be meatless meals
thursday could be sandwiches and soup leftover from mondays soup
tuesday could be international day--chinese, mexican etc
saturday could be restaurant night
i don't do this but it seems better than a rigid monthly plan--who knows what you are going to want 3 weeks from now--this gives a lot more freedom and still allows some pre planning
I do 2 weeks at a time, that allows me to build my menu around my work schedule and my kids' sports schedules. I also buy (fresh --dairy, eggs, produce, etc) every two weeks.
I take a look at what's going on and plan accordingly. My daughter has basketball games on Friday night, for instance, so I do something either in the crockpot or relatively simple...like burgers and pasta salad. I have every other Sunday off, so I try to cook a couple of chickens or a turkey and that gives me leftover cooked meat to do something with (chicken burritos, turkey casserole) during the week.
I work every other weekend and 2-3 days during the week, I cook differently on my (off) days then I do on the days I work since I go in at 5:30 pm
Sample 2 weeks:
Sunday (off) Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes/gravy, veggie, salad/dessert
Monday (work) spaghetti w/meat sauce, garlic bread, salad
Tues (work) potato chowder and salad (we eat a lot of salad)
Wed (off) pork roast, pierogis, salad, dessert
Fri (work) tacos
Sat (work) chicken & pasta of some sort
Sun (work) MIL cooks
Mon (off) beef roast, roasted root veggies, salad, dessert
Tues (off) baked or roasted chicken, cheesy potatoes, veggie, salad
Wed (work) beef burritos (made with leftover beef roast)
Thurs (work)brats and homemade french fries
Fri (off) lasagna, garlic bread and salad, dessert
Sat (off) go out for Chinese
Sun (off) try something new, MIL comes over for dinner
I try to get about 3-4 different versions for every meat I have in the freezer or canned. And enough variety of meat that I can alternate days easily. Never tried doing a month -two weeks would probably be my max. I do turn bigger roasts into veggie-ful stews to serve a day or two later. And I've been known to add a curry roux to beef stew w/ a teeny bit of extra hamburger to serve it over rice when the stew got big enough to eat 3 days running. Stir fry is an easy second day/ leftover dish to make as it uses odds and ends of everything and tastes entirely different from western cooking anyway.
Maybe you could 1) make a list of main ingredients 2) make a list of types -soup, roast, noodle, stir-fry, chop, veg., leftover casserole etc 3) make a list of dishes 4) check out that pantry and go to town!!
I love old cookbooks and 1950s and 60s ones have some great ideas for this kind of stuff... Good luck!!
I keep the pantry stocked with dried beans, lentils, grains etc, so basing the weeks menus on what's in season is fairly simple because everything else we need is on hand. My menus have to be flexible as I do not always get home at the same time, and depending on how things went at work, I may not want to do a lot of cooking when I get home. A night with a more complex menu will need to be switched for something simpler.
How much time to you have to prepare meals? That is also a factor in the menu planning. Do you need to have "planned overs" to pack for lunches?
grownut you mentioned liking cookbooks from the 50;s and 60's--my sister and i had a betty crocker cook book for kids that i loved--i loved looking at the pictures and don't remember making much from it --this winter i was feeling nostalgic and so tried to find it on amazon.com--turns out they reprinted it because it was loved by so many adults who had enjoyed it in their youth! the reprint was exactly as first printed and the cover was the same! i ordered it and it was fun to see how plain it was--in my memory it was colorful and big and had tons of glossy pictures--in reality it is small with some color pictures but nothing like what kids would want today! funny how little made us happy back then!
I had an "American Woman's Cookbook" ca. 1952 -absolutely wonderful -even had a schematic for building your own smokehouse. It disappeared here recently and while there's a chance it's lost in the basement there's also a chance it's lost in someone else's possession...I miss it horribly -all the best stuff was in there. Casseroles and sherbets -second day dishes -you name it!!
Know what you mean about the pics!! I have a cookbook of Mom's that has amazing pics and boy do I remember 'em!!
These are all good ideas. I just need to set a weekly pattern, fill in some ideas and stick with it, then more ideas that fit with the plan will come. I think the main reason I want to plan out the menu a while in advance is to try and save more money at the grocery store, buying only what I need and using it all without any waste. I shop with a list of what we are out of, but not with many meals in mind. Even though the pantry is stocked I can never think of anything to make when I get home from work or on the weekends when I'm involved in some project, or I forget to take something out of the freezer so it seems like it would be easier if I had it planned out. I guess you can tell cooking is not my favorite chore. I'm not bad at it, I do cook from scratch a lot of the time.
Two of us take lunches to work, my teen either eats the school lunch or is home to grab something easy...he is a finicky one and would rather eat hot pockets...have you tried them? I think they are gross. I made my own a few times, which he ate, but it was time consuming and he devoured them in a wink. my other teen is home once a month and holidays...we always buy to much food when he is home, just because.
My husband likes bean/legume dishes. We eat meat most days but try to limit beef, just because we feel better when we do. We eat lots of chicken and our own rabbits. Hubby likes to cook, makes bread too. He can whip up a meal from nothing in a heartbeat. He doesn't plan though.
My MIL has a dresser full of old cookbooks and recipe clippings. When I first got married we poured over a bunch of her things from the "cooking dresser" some good healthy Rodale recipes. She also has a lot of old Extension pamphlets. I don't think I have a favorite cookbook, though we have many..plus a year or two of Cooking Light. I usually turn to my rolodex.
It sounds like maybe what would work well for you is to list up a few recipes that maybe stretch to 2nd or 3rd days.The type where you add a few ingredients each new day? Roast > stew > casserole. And have an envelope with easy picks that you just come home and pull out the day's selection. If you do one stretchable meal every 2 weeks you've saved a lot of choosing and they don't have to be served next day. We have a meat course every day so my trouble is remembering to get things out of the freezer in time...