Why I Menu Plan

Individual recipes are all well and good, but I thought some of you might enjoy getting a peek at how I put them together into meals, and what kinds of meals we eat in the course of a week. I’ll start posting my weekly menu plans soon, but in the meantime here’s the why and how of it.

I have to admit up front that I don’t always strictly follow my menu plans. Sometimes at the last minute I realize that I have more leftovers than I thought I would and I have to use them up. Sometimes we get invited over to someone’s house for dinner at the last minute, or we invite people over at the last minute and have to stretch out our meal with extra food, or switch to a more stretchable meal.

So why do I menu plan at all?

1. Because it gives me a base to work from when I make my shopping list. I know that if I have two chicken meals, one beef meal and one fish meal this week I should probably get a larger package of chicken to make sure I have enough. Or, looked at the other way round, when I look at the sale items I know how much of say, fresh tomatoes, I can reasonably use up in a week. If I’m standing at the display noticing how cheap they are I might think, “Sure, I’ll use tomatoes every night this week,” but if I’m making the plan ahead of time I’ll realize that we have a birthday party one night and another night is a freezer meal because of a busy day, and I’ll know I need to buy fewer tomatoes, or make time to freeze some.

2. I can sit down once and brainstorm to remember recipes I wanted to try, instead of having to repeatedly brainstorm, or just falling back on the same meals every week.

3. Similarly, it gives me a chance to make sure that we’re getting different kinds of foods over the course of the week. I try to serve fish of some kind, mexican (beans and rice) and homemade pizza weekly, and I’m moving toward eating fermented foods once a day or more. I probably wouldn’t remember to  fit in everything every week without a plan.

4. It gives me a reminder to use up ingredients. When I’m making my menu plan I usually do a quick check of my fridge and fruit/veggie basket to see both what I need to replace while shopping, and what is nearing the end of its life expectancy and needs to be used soon. (I try to clean out my fridge at the same time so it’s ready for new groceries, but that doesn’t always happen.) Then when I read on my menu plan that we’re having baked potatoes, I remember that my potatoes are starting to grow eyes. I might still switch it around and make scalloped potatoes, but I’ll know which ingredients I’m trying to use for the meal.

5. I can plan ahead for out of the ordinary days. If we’re going to need a quick meal or an ‘eat in the car on our way somewhere’ meal I need make sure I have ingredients for easy, portable meals. Usually this means I have to either buy bread or remember to make to make it the day before, and if I’m menu planning I can make the appropriate shopping or task list notes at the same time. Similarly, if I’m going to be gone most of the day, I’ll try to plan an easy crockpot meal for that day.

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