Last week, Heather shared menu planning basics. We will continue the series each week with some creative ideas to get you started. Your weekly calendar will figure prominently into a meal plan. If you were to arbitrarily decide what you would have for dinner each night, it will likely fall apart as life gets in the way of your plans.
Each week, you will need to consider your evening activities when creating a menu. On nights when you need to eat and run, prepare a one-dish meal. If you are hosting something in your home after dinner, plan something with easy clean-up. If you will be gone all day long, choose something that utilizes the crockpot or have freezer meals on hand so dinner will be ready when you are. Save the more elaborate or time consuming family favorites for free evenings or relaxed weekends.
This type of menu planning is also helpful in utilizing leftovers to create new meals (often called investment cooking). If you have a crockpot roast and vegetables for a day when you will be returning home right at dinner, plan to use the leftovers in beef stew later in the week when you need a one dish meal. You can also use the idea in reverse. If you are fixing baked potatoes with dinner and have potato soup planned for another evening, go ahead and bake the extras in advance to save time.
Planning ahead with your calendar will keep you from hitting the drive-thru when your menu doesn’t work out. It will also save you money by helping to avoid waste-leftovers are given new life and produce is used before it expires. Your weekly menu can be specifically tailored to fit your lifestyle as well as the contents of your fridge, freezer and pantry.
Heather’s Sample Menu:
Sunday: free day; bbq chicken, cheese potatoes, SteamFresh corn on the cob
Monday: 6pm meeting, need a quick meal Spencer can prepare since Heather is busy with paperwork and needs to leave; Tacos
Tuesday: 6:30pm Scout meeting at home, need a one-dish meal for easy cleanup; roasted chicken with red potatoes and carrots
Wednesday: free day; sweet ‘n sour pork, rice, stir-fry vegetables (because the ones in the drawer are approaching expiration)
Thursday: 6:30pm dance class, need a one-dish meal to eat and run; chicken & dumplings (using the leftover roasted chicken & the rest of the soon-to-expire carrots)
Friday: Bunco Night at home, need another easy cleanup; potato soup & sandwiches
Saturday: Valentine’s Day dinner at home; steak, baked potatoes, green beans (all on sale this week)