Friday, October 10, 2014

Challenge #36: Make a Menu

I don't know about you, but I always feel better if I know ahead of time what I will be making for dinner.  Not just a few hours ahead of time, but several days ahead of time.  Most dinners require advance notice--either with meat to take out of the freezer and have time to defrost, or dried beans to soak and cook until tender.

Many years ago. . . Well, honestly, back in 2000, I had a menu that I made up for just about a whole month and followed it pretty well.  Over the years, though, I kind of fell out of the menu-making habit and tended to find myself trying to come up with a dish that either a) was made with hamburger, since I can take a pound of burger from freezer to finished cooking in 30 minutes or less; or b) utilized whatever sort of leftover meat I happened to have in the fridge at the moment.  That's when cooking is not fun.

Of course, back in 2000 I had a bunch of little kids and we were always home in the late afternoon and evenings, so each day I consistently had adequate time to spend cooking my family's evening meal.  As the kids grew, after-school extracurriculars were added in, as well as summer sports leagues, and it got somewhat more difficult to know a month ahead of time which days I had time to cook what. Menu making kind of fell by the wayside.

Now, however, I am feeling the desire  need to get more organized in the eating department and get back to planning menus.  At least a week at a time, if not two weeks or even most of a month.  There are still evening activities that go on, but it's not quite as crazy with just one child in sports and extracurriculars as it was with two to four of them.  And, she's old enough to drive herself to and from practices, meetings, etc, which leaves me more time for the cooking.

Plus, with DS1 and K2 here, I'm only responsible for cooking three to four nights a week!  That's only 12-16 dinners a month!  How could I not plan a menu with so few meals required of me?

How about you? Do you have a menu that you use?  Do you plan out a week or more of meals at a time?  If not, why not?

There are several approaches to making a menu.  Some people like to make a list of recipes that sound interesting, then go to the grocery store and get what ingredients are needed.  Others take a slightly different angle, looking at the grocery ads for that week, and making a menu based on the sale items for the stores they frequent most.  Still others, like me, tend to look at what ingredients are on hand (in the freezer, in the pantry, out in the garden) and make a menu based on those items.

What matters most isn't the method you use, but that you use some method and make yourself a menu.  Give it a try.

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