Menu Planning and Inspiration

Check the side bar on the right and you may see something new.

If you click on the picture of the pot of soup (or here), it will take you to a page full of meal ideas.  I compiled it partly to declutter my fridge and as a reference when I’m stuck for ideas.

And I’m sharing it with you!

If you want details about any of the ideas on the list, let me know and I will try to link it to a recipe or do my own write-up, maybe even with a tutorial!

I don’t know about your house, but here we grocery shop every 2 weeks, with a quick stop for more fruit in between.  To do this, I have to make a list of two weeks worth of meals and use that to write my grocery list.  If I didn’t do that, I’d have no idea what we had in the house or what I should get.  This way I can plan for meals with ingredients I don’t usually have in the house and I don’t have to wrack my brain every night trying to come up with something to make.  I pick one off the menu that I feel like making that day.  I can also coordinate back-to-back meals that use the same ingredients to save time.  For instance, if I know I’m making Burritos (old favourite) and Tuscan Bean Soup (new favourite) at some point over the next 2 weeks, I’ll soak enough beans for both, cook them all at once and put the unused beans in the fridge for the next meal, which I can schedule for the next day or two.

I write all the meals on the white board so I can see them all quickly and cross off the ones I’ve already made.  I also like to check the list in the morning and pick something to make that evening, then mark it with a little arrow so I don’t forget.  Because it can totally slip my mind by afternoon and then I have to go through the whole selection process again.  Not cool.

I try to come up with 14 meals but that’s just as a backup.  There are usually at least 2 nights of leftovers, and sometimes an impromptu meal that’s not on the list.  Once in a while I don’t want to cook anything on my list, so I’ll resort to backups like pasta (any shape) and whatever veggies (or leftover meat) are in the fridge, either with tomatoey sauce or with a creamy/cheesy sauce.  I can have that on the table in 15 minutes.

It might all seem like a lot of work and planning, but it takes me about 20 minutes to come up with meals for 2 weeks and write out the grocery list using the menu, checking what I have in the fridge, and adding the stuff I wrote on the white board when it ran out. 20 minutes work for 2 weeks of ease.

I’ve been really REALLY wanting to buy grassfed beef instead of the cheap Costco packs of ground beef, but I didn’t think our budget could stretch far enough.  Meat wasn’t a priority so we cheaped out when we (thought we) had to.  Well last time we shopped, I changed the way I allocated funds.  I gave a full 25% of the budget to meat.  Fruits and veggies also got 25%.  The rest went to staples and other stuff.  I did have a bit more available for fresh fruit later in the week, but I kept our spending under budget, even with buying diapers and toilet paper.  Miscellaneous ingredients that I don’t HAVE to have yet or can be substituted with something I already have are the first to go if they don’t fit the budget.  Using this system, I got about 5lbs of ground beef and a 3lb roast, all grassfed.  I also got some beef bones to make stock.  Not a smoking deal but I value the fact that it’s grassfed more than the cost.  Filling in with some salmon and a whole chicken, the beef has lasted more than 2 weeks.  It’s about $6/lb.  I will save up and buy a larger quantity for half the price when I can.  For now, I’m happy I can feed good quality meat to my family.

Giving fruits and veggies the same allotment of funds gives it a high priority as well.  Which (I think) is the way it should be.  There are a few other things that are important to have, like whole wheat flour (for bread) and butter (for everything) so those are top priority for the rest of the budget (as an aside, we also bought coconut oil for the first time cause that’s another item I’ve been wanting to work into our budget since it’s so good for you).  Things like rarely-used spices, extra tea, cooking sherry, etc. are only purchased if there’s room.

Since I’ve only shopped this way once so far, I may have to tweak it a bit, but I think the overall idea is sound.  And our grocery budget?  $200 for 2 weeks plus about $25 for more fruit.




4 thoughts on “Menu Planning and Inspiration”

  1. haha wow, your post came at a perfect time. our german exchange student is arriving here on tuesday and we know that it would be best to make a meal plan, but i am not very good at thinking of what to make. now i know what to do!! 😀 thanks beeker!

  2. Wow! Glad to see you can do grass-fed beef on that budget – I’m impressed! You sure do a lot with a little! I’m impressed with that, too!

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