Where to begin?


No freezer cooking this weekend!  My dear husband made a wonderful paella dinner for me and my close friends.  It was truly wonderful.  If there had been any leftovers, then those could have been frozen… but of course there weren’t any leftover for the freezer.  If you count the ice cream for the sundaes we made, then there was something from the freezer!

As the month comes to an end, my freezer is starting to become empty.  Then again, this is the goal right?  This means it’s time to start planning the next month’s menu and preparing for the big day.  In the past I’ve waited for the wonderful ladies at Once A Month Mom to share their menus and then I would happily shop and cook from it.  This month Im challenging myself to make my own menu, with recipes from several cookbooks, and the websites!  Oh, I won’t be abandoning Once A Month Mom, in fact, I’m anxiously waiting for the new menu to come out on Wednesday!

As I am planning my next set of menus, I am also thinking of more healthy options.  Our house is not only trying to eat better by not eating out so much, but also by watching what we are eating.  I’m working on using more whole foods (making my own pizza sauce and such) and eating lighter. My husband is working on eating healthier, so since I’m planning the menus, I want to be sure to include options for him.  Of course, we can all eat a little lighter and healthier! 

This week I will be walking you through the process I learned to create my big day menu and cooking day.  Of course, I got this training from Once A Month Mom, and some useful forms from Money Saving Mom.  Of course, you can always just use some blank paper.

Step 1:  Consider your needs.  I start with a calendar and mark off days that I know we will be gone or not eating at home.  For example, we’ll be at my mom’s house one weekend, and my brother’s house another weekend.  After you have marked off the days you won’t be eating at home, count up the number of days you will need meals for. Don’t forget to think about how much food your family eats at each meal.  If you are a family that usually has leftovers, then plan for those.  I plan for left overs 2 times a week, so I need 5 meals a week, times an average of 4 weeks per month, giving me a total of 20 dinners.  This helps me to know how many meals I’ll need to plan for.

Step 2: Gather your recipes.  This can be a really therapeutic experience.  I start with my family favorites you know, the meals that simply must be on the menu!  For our family, it’s pizza.  Instead of buying pizza, we make it ourselves.  My son loves making his own, and it allows each of us to make it how we want it.  Next, check out the web and challenge yourself.  There are millions of recipes online, and great sites to help you select recipes to fit your needs.  If your dieting or eating healthy, be sure to include those.  If your Gluten Free, then look for something new for your family to try.  I also look in my pantry and freezer to see what I already have on hand.  I may have stocked up on pasta the last time it was on sale, or bought some meat in the middle of the month to save for another day.  I’ve always got my eye open for what’s on sale that I know we’ll use and I can freeze or stock away.

Step 3: Make Shopping List.  This is the time involved process.  However, a little spent here will save you time in the end.  First start with your stack of recipes.  As you go through each recipe, write down each item.  Don’t worry if you’re not sure about already having it.  I go back later and edit the list.  I always make my list sorted by department in the grocery store.  Make a tally mark next to each item that you need more than 1 of.  For example, if I need 1 lb of hamburger for 1 recipe, and 2 for another, I make 3 marks next to hamburger.  The tricky part can be when your recipe calls for cups and another one calls for pounds.  How much do you really need?  Check out http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Homepage.aspx to help you figure out just how much you’ll need of everything.  Doing so will make sure you only buy what you need, thus saving you money and eliminating waste.  Once you have your list done, you’re ready to go to the store.  Remember to shop around if you can, and take your coupons. 

I’ll stop here for now.  This is where I am in the process.  I’ve started collecting my recipes, and once the new menus are posted on Once A Month, I’ll start the grocery lists.  For more on how to create your own menus and Once A Month cooking plan, check out this post- http://onceamonthmom.com/category/resources/create-your-own-menu/

What sort of menu items will you looking for or wanting to try this month?

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