Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Menu Planning Central

For years I've been working on refining my menu planning system. I've read so many tips and techniques, seen and even tried some subscription options, and implemented many helpful tools but I have always felt like it wasn't quite right for us yet. It didn't quite work for me as I hoped.

Some elements are very important to me, such as:
  • Eat whole foods and make our food items from scratch
  • Shop from my pantry first
  • Use what is in season in both my garden and the grocery store
  • Stay within our budget
  • Plan ahead
  • Make foods my family truly enjoys and anticipates

Things not so important to me:
  • Someone else making my grocery list
  • Super speedy meals
  • Menus designed for avoidance of dairy, gluten, sugar, etc.

I came across an amazing resource recently that inspired me to remodel my current system and it is already working so much better for me/us. I encourage you to visit Don't Waste the Crumbs and find a totally win site full of menu planning helps and ideas. She even offers a subscription service with monthly menus, shopping lists, prep lists, and helpful tips. I'm still mining the depth of her content and I have finally found a great match for our family. And Tiffany, the site owner, has such a winning way about her - she's gracious and full of encouragement.

Her recipes, thus far, have been hits and very much like the foods we already enjoy. They are seasonal and use items that should be fresh, abundant and priced right. They are whole food meals that don't lose sight of having a budget to work within and put priority over serving your family real food rather than focusing on high priced and hard to find items. It may not all be organic but it is all doable, all delicious, all real food, and all a refreshing reality check.

So that leads up to my new Menu Planning Central. Incorporating my past favorite techniques and tools with those gleaned from Don't Waste the Crumbs, I've moved my Thirty-One organizer from the quilt studio to the kitchen and populated it with all the tools I need to keep putting delicious real food meals on my family's table without soaking the budget or my time.

 Top left - pantry and freezer inventory; top right - "white board" for reminders of tasks in the kitchen; Middle - Monthly menu; Middle left - recipe cards to use and file; Bottom left - Printed daily and staple recipes; Bottom right - Prep and planning lists and printed recipes to file.

And I was looking to replace the small dry erase board I had on the fridge. It was too small and the magnet were not strong so it kept shifting and falling. I mentioned to my husband that perhaps I would just put white paper in sheet protectors and tape them to the fridge. In addition to the one I keep for leftovers that need eaten, I wanted to add one for perishables that need used. That is when he pointed out to me that our kitchen walls are actually just like white boards.

So I've started writing on the wall with my husband's encouragement. How strange. So beside the fridge we have this:
We've been having great meals and I don't have to spend all day worrying about what to make or spending it in the kitchen. Win! More time to quilt.


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