Menu and Meal Planning
Now that you have everything inventoried, you're going to sit down and figure out what to do with it. Grab some paper and a pen, and maybe have your most often used cook book at your side as well.
Most families tend to eat the same 10 meals over and over again. This makes meal planning very easy. That's right, I said meal planning. Yes, those of you who know me well know that I have a tendency to buck any rigid systems....and that's why I have a very light and easy way of meal planning.
First: list your family's regular meals. By all means, include lunches and breakfasts as this will only help you with cutting that grocery bill and eliminating unnecessary spending.
In our home we regularly have the following for dinner (you might call it supper): pasta, several casseroles, salads of every kind, chili, chicken breasts, pork chops, roasts, tacos, burgers, hot dogs, pizza. There are ten items there. But if you look closely, you can easily see how those ten items could be 20-30 different things depending upon how you prepare them. Lunches consist of sandwiches or salads or soup, fruit and/or veggies. Breakfasts are generally cereal, oats, pancakes, french toast, bagels, english muffins, eggs, and the occasional (read rare) home fries, mush (you might call it polenta), sausages, or bacon.
Now look at your inventory and see how many meals you can make from what you already have at home. Fill in a rough menu plan.
I used to plan each week carefully including breakfasts and lunches and follow the daily menu. But because my body, mind, and spirit have a deep and abiding aversion to strict structure, I bucked that system and simply plan meals. I don't have to have them on any set day unless they are meals that are dependant on left-overs from another meal, and that gives me the freedom to be somewhat spontaneous in my meal choices. For instance I have burgers, steak, chicken, taco salad, chicken quesedillas on the menu for next week. I won't have red meats two days in a row so I know we'll be having some variation of hamburgers, then chicken, hotdogs, then chicken, taco salad, then chicken....etc. How I prepare them will be decided, but when I do it is up to the wind. It's my organized-but-not-too-strict menu planning system. It works for us.
I always make sure that our dinner meals contain a protein source, two vegetables or fruits, and maybe a grain. A grain is never mandatory in our dinners as the kids eat cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch (or half sandwiches for snacks), and get quite their daily fill of grains. Desserts are only a bonus, never a given. They also happen to be fairly rare.
Menu and Meal Planning