So, let's talk about dinner. We all need to eat, right? (some of us more than others..... you do NOT want to see me when I need food. It's ugly....)
I have experienced that feeling you get around 5 o'clock when you realize that the people in your house are going to want to eat again, soon, and you don't have anything thawed, prepared, or ready to cook. Do you go to the store and get a frozen lasagna? Try and pass off pb&j (which you had for lunch) as dinner? Hope that someone will come over for a surprise visit and bring a pot pie with them? (I have thought all of these things at some point....)
Well, simply put, you can pretty much avoid that with a little planning. I plan my menus two weeks at a time, mostly because I don't want to interact with grocery lists and meal planning more than twice per month. You could totally do every week if that works better for you. Plus, then I only have one big shopping day every two weeks. I still run to the store for milk, produce, TP (you can only make do with the other paper products in the house for so long....) etc. when I need to, but I don't have to be running out at the last minute to find something for dinner.
So what I do is collect recipes. I find them online, from friends, in magazines. When we were first married, I used to go to the library and check out cookbooks every week to find different recipes that we liked. A few really good sources on the internet are http://www.allrecipes.com/ and http://www.eatingwell.com/ . I really like those websites. My favorite magazine for recipes is Cooking Light. They give the nutritional value of all the recipes, which is nice if you are doing calories or Weight Watchers, or you just want to know how many calories there are in what you're eating. (If you don't want to know, just hold your hand over that part of the recipe so you can't see it ha ha)
So I have a file folder STUFFED with copies of recipes. Here it is:
My husband is always trying to get me to organize my recipe file so that it is easier to find recipes, but I resist organization. I LIKE sifting through the recipes and being able to take out the one I want and hold it and set it on the counter and spill stuff on it. I know I'm weird.
I usually use a few cookbooks from my huge collection too:
So then I look at the recipes and figure out what I'm going to make. For two weeks, I generally plan 11 meals. I figure there will be a few days where we eat leftovers, or eat at a friend's house, or eat out. If I'm using a recipe from a cookbook, or from the internet, I note, next to the dinner, what cookbook and what page it's from ,because I'll forget! As I'm doing this, I have my grocery list going too. As I find recipes, I get up and go check the pantry to see if I have some of the items I need, or if I need to buy them. (This way you don't end up with 12 jars of pasta sauce, or 17 packages of linguine. It's also cheaper if you're using what you have)
So at the end of this process I have a page that has a list of meals, and another page that is my shopping list. Then I walk around the house to all the restrooms and see what toiletries, paper goods, etc we need so that I can only buy what we need, and not have 22 bottles of hand soap. I try and do this a day or two before grocery day. I also keep a running list going on my fridge so that I don't forget that we need vanilla, or foil, or something that you don't realize you're out of until you NEED it. I encourage the members of my family (or some friends who are LIKE family) to write things on the list if they use the last of something. (...and by encourage I mean- if I see them use the last of something, I holler "write that on the list!!")
So then I make a dry erase board (it's small) with a list of all the meals and put it on the fridge. I used to assign certain meals to certain days, but I have found that I don't always want to eat/cook what's assigned to a certain day. It's easier if I can just look at the list each morning and decide what I am going to make for that day. If there's a meal that has an ingredient that will go bad quickly, I try and make that first in the rotation. Also, for days that I know I will be super busy, I plan simple meals, or something for the crock pot. Here's my dry erase board from this last menu. I just cross off the meals after I cook them. If there's any left on the board, I "forward" them to the next grocery day meal list.
I have several menus that I have put into document form that you can just print out and use if anyone is interested! I will be happy to email them to you! Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like them!
Question for you all- do you have a "staple" meal that is pretty much on your table a few times a month? If so, what is it??