Sunday, October 3, 2010

Plan your weekly menu

You wouldn't think that something as simple as a chalkboard in the kitchen could be an environmental tool, as well as a time and money saver, but it is.   On this chalkboard, I write the meals that I've planned to make for the whole week.  There are many practical and useful reasons why this is a great tool to have in your kitchen:

Stick with the list:
This helps me think about what I'm going to make that week, then make the grocery list.  When I go to the grocery store, the list keeps me on track, which is great for eliminating impulse buying, (and it seems like I'm always starving when I go to the grocery store-- a definite no-no).  All of this planning saves me time and money.  I can also check to see if any of the things I need are on sale or if I have coupons for them and save even more money.

Mom, what's for dinner?: 
This menu keeps the kids from wondering what we're having for dinner and asking me a million times.  Now they don't ask and simply look at the list.  :)

Another great use from this menu is that I know how long food has been sitting in my refrigerator.  Leftovers have a 3 day limit in my house, so anything older than that gets thrown out (and will be composted when I get around to that project).

Waste not, want not:
I often forget what I've bought at the grocery store, so the menu keeps me on track to use everything I've purchased and nothing goes to waste (most of the time), which saves more money.

So, what to eat this week?

One meal with red meat:
Although eating meat isn't the most environmental way to live (because of the pollution and energy it takes to produce),  I will probably never be a vegetarian because I like it too much.  However, I only eat red meat once a week since I've read that it's not great to eat too often.

One vegetarian meal:
One meal is vegetarian, which saves money since meat is usually more expensive than a vegetable-based dish.  I look at this as my cleansing meal.

Easy-peasy, or Crockpot Meal:
At least one meal a week is a quick and easy meal to put together since some of my days are crazy busy shuttling the kids to their activities, and sometimes soccer runs into dinnertime.  If I have a meal ready for me at home, or only takes minutes to prepare, the less likely I am to get fast food on the way back from soccer, which saves me more money.
This meal could be something where the ingredients are already chopped and ready to put together.  Or it's a meal put together in a crockpot, cooked and ready to eat when we get home.  Crockpots save lots of energy and time and are great for the cooler weather we're finally starting to get.  Think stews, pasta dishes, pulled pork BBQ sandwiches.  Yummy.  Here's a link to some crockpot recipes:

Let someone else cook for a change:
I reserve one day to go out to eat since I'm usually sick of cooking by the end of the week so that takes up another slot on the weekly calendar.

I understand that this may not be appealing to everyone since not everyone enjoys cooking as much as I do, but it's worth a try if you're watching every penny you spend.  I recently saw "America's Cheapest Family" on the Today show and this was one of their tips, to plan a weekly menu before grocery shopping in order to save money.

An example of my weekly menu would look like this:
Mon:  Vegetarian
Tues:  Crockpot
Wed:  Beef
Thurs:  Chicken
Fri:  Pork or Fish
Sat:  Pasta
Sun:  Go out to eat

And if you think that a menu looks tacky in the kitchen, they have some decorative framed chalkboards at places like HomeGoods or similar home decor stores that look great.  I've received many compliments on the chalkboard in my kitchen since it looks like just another home accent.
Hopefully, this is useful and helpful information that will save you time and money, as well as save a little bit of the environment.  Thanks for reading!

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