In my never-ending search to simplify life in general, writing a family menu is seriously a big one. If you want to save money on food, avoid the “what’s for dinner” whine at the end of the day, and never run out of what you need in the pantry again then this is for you…..
When you go to the supermarket and aimlessly throw in the trolley what you think you will need, it gets out of hand – EVERY TIME bar none! Particularly if you are hungry and your brain is clouded by what you think you want and before you know it you are placing things in the trolley that are not going to help your thyroid heal.
First, you need to spend an afternoon setting the process up, but after that, it really does save time. I promise!
If the whole family knows what’s on the family menu that week, then there is little room for other requests or take-away sneaking in due to last-minute plans. It’s funny what happens when there are no choices, often it is just accepted.
I know of one person who actually writes the week’s menu on a whiteboard in her kitchen. (On a side note, a whiteboard is a must for every kitchen – we even had one in our caravan when we traveled for 5 years, and it’s the first thing we attach to the wall in every house we call home). Her kids know that the whiteboard is where they will find “what’s for dinner mum” information!! Plus it is so empowering to know you don’t actually have to think about what you are cooking at the last minute. Leaves a lot more brain space for much more important things! I actually do the same thing on my own whiteboard.
To start your family menu, first, you need a big long list of all the foods your family eats regularly. Then dig deep and think about the things you eat sometimes or rarely simply because you forget to buy unusual ingredients or it is too long to make – add it all to the list. When you write up your menus you will need as big a list as you can so that the menus do not become noticeably repetitive. Then you need to figure out if the menus you are writing are just for dinner or for all 3 meals of the day. For the sake of this post not going on forever we are going to just talk about dinners as I have every faith that you are smart women and can figure the rest out from there.
I have 6 weeks of menus written up which I can rotate however I wish. The reason I have so many is that payday is every fortnight, so I consider 1 menu to be 2 weeks of meals. So I have 3 menus to choose from. Now remember you do not need to have a different meal on every single menu – let’s face it – as humans, we eat rather repetitively of our favorite meals anyway. If you eat spaghetti bolognese every Wednesday night, don’t change that, but maybe make a massive one next week so you can freeze for the following week if you don’t already do that.
Update: It is now just hubby and I and we are on a monthly payday, so I have 3 monthly menus…
After you have your family menu written, a list of ingredients for the week is needed for all the meals. I know this seems like a huge amount of work, but trust me, in the long run, it is so worth it!
Your list of ingredients needs to also include the little things. That tablespoon of bicarb, the 1 garlic clove, the 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard. Do not assume you already have it in the cupboard, because that is when it will have run out.
Prior to every shopping day, you are going to grab the menu of choice and its matching shopping list and check everything off that you already have in the kitchen. What’s left is your shopping list – and ONLY what’s on the list is what you buy.
Yes, I hear the cries! What if I feel like chocolate, what if I want to treat my kids to dessert one night? Then ADD IT TO THE FAMILY MENU!!!! If you only keep chocolate for certain times of “cravings” ladies (which by the way is merely a lack of magnesium) then buy that block or whatever it is and keep it in the vegetable crisper. If your house is anything like mine, I am the only one who goes rummaging through there!!
Do you have the kind of house where people drop in regularly? Then add those ingredients, such as cheese platter ingredients and spare crackers in the pantry, or freeze up 2 extra meals a week to pull out of the freezer. Once again, if it is a regular thing then it should be a part of your menu planning.
I started doing this many years ago, when we had just got married, money was tight and we had our first mortgage. It also kind of appealed to the chronic organizer in me and to my list-loving husband. I was constantly amazed at how it allowed me to stick to a really tight budget, and we always had more than enough food along with the treats.
These days I don’t use menus so much for budgeting as for being organized and not making daily trips to the supermarket. Being so busy I just don’t have time to be spending an hour every day figuring out what’s for dinner, then realizing I need that one item to make it.
So what do you think? Do you feel writing a family menu might seriously be worth implementing in your kitchen restaurant? It worked for me……