Menu Planning for the New Year

Before we moved, we had a pretty loose concept of menu planning and grocery shopping. We pretty much went to the store every day or two, or if it got too late in the day and didn’t have a good idea for dinner then we’d go out. Alas, this is not a good solution, and taking two hungry and tired children to the store is not my idea of a fun time. So when I started my adventure as a stay-at-home mom I knew I needed to do something to help me plan meals for the week and cut my shopping trips (and our food budget) down to one or two a week. I plan, but I’m not perfect. And I usually forget something, so I give myself the slack of going back during the week once. After a thorough hunt through Pinterest, I found just the thing for me; a collage frame converted into a menu board. I used scrapbook paper as a background plus letter stickers to add the days of the week. Then I use dry erase markers to write on the glass. On Sundays I plan out our week and do the grocery shopping. The girls get daddy time and I get a few hours of peace and quiet to do the shopping.
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After several months of using my board, I’ve settled into a routine:

  • Mondays are my slow-cooker days because my oldest has choir rehearsal until 5:15 and making dinner when we get home is too challenging.
  • Tuesdays I usually try a new recipe since I have a little more time those days.
  • Wednesdays can be busy, so that’s my easy recipe day. I pull from old favorites or use the slow cooker again.
  • Thursdays are pasta days. This is because I’ve used up all the fresh meat I bought on Sundays, and we’re not big fans of frozen meat.
  • Fridays are fish: the hubby usually picks up something fresh from the local market on his way home Thursday night. If not, it’s leftovers.

When planning I keep a list of our favorites by the family calendar. On Pinterest I have two separate boards for dinner, one for dishes to make again and the other for dishes to try. I also take inspiration from one of our favorite shows, “Good Eats,” and any of the number of cookbooks we (Alright,  my husband) has collected over the years.

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This formula has served us well, but this December was so busy that I never really tried new recipes and fell back on the easy ones too often — and not always the healthy ones, either.  This leads me to my decision to try seven new recipes for the first week of the new year. I’m hopeful that this will give me more to add to my growing list of family favorites and re-inspire me to try more new things. Here’s the list of new recipes I’m trying. I’ll give a full run down when I’m done. But we do have at least one I’ll be making again soon.

Recipe 1:  Butternut Squash Soup in the slow cooker from the book “Great American Slow Cooker Book”

Recipe 2: Goat Cheese and Leek Tarts (this is the one I’ll be making again soon)

Recipe 3: Turkey Pinwheels (but I used chicken and my left over cranberry sauce)

Recipe 4: Honey Garlic Chicken in the slow cooker

Recipe 5: Alton Brown’s Lamb Shoulder Chops with Red wine (but I’m going to use pork chops instead)

Recipe 6: King Ranch Casserole in the Joy of Cooking

Recipe 7: Baked Bow-Tie Pasta with Winter Squash

This was harder then I thought it was going to be. The challenge I ran into was that so many recipes that sounded great were not things that could be easily prepared with two children biding for my attention on a weeknight. The other challenge was that I do have a great list of favorites. Many recipes I came across were things I already make a variation of regularly (or sparingly as the calories may apply).

I always feel the new year is about trying new things, setting goals, and working towards a better you. I think trying new recipes will help us do just that. As I continue “Try it Tuesday,” as I like to call it, I’m going to shoot for trying foods we’ve never eaten or cooked with before. The market is full of veggies I’ve always been too timid to try and do anything with, but not this year. No need to go out to a restaurant. In this house, we’re making it ourselves.

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