Step 2: Calendar Check
This is a quick and easy step. Pull out your calendar for the next month and take a count of the following:
1. How many dinner meals you will need. For example, Jacob and I go on a date once a week. That's four less dinners a month that I must cook. (My awesome MIL feeds our boys that night, or they just get PBandJ.) There are two nights this month where my husband has to work late, so we will have spaghetti both of those nights. Quick, cheap, easy, and not one of his favorite meals, but our kids LOVE it! Look for events where dinner is provided, or days you will be out of town, etc. Write down the number of meals you will need for dinner. My number was 25 this month (including the 2 spaghetti nights).
2. How many family lunches you will need. My husband usually takes leftovers to work for lunch. Sometimes, I have frozen burritos in the freezer for him or lunch meat in the fridge, just in case we don't have leftovers. My boys and I just have sandwiches, leftovers, or something quick and easy. I don't make a seperate lunch meal unless we are all home. So, my lunch meal number for this month was only 6.
3. How many other food dishes you will need. Is anyone you know having a baby this month? Will you be taking dessert to a church meal? I make treats for my husband's study hall every Friday, so I plan for that in my budget and shopping each month. If someone is having a baby (at least one this month that I know of), I just plan to double and freeze something I make early in the month.)
I have recently been using Google Calendar for my meal planning, scheduling, and housework maintenance. I'm still tweaking it, but loving it so far.
Step 3: Recipe Search
Do this in two smaller steps. First, look for recipies using the ingredients from your inventory. I am so excited, because this month, THIRTEEN of my dinners are using major ingredients that I already have. It feels like they are FREE!
I know that Allrecipes.com, and tasteofhome.com have ingredient searches where you can put in a few ingredients that you think compliment each other and it brings up recipes that have those ingredients. Great tool.
I just looked in a recent Taste of Home Magazine, and brainstormed recipes that I already knew because I use them often. Here is what I came up with (don't worry, I will include all of these recipes before this series is over):
1. Grilled pork chops (We just use a rub)
2. Cashew Chicken
3. Turkey and Rice Soup
4. Turkey Enchiladas
5. Quick Potato and Corn Chowder
6. Crunchy Herbed Chicken Breasts
7. Egg Obrien Casserole
8. Beans and Rice
9. Grilled Dove
10. Pheasant Soup
11: Salsa Red Beans and Rice
12: Baked Potato
13. Mac and Cheese and Hotdogs
I have a short list of really inexpensive recipes that my family likes that I try to get on the menu once a month. A few are already included in the list above, but here is my list of Cheap Meals:
1. Tuna Casserole
2. Baked Potato
3. Stir Fry with Ramen
4. Mac and Cheese and Hotdogs
Here is the rest of my list or dinners for the month, including the ones above, another cheap meal, and two nights of spaghetti:
14. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
15. Tuna Casserole
16. Pulled Pork
17. Pork burritos (with the leftover pork)
18. Stir Fry with Ramen
19. Cheese stuffed Meatball Sliders
20. Super Quick Shrimp and Green Chili Quesadillas
21. Homemade Pizza
22. Chili Dogs
23. Chili mac and Cheese
2. Hot Sandwiches
4. Jiffy Jambalaya
Treats for my husband's class:
1. Smore's Cookies
2. Popcorn Balls
3. Dipped Pretzel Rods
4. Halloween Pretzel Kiss Treats
I hope this isn't too hard to follow. I just figure seeing everything for examples is best.
I should mention that for breakfast, we usually just have eggs and bacon around, or we eat cereal, or homemade biscuits. I don't plan breakfast much.
Go ahead and plug all of your recipes into your calendar. Write in when you will serve each item. (Don't stress about having to switch things around later. You're allowed!)