Monday, July 20, 2009

Frugal Missus Makes a Menu

I'm not the worlds greatest cook, by any stretch, but I do take pride in my ability to menu plan, execute a new recipe, bargain shop, and make a semi-decent meal out of what I have in the house on the days when the money just isn't there. However, just because I have the ability doesn't mean I've always put it in to practice! During our "flush months", when Frugal Mister was able to work mass amounts of overtime and it showed in his paycheck, I would go crazy with our meals. I'd buy expensive cuts of meat, buy extra veggies and fruits because they were just calling my name, or "stock up" on toiletries at my happy place, Target.

What I'd end up with was meat that would sit in the freezer for far too long because we ended up not being able to afford to buy all the ingredients to put that nice cut to good use, fruits that got mushy, veggies that spoiled, and 3 bottles of partially used conditioner!

No more. Because of that super strict written budget, our months will look frightening similar from one to the next! Any "extra" money Frugal Mister's paycheck brings us goes directly to paying off debt and watching our snowball gain momentum! Hence, the need for a written menu plan.

There are many benefits to menu planning!
  1. The food you buy, you actually USE!
  2. You can plan healthy and well rounded meals by seeing what you've eaten in the past week.
  3. You save yourself from those irritating last minute dashes to the store in the pre-dinner hour to get ingredients.
  4. Gone is the stress that hits you at 4pm when you wonder what's for dinner!
  5. It's really REALLY easy. Really.
In the past, I'd plan out the month with exact meals for each day of the week. I know now that it's unrealistic to expect me to know exactly what the Frugal Family will feel like eating/how many leftovers we'll have in the fridge/if we have plans with family or friends/etc. In other words, I was planning meals that most often still went unused! I'm not sure I know of anyone that can say for certain how an entire month will pan out for their mealtimes!

So, I came up with a solution. First, I wrote out Frugal Family's favorite meals (23 so far, but I know I am missing some) and put them into categories.
  • Salads
  • Pastas
  • BBQ (Frugal Mister's nights to cook!)
  • Mexican
  • Sandwiches
  • Once-a-Month Cooking (OAMC)
  • Crockpot
  • Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner)
  • Special Meals (the ones that cost a bit more but are huge family faves)
I then took those categories to Google Calendar and made a new calendar with just the categories. I like that this method gives me flexibility in the recipes I choose for each week, but I don't have to over think what should be on the menu for the week! I just pick from the category on the calendar and TA-DA! A menu!

We very rarely eat out and I am doing the vast majority of the cooking, which means I am one tired Missus by the end of the day. So, I included on the Master Menu BBQ nights when Frugal Mister can do one of his tried and true dishes or find a fun new recipe for us to try! Either way, I get a break from the cooking!

In our written budget, we have $40 for dinners out per month. However, I am going to relish the fact that Frugal mister is making a meal a week and am going to abide by only going to Papa Murphy's Take n' Bake every 3 weeks for our dinner out. Also, I'll only go if we have a coupon. We can get a large pizza for $9.99 (plus tax) which is enough for dinner and lunch the next day! I get excited just thinking about my first no-cooking night :)

So, without further ado, I give you Menu Monday. I will be posting my menu for the week, to help keep me honest and to hopefully help you all out in your quest to reap the benefits of Menu Planning! I can't promise the menus will be anything fancy, but they do the trick and with the right amount of dollars spent (hopefully).

Bon Appetit!

Monday: Beer Can Chicken, Green Salad, Corn on the Cob
Tuesday: Pasta Salad w/ leftover chicken from Monday's meal
Wednesday: Salsa Chicken, Cold Corn Salsa
Thursday: Leftovers (Frugal Mister is working overtime)
Friday: Chinese Chicken Salads, Trader Joes Chicken Fried Rice
Saturday: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, French Fries
Sunday: Swiss Inches (Enchiladas), Mexican Rice

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