Last fall, I realized the reason I had a tough time deciding what to cook was two-fold. First, some of my favorite meals are not liked by all six family members. Second, I simply had too many recipes from which to choose. Therefore, when it came time to menu planning, I couldn't think of anything. It's sort of like a closet. When it's so full of clothes, it's hard to see the best outfits. Once you weed out those that no longer fit or don't work because tastes change over the years, we can find the best ones. Some day I hope to add my soups into the mix. My solution last year was very short lived. I picked ten recipes and decided to rotate them like this:
Monday: spaghetti or chicken
Tuesday: breakfast or fast food
Wednesday: beef enchiladas or tacos
However, I hardly stuck to it because it was just too limiting. This year, in preparation for back to school, I got the family in on my plans. We went through and listed about five of our favorite meals in each category: American, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Crock Pot. I only put down recipes that most of us liked and that weren't too difficult to prepare. Many of them require ingredients I always have on hand like onions, chicken breasts, shredded cheese, and Italian seasoning.
Now to organize these meals, I created a cute but simple menu to put on the side of our refrigerator.
Here's all it required:
- Card stock paper in several different colors
- letter stickers
- scissors and/or paper cutter
- permanent marker
2. Create cards in as many different colors as you have categories. They should be made out of card stock and cut into 2" by 3" in size. Feel free to combine categories for simplicity. For instance, I only have three Japanese dishes and four Italian dishes, so I combined those under my red cards. I then have American meals in blue, Mexican meals in green, and crock pot meals in yellow. (I tried to be clever and match food categories with nation's flag colors.) My fifth category is the non-cooking category and those are in a solid yellow. With a permanent marker, write the meal on the front, such as "pot roast." On the back, list the ingredients you will need for the recipe in pen. I only listed ingredients I may not have on hand. I always have seasonings and flour, so why list them?
3. You have two options for making magnets. Basically, you will be using them to label the days of the week and stick the cards to the weekly menu. I began with the first option where I used a cute star puncher I already had, figuring I'd simply stick them on top of magnets. This option is easy, but I decided on this other option, which is more time consuming but more durable. I actually learned to make these a few years ago as a MOPS craft, but we simply glued tiny pictures or inspirational words on them. I'll teach you how to make these at the bottom.
4. Cut a piece of card stock 6" by 4 1/4". Fold the long side at the 3 1/2" mark, so once folded, you've created what will become a pocket with the backside being 3 1/2" tall and the front being 2 1/2".Label the front "meals." Then carefully glue the two side edges to create the pocket.
5. Use a 10" by 12" piece of card stock as your background. Label it with sticker letters or markers, whichever you already have. Let's face it, the simpler it is to make, the more likely we are to make it, but we still want it to be cute to inspire us! Now take your "meals" pocket and glue it to the lower, right-hand side.
6. Grab seven random menu cards and place four on the left side and three on the ride, figuring out where they will fit best. Take your marker, and place a neat dot where you will place your seven magnets.
7. Put your card stock menu page on your refrigerator, using your four decorative corner magnets I discuss in the magnet making lesson below.
8. Now you are ready to plan this week's menu. Go through your cards and pick at least one from each color and place them on your days according to your schedule. (Keep in mind your grocery shopping day too and how long certain ingredients will stay fresh. If I shop on Tuesday, I'll want to make something with my fresh French bread that night, for instance.) Slip the remaining cards into the "meals" pocket, and you are finished! Well, almost. Now you have to look at the back of those chosen cards to make your grocery shopping list and head to the store.
How to Make the Magnets:
You will need a set of craft magnets between 1/2" and 3/4" in diameter, clear glass gems/decorative marbles, white card stock, craft glue, scissors, letter stickers or marker, and a pencil.The set of eight magnets cost $1.99 while the bag of glass gems/marbles cost $2.99.
- Trace a glass gem.
- Cut out just a bit smaller than where you traced.
- Place initials using stickers or markers for each day of the week.
- Cut out.
- Use a couple dots of craft glue to adhere the paper to the back of the magnet.
- Once mostly dry, glue the magnet to the back of the glass gem.
You can make other magnet designs for your corner magnets by printing up tiny images from your computer. When we made this craft in MOPS a few years ago, we had words like faith, hope, and love printed very small on pretty paper, which is what I used as my corner magnets.
If you are curious about my menu, I will be happy to share them with you on my next blog along with links to the recipes. Some recipes I've already blogged about, but I'll eventually share the other recipes with you. Happy menu planning, shopping, and eating.