Saturday, April 16, 2016

Menu Planning-A Bit of a Puzzle

My daughter made this puzzle in 8th grade Tech ed, or as it was called when I was in junior high, shop class. Don't let the simplicity fool you. Once taken apart, it is a puzzle to make it back into a square using all five pieces. Four of them together , and not the same four, will also go together to make a square, leaving you with an extra one left over. It has been sitting on my dining room table for well over a year since she brought it home, and is a conversation piece-I'd kind of like one for my office at work as well. In our heavy duty cleaning a few weeks back, the puzzle was picked up and stacked, and then none of the four of us could remember quite how to get it back together. DD#1's English friend tried.  My mother-in-law tried, and there it sat. Last night DD#2's friend, who also made one, put it back together in about 8 seconds. I took a picture as an illustration of my post, but also as a cheat for later, when it is next disassembled and we can't get it back to rights.

The puzzle remind me a bit about meal planning, and trying ot use up all the food in my freezer, fridge and pantry, and not having extra that goes to waste. I spent my morning after dropping friends off and bringing my daughter to play practice, inventorying the kitchen and then setting out to make  a menu buying as few things as possible before  the end of my schedule. I picked May 8th as the date to plan through as it is an end of a weekend, and I can grocery shop while my daughter is at soccer practice, and also after the close of the credit card cycle so I can get a finalized comparison on my statement of how much was spent on groceries.

Here is my inventory.

And here is my menu.

 It is no frills notebook paper, heavily scribbled as I changed my mind, and remembered events and schedules. I have a side list going of things that will need to be bought. There is a fair amount of repetition, as much for time as it is due to pantry stock. I've intentionally planned leftovers for the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights DD#2 has 6:15-6:30 activities and we are flying out the door (shortly after I have just flown in the door from work.) If you can see, and read my chicken scratchings feel free to weigh in.  I rely too much on pasta and rice as a base. I know I need to pick up a lot more fresh or frozen vegetables. I also have added some comfort foods, Tator Tot hotdish anyone, due to the overstock that was in my supplies. I have a couple soups in here, despite the weather getting warmer. I can bring leftover soup for a quick eat at my desk lunch, and I can guarantee we have some wet soggy cold days where soup will hit the spot. 

This is a plan-not concrete, but it was puzzling to not repeat over and over, and be sure  to try and use up food on hand already, not leaving out a food that will go bad before it comes up on the plan. There are a few planned meals out, such as Mother's Day brunch, a Papa Murphy's $5.00 take and bake, a wedding reception, and a night out with friends.

Besides the odd meal ingredients, I'll be needing to buy things like cereal, French Toast and Pancake makings, and sandwiches fixings, and of course fresh fruit for lunches and snacks. I'm not too worried about buying more things, but for sure wanted to build around things that need to be used up, like tonight's pizza hot dish, using up the cottage cheese and open mozzarella, and tomorrow's potato soup with veggies, as I have a bunch of potatoes that need using up, and some broccoli and cauliflower that sort of got forgotten about. Three weeks is  probably too long a time frame,and I already know I will more than likely veer off plan. The good thing though, is this will help fill in a gap when we just don't know what to do, and may want to pick up the phone and order a pizza or run out for a meal. 

Some of you are masters of menu planning. I probably have read your plan. What are your repeat items, and why? For those not eating down the kitchen, do you plan first and then shop, or shop specials, then plan? 


  1. I probably have 30 main dishes which we rotate around but make up the core of my meals. I'll throw in a new-to-me recipe and meals that take more time/effort now and again.
    If I am not using up/eating down the pantry/freezer I take inventory of what we have here and then shop the deals. Deals pretty much direct what I and what we need to use up.

    1. If this planning helps me,I'll probabky shop for deals then plan the next cycle. May starts a new weekend schedule as we'll be starting weekend lake trips and add more grilling and crockpot versions of food.

  2. My menu plan looks like yours, with lots of rubbing out, arrows and teeny tiny writing squeezed in!

    I plan by asking Dan I there's anything he'd like, looking for a couple of new seasonal recipes, plus old favourites (usually budget stretchers).

    If there's a really good offer on something when we're shopping I just substitute ingredients and tweak recipes.

    1. I always tweak based on what we have so often recipes aren't really a recipe-more a guide.


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