Friday, February 11, 2011

Quick and Easy Weeknight Meals & Menu Planning

I am always looking for quick and easy meals during the week, especially on the days I work. Now that I have been faithfully meal planning and sticking to a cash budget, these quick and easy meals are even more important. Although it is tempting to just order takeout or stop at the grocery store for a few things, I have been able to avoid these temptations through careful planning and an ever-growing list of quick and easy meals. If you take the time to plan a week's worth of meals and do one shopping trip, it will pay off during the busy week. No more aimlessly walking around the grocery store at 4:30pm wondering what to make for dinner, or spending extra money that you don't have on eating out. We budget and plan for takeout one night a week, but we stick to just that one planned ahead takeout meal.

If you don't menu plan, I would totally recommend giving it a try. It does take me about an hour to plan the meals each week (I have a master list of meals categorized by main ingredients - ground beef, chicken, pasta, etc. - and I use this list in conjunction with grocery store sales or what I have in the freezer or pantry). After planning my menu, I make a list of what I need, crossing off what I already have at home. Then I shop at three stores, which does take a little time (and patience if you are taking two little kids with you). This is a commitment which will become easier over time with practice and experience. It seems daunting the first couple weeks, but stick with it! It will pay off in the end, and once you have a few weeks of menus under your belt, you can re-use them in future weeks. You will be amazed at the cost savings (and stress reduction) you can obtain just because you planned ahead.

A friend lent me this book, Family Feasts for $75 a Week, and it was a tremendous help in menu planning and saving money. It also came with several great recipes:

I ended up ordering the book for myself since I loved it, and I would strongly recommend it. I will be sharing some of my favorite recipes from this book soon.

I love to cook but I don't always have the time (or the money) to plan a gourmet meal. Coming up on Pie Birds, Buttons and Muddy Puddles is a mini series on quick and easy weeknight meals. These are our favorite meals that are quick, affordable, easy AND most importantly, TASTE great.

How does Sweet and Sour Pork sound? Or Thai lettuce wraps? Or Mexican Bow Tie Pasta with Chicken? Or Chicken Chimichangas? All these and more coming up! Stay tuned.

3 comments:

  1. Ever since I've started menu planning meal time has been much less stressful...shopping at 3 different stores however...that will not happen for many years! It's hard enough getting out with 1 store to shop at. For this reason when I see a good sale, I stock up for many months worth. Now when I go to the grocery store it's usually only for fresh produce. Eliminating trips to the store has also helped our budget! Can't wait to try some of your upcoming recipes!

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  2. My mom always did this so I have always planned (for the most part) what we'll eat during a week. I just can't get into the different store thing ... I know people it works great for, it's just too much for me.

    I just started last year keeping the menu from my tear-off weekly calendar - I put them in a folder so, like you said, I have a several weeks' worth of menus.

    I'll have to check out that book . . . looks good.

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  3. Sarah! That's a great idea! I never thought to save my pages from my weekly calendar I fill out...I'm going to do that from now on!

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