August 29, 2011

Menu Plan Monday | TNFM September 2011 Monthly Menu Plan

I plan my family's dinners in five week blocks to maximize my savings at the grocery store and minimize my stress at dinner time. You can read more about my strategy here in my Q&A post here.

After a long summer of grilling out in bulk on the weekends and munching on the yummy leftovers as is or repurposed in different recipes until they were gone (and then - and only then - resorting to turning on my oven and actually doing that little "cooking dinner" thing), I'm back to my monthly menu planning self.

Menu planning for my family is a cornerstone of my frugalista mindset. 

With menu planning I can:

:: Save Time. If I spend an hour once a month plotting our what works best for our family dinners based on our family's schedule for the coming 4-5 weeks, the task is DONE.  D-O-N-E done!  A small investment of time up front that saves me oodles of lost (and stressful) minutes in the weeks to come.

:: Save Money.  By planning a month/4-5 weeks at a time, I can incorporate double duty dinners (where I bake two of the same meal and freeze one for a busy night) as well as plan for leftover makeover dinners (where I bake a meat one night, usually in my slow cooker, and then use the leftovers in a different recipe).  As I see those meats/main ingredients come up on sale during the month, I can stockpile them in my freezer then thaw them out when I need them rather than buying them when they aren't on sale. Plus, with a menu plan in place, I can "shop my stockpile" in my freezer and pantry before I shop at the stores, meaning I won't need to buy recipe ingredients I already have on hand.

:: Save My Sanity!  If you're in charge of making dinner at your house -whether you're a parent or not - you KNOW how stressful it can be to be scrambling for dinner ideas at 5:00 in the afternoon.  Knowing ahead of time what's for dinner, and scheduling my "easy" meals for our families busiest nights saves my sanity at the end of our busy days. And that, my frugalista friends, is priceless!

If you haven't adopted menu planning yet, I encourage you to give it a try.  Start with planning a week at a time and build a database/notebook of your own weekly menu plans.  Once you have several weeks worth, you can compile them into a monthly menu plan of your own.

Also, in the coming four Mondays of September, I'll be posting a series on How to Build a Monthly Menu Plan.  Be sure to check back on Monday, September 5, 2011, for the first installment of the series.

For those of you who would like to use my TNFM September 2011 Monthly Menu Plan, here it is via GoogleDocs:

TNFM September 2011 Menu Plan

The menu plan is printable and is formatted in a spreadsheet for the month.  It includes links to recipes found online for your convenience.  You'll also see a KEY at the bottom left corner that looks like this:


CROCKPOT recipes are - quite obviously - recipes prepared in a slow cooker.  These are great recipes for busy days when you need to simply toss the ingredients in and go-go-go until dinner time.

DOUBLE DUTY DINNER recipes are meals I cook a doubled amount of (x2); we'll have one for dinner that night and the second one I freeze for a future dinner - usually for one of my family's "busy" nights.

LEFTOVER MAKEOVER recipes are meals using leftover main ingredients/meat from a prior dinner (usually a crockpot dinner) in a different/new recipe. 

LEFTOVER CLEANOUT is something I try to do once a week.  We invariably have a little bit of this and a little bit of that leftover from our dinners in the refrigerator at the end of the week; by having a leftover cleanout night, I can clean out the refrigerator and get an idea of what I'll need to add to my shopping list.

Any questions? Please feel free to ask in a comment below. ;-)

FYI: For links to some of my past monthly/5-week menu plans, be sure to check out this post.

Looking for more menu planning inspiration? Be sure to hop through the links at Menu Plan Monday over at Org Junkie.

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