I'm a "systems" girl. I do well with plans and organization. A lot of those that know me well and have seen my house, know that I'm a label nerd! I like everything labeled and organized. If you ask me, I think in the long run it saves time and money if you know where your things are and where to put them back when you're done. (Not that it always works with 2 little ones in the house, but we try at least!) Anyway...so when it came to menus I wanted a system. I'm not always good about writing out a menu every single week and the idea of doing that for the next how ever many years just sounded daunting! I needed a system.
I know there are others out there like me--just admit it--so for those that like to have a plan here's my system.
I started with using the free templates that I found online. There were other kinds too, but this is the one I liked the best because it also included a grocery list on the side.
Then, I had to deal with the idea of doing this every week--forever--that's just not working for me. So, I decided to do a file system. I have a hanging file holder that is sitting completely empty right now and it needed a job. So, it's now become my menu files.
System summary-- a year's worth of menus, recipes and grocery lists created and rotated each year.
Once my idea was formed I had to start working on it. Sadly, I didn't have all the materials I needed to complete the project. I had my "no store" goal going, so I didn't want to mess that up by going to buy things, and I knew if I put it off too long, it would fall through the cracks. I had to get creative. I needed folders--didn't have any, BUT I had a huge supply of construction paper and glue. I just glued two pieces of the same color of paper together at the edge and voila--folders! :) I made 12 in 4 different colors and labeled them "Week #__"
Then, I wanted to have an envelope with recipes for each week in the folders along with that week's menu and grocery list. Half way through, my plan changed to just having an envelope for that month's recipes paper clipped together for each week. Not sure, how I feel about the change yet...
Anyway, the plan for the folders is to have that week's menu, grocery list, store adds, and coupons in it so it's all easily accessible that given week.
Then, the hanging file will hold all four weeks worth of menus for the month. Here is what my September folder looks like:
Each of the colored folder has one of the white pages in it all filled out with most of the days menu filled in and then a master grocery list with the ingredients needed for all the meals that week.
I'm hoping to do 2 weeks to a month worth at a time and then file them away at the end of the month. Then, next year all I'll have to do is pull out the month we are in, make a few updates based on sales, coupons and foods we have on hand and it'll be ready! :)
I'm purposefully leaving at least three days left unplanned so that I'll have options to incorporate new ideas, allow for flexible schedule changes and to avoid the over planning problem. It also has a space to leave notes for each day, so as I have adaptations or thoughts I'll write them on there so I remember it the following year. I've also decided to be vague on some of the side dishes, for example instead of writing in green beans, I put "green vegetable" to allow me to buy based on sales each year. I've also done that with things like potatoes, instead of saying "baked potato" I just wrote, "potatoes", so I can chose the variety to make depending on mood and time. The general idea is there though, so it's "planned" just not overly specific.
I decided to make a few extra "envelopes" for recipe ideas that I come across throughout the year. There is one for "Recipes to Try", "Recipes to add to the Menus", "Recipes for Special Events" and "Recipes for this Week". That last one will be hanging on the inside of my cupboard door so they are easy to get to each week and I'll just switch them out from the monthly folder with the new additions I've added that year.
-Seasonal foods will still be rotated at the appropriate months
-A year's worth of work can be used for several to come
-Space allowed for change & new ideas
-A master grocery list is already created, so each week I'll just be able to look at that list to form the one I'll take to the store with the items I don't already have on hand to avoid over buying
-You can plan your grocery list based on two weeks or more of menus since you have it all pre-planned and avoid the need to shop every week.
-Allows for coupon/specials planning. If you know what you'll be needing in the next few weeks you can buy them when you see them on sale/have coupons for them.
-No more wondering "what's for dinner?" at 5 PM!
-Not feeling stuck in a rut with the same meals over and over again!
-Less eating out