We shared a couple of articles containing tips we use to utilize this menu planner! If you are a sale shopper, coupon shopper, markdown shopper or even just a “regular” shopper – this may be just the solution you needed to incorporate all normal items as well as the odds and ends you buy!
You may have seen this on our site before but we have a secret to share with you! The form you see above is not the one we are sending you. We have heard your requests and made this even more usable and more fun to keep you and your family on point with your weekly menu!
I want to share it with you in hopes that it will be a blessing, help, time-saver and money-saver in your home too! First, let’s share how you can get it! Again, notice that this is the NEWLY updated form – we even haven’t had a chance to update this post yet!
It is a pretty straight forward menu planner, but I will walk you through how to use it!
Step #1- Go to your fridge and write down the foods you need to use this week – the ones that will be expiring soon, the fresh foods that have a shorter life (like fruits, veggies, salads, sour creams, etc. ).
My real life example this week: Broccoli stems, grapes, chives, mangoes, Mexican cheese, hot peppers, fresh vegetable medley, carrots, 5 Fage yogurt, Cauliflower, sour cream, brussel sprouts, lettuce, pears, peaches, ginger sesame dressing, avocados, tomatoes, veggie dip
As a note, almost always do pretty much all fresh produce go on the list so I can ensure I am using it all and so this is most often the longest list!
Step #2 – Now do the same thing for your pantry foods. What do you have in abundance, or that will be expiring the soonest or that needs to be used for whatever reasons. Write those foods down.
My real life example this week: Loaf of bread, BBQ Sauce, garlic bread, chicken broth, Dijon mustard, veggie chips, wheat tortillas, quinoa
Step #3 – Finally, do the same in your freezer. Meats, cheeses, or other foods that you need to eat and use up soon before they expire or that you have in abundance.
My real life example this week: Mushrooms, Saute Express, peppers, rib steak, roast
Once you have identified the foods you need to use up, then it is time to create your “no food waste” menu!
Remember the articles that we shared last week to create a no-food-waste menu? If you are like me, this is also going to be a lot of fun to even create new recipes. One recipe that I created was because one week we had a lot of cottage cheese. We usually eat it as a side, but it was on sale that week and we had a lot of it and being a side for most meals became quite boring. So I decided to make what I now call “lasagna casserole!”
I can make this with any pasta, any pasta sauce, it can be vegetarian or include meat. In the pasta sauce, I mix cottage cheese into it and it turned out so well and has become a favorite! It changes slightly every time I make it depending on what foods I need to use up, but every time it is really, really good! This is just one example, but to help you in making up recipes to use all of your foods, you need to have the other two articles we wrote near at hand to help with that!
Now it is time to plan! Please note, you can use any foods in your house to plan, just make sure to incorporate the foods on your list as the “need to use” foods too, but your menu is NOT exclusive to these items 🙂 Just thought I would make that clear!
Step #4- Plan out your Breakfasts (use our Breakfast Ideas HERE) and cross the items off the list once you have incorporated that ingredient into your menu!
You can plan out your breakfasts based on foods on your list, you can also get ideas from our Building Better Breakfasts page. Many of the recipes will allow you to create concoctions with items you have on hand. I would recommend paying close attention to building breakfast casseroles (using many different items for the crust, and for the actually base), the homemade pre-made muffin mix that allows you to make any muffins or breakfast cake and the article on building fruit and veggie smoothies that taste good every time!
My real life examples from this week: S =Oatmeal and fruit, M = Peach Breakfast Cake (using the pre-made homemade muffin mix), T= Breakfast Casserole, W = Banana Breakfast Cake (using the pre-made homemade muffin mix again), TH= Oatmeal and Fruit, F = Fried Eggs and Toast (fried in coconut oil for health!), S = Grits Casserole
Step #5- Plan out your Lunches and cross the items off the list once you have incorporated that ingredient into your menu! Again, our lunches are quite flexible because I might plan something, but realize we have a lot of left-overs from the night before, etc.!
Lunches are VERY low key in our house! I usually cycle through the same foods and don’t put much extra thought or effort into lunches as we have a quick lunch break during our homeschool days. It is also very flexible because if we have leftovers, than that is what we are eating! Whole Wheat and gluten-free pastas are also a common lunch as I can make almost anything out of it, especially with my SOS mix!
My real life examples from this week: S = left-overs/sandwiches, M = pasta salad, T= Pizza at Co-op, W = Baked potatoes, TH= Sandwiches, F = Cowboy Chili (using leftovers from steak in dinner menu) , S = Cowboy Chili again from making a double batch
Step #6 – Write down foods that are the “approved” snacks for the week! This is mostly for your family’s reference. My kids need snacks and if I don’t have a plan, this is where I feel like we are getting eaten out of house and home! So I write down snacks available to them that week from foods that need to be eaten and they are free to pick from the list of these foods before we need to plan on any other snacks! This is good for older kids too so that they know what they can have and get it on their own!
My real life examples from this week: Fage yogurt, veggie chips, peaches, pears, pretzels, carrots and dip
Step #7– Plan out your dinner menu complete with sides!
Dinners are where the magic is in our house! This is where I put the most time and creativity, but I still try to keep dinner prep in under 30 minutes using the foods I have on hand!
With that, most households tend to put the most effort into dinner, and that is why the dinner section includes room for more details, including side dishes.
Again, for tips on this, you need to see our menu planning page as this will open up your world of dinner possibilities… and worst case, use the All Recipes recipe search!
My real life examples from this week: S = Roast with carrots, celery, potatoes and onions and 60-min dinner rolls, M = Peach Chicken with garlic bread, brown rice, Italian salad and Best Brussies (roasted brussel sprouts a lot like our Roasted Broccoli), T= Chinese Chicken Salad made with the Ginger Sesame Dressing, lettuce and shredded broccoli stems, W = Enchiladas with mangoes and avocados and homemade salsa with chips, TH= Crock Pot Ribs with fruit salad, steamed veggies and 60-min dinner rolls, F = date night in: take-out , S = Dijon Chicken with Mediterranean Quinoa, remaining fruit and Roasted Cauliflower (like our Roasted Broccoli)
I needed an idea for Dijon mustard this week for a gourmet one that I bought on markdown and that is nearing expiration. I love this next step! It is utilizing the search feature on AllRecipes.com. They allow you to search by ingredient, other ingredients to include and ingredients to exclude. Then also by dish type, time to make and the meal it is for. This allows you to quickly find recipes that will match the ingredients you have on hand.
The sample search….and
the sample results… 38 possible recipes that meet my criteria!
How cool is that! It also means that I can get the mystery produce boxes from Bountiful Baskets, I can shop the sales and the markdowns and still have a practical, quick, no-food waste menu that is often unique each and every week!
In the notes section of my menu planner, I write a note to myself about where the recipe is located as well as any other notes (guests one night, etc). Also, there is a shopping list section at the bottom. I often find that as I am cooking or menu-creating, I see things that I am out of and add to the list. This list can be torn or cut off the bottom without affecting your menu!
If you haven’t put together your home binder yet, you can get all of the details to our home binder system HERE along with even more FREE downloads! Using these in the menu tab is perfect!