Tag Archives: Menu

Meal Plan 1/26- 2/1

Look who interrupted our menu plan last week! Ella’s arrival into the Hutchison family means that I skipped most of last week’s meals and I’m working with leftover ginger, beets, citrus, and apples in this week’s menu.  No complaints here, though. My grocery bill is very happy to have the extra ingredients. And I’m happy to have the new niece.

Here’s what we’re getting from Greenling in the Local Box:

  • Tangerines – Orange Blossom
  • Mustard Greens – Naegelin
  • Broccoli – Texas Daily Harvest
  • Various Lettuce – Acadian
  • Baby Arugula – My Father’s Farm
  • Red or Green Kale – Naegelin
  • Napa Cabbage – TDH
  • White Mushrooms – Acadian
  • Yellow Onions – Naegelin
  • Grapefruit or Navel Oranges – G&S

Here’s what I’m planning to cook:

Wednesday: Happy hour with friends
Thursday: Napa Cabbage Slaw, Crock pot chicken
Friday: Quinoa with Arugula and Broccoli (just steam the broccoli and sub for the asparagus in Amy’s recipe), apple compote
Saturday: Grilled Cheese with Mozzarella and Garlic Kale Pesto, leftover chicken
Sunday: My own version of this curried mustard green recipe, rice
Monday: Austin Food Swap! Rami is on his own tonight.
Tuesday: Leftover Awareness Day!
Breakfast: Red flannel hash, magical scrambled eggs
Bonus: Onion and Mushroom pizza (gotta plan ahead for Jessica’s Gluten-Free Pizza Festival!)

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5 Tips for Menu Planning

I know a secret that will guarantee that you eat healthier and save money this year.  This 10-minute task will also help you spend more time with family, reduce your carbon footprint, and become more organized.  Best part? It’s free! I’m talking about planning a weekly menu, one of the easiest and most effective ways to live better in the new year.

Menu planning is the cornerstone of my blog.  In fact, it’s one of the big reasons I started to write about food in the first place.  Shortly after we got married last May, my husband and I divvied up household chores, with cooking falling squarely on my shoulders.  I’ve always loved to cook, but it took me some time to get organized about it. I planned weekly menus sporadically at first.  Some weeks, I’d take the time to write out a schedule of meals. Other weeks, I forgot or thought we could skip it. Those weeks went badly. We’d often run out of food, bicker about meals and resort to fast food on busy nights. (Okay, most nights.)

In July 2010 I made a resolution to plan a menu for us every week, and I’m proud to say that I haven’t missed a single one since.  I had so much fun with the process, that I decided to blog about it. And now here we are!  I know I’m just getting started on my food blogging, menu planning journey, but here are five things that I’ve learned along the way.

1. Write down the plan using whatever format works best for you. No matter how great your menu plan may be, it doesn’t mean a thing if you keep it in your head.  The menu becomes useful when you take a moment to write (or type) it down in a format that’s easy to read and share. Here is what my meal plan looks like. I write it in Microsoft Word each week using the same format. Breakfast and lunch options are listed out and don’t change much from week to week.  I organize dinners by the day according to our social and work calendars and the longevity of produce in the Greenling local box. If that format doesn’t seem like a good fit for you, no worries! There are a ton of other examples online. Try one and make it work for you.

2. Print out the menu and hang it on the fridge. It’s impossible to stick to a menu plan that you can’t see. Empower your family to help with cooking tasks and quit asking “What’s for dinner??” by hanging the menu prominently in their view. Go high tech, too, and share the menu via email and GoogleDocs so that everyone knows what’s cooking each week.

3. Find a weekly routine that fits your family’s schedule. I run a Wednesday to Tuesday meal planning schedule since that’s what works best for me. I meal plan and grocery shop mid-week so that weekends are free for leisure and cooking. I also serve leftovers on Tuesday nights, no matter what.  This night off from cooking allows me some extra time to meal plan for the next week, and uses up extra food in our fridge.

4. Use a CSA or Grocery Delivery Service. We should all have a personal assistant to do our grocery shopping. Yeah, right. For most, the next best thing is hiring a CSA or grocery delivery service to bring you produce and milk every week. Produce spoils quickly and it’s time consuming to select at conventional grocery stores, so by delegating that portion of the shopping to the experts, you can save time and ensure that you’ve always got fresh food on hand. Our Greenling local box delivery arrives every Wednesday like clockwork, and the menu of local produce they offer serves as the basis for my weekly food routine. Since we can count on fresh groceries and a fresh start every week, we never have the excuse “There’s no food in the fridge,” to eat fast food any more. I’ve also been able to cut back on conventional grocery shopping to just twice a month, saving money on impulse buys at the checkout and gasoline for the car.

5. Start a food blog. I’m just kidding (mostly) with this one.  Blogging my menu plans helps keep me accountable, introduces me to new friends, and gives me inspiration from other food bloggers.  But blogging is a big time commitment.  You can get most the same benefits by getting involved in one of the many menu planning groups online without starting your own blog.  A few standouts include:

  • Cafemom.com’s Meal Planning Group. An active internet forum where lots of moms share their meal plans with each other.*
  • Orgjunkie.com’s Menu Plan Monday community. Laura posts her own menu plan every Monday and hundreds of other bloggers join in. This is a great way to find new food blogs and see what other home cooks are up to each week.
  • This Week for Dinner is the space where California-based blogger Jane Maynard shares her menu plan each week and readers leave comments sharing theirs.  This one is a little different from Orgjunkie’s in that many of the commenters are non-bloggers who share for fun, not to drive traffic to their own content.
  • Finally, you can always find my meal plan here at The Austin Gastronomist and Steph’s  over at the Greenling blog Eating Out of the Local Box. On Tuesdays we each blog a different meal plan that use Local Box produce and easy recipes. If you need some help getting started, choose what you like from each of our plans and use that as a launch pad for your own awesome menu.

Admittedly, most of the food blogs and internet forums devoted to menu planning cater to a mid-life, stay-at-home-mom audience. Part of why I became a food blogger is because I felt a bit out of place in those spaces. I mean, I love what they’re doing, but I know that there must be other young, childless, busy people cooking at home from a menu! Hopefully as the locavore/sustainable foodie movement grows, I’ll be able to write more about the menu planning communities of single ladies, starving artists, 20-somethings, punk rockers, rock climbers, and college students. In the meantime, whoever you are, happy menu planning!

Meal Plan 12/8-12/15

The Christmas crazies have officially started! This coming week is gonna be a weird one, in that I’m cooking almost zero dinners at home. Tonight I feasted on samples from Tom’s Tabooley the Better Bites of Austin holiday gift fair. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I’m eating at social events for every meal except one. Monday morning, my husband and I head out to California for a week to spend time with family for the holidays!  If you lost count, that means I only need to cook two dinners. So. What to do with the rest of the local box?

I’m going to try to make and freeze a few big casseroles with some of the food. That way I’ll have some dinners stored up for when we get home from California. The rest of the food will either stay in the pantry or get served up at a baby shower I’m hosting on Saturday.  Here are the ingredients for Greenling Iron Chef, casserole edition:

  • Assorted Peppers – Lundgren
  • Persimmons – Oasis
  • Butternut Squash – Gunderman
  • Yellow Onion – Naegelin
  • French Breakfast Radish – Acadian
  • Oriental Turnips – Acadian
  • Lettuce Mix – My Father’s Farm
  • Collard Greens – My Father’s Farm
  • Meyer Lemon- Acadian

Here’s what I’m going to do with each thing.  I borrowed Stephanie’s meal plan format for this one, organizing by ingredient rather than day of the week:

Lettuce Mix & Radishes: this is a biga** bag of lettuce. We’ll eat it for both dinners along with a few radishes and some classic vinaigrette from Joan Nathan’s new French cookbook.

Peppers, Onions, Collard Greens:  The peppers and onions will make a great enchilada sauce. I’ll fill the enchiladas with jack cheese, steamed collard greens and leftover shredded turkey that’s been in the freezer since Thanksgiving, spiced up with cumin and chile powder, of course. These will freeze great until we get home from vacation.

Turnips: These puppies are going into a sweet, custard-like casserole that we can eat for breakfast and snacks.

Sweet Potatoes & Butternut Squash, Lemons & Persimmons: these are all going in the fridge or pantry until we get home from California. Fingers crossed that the persimmon will chill in the fridge and keep ripening once we get home.