Make a menu, and stick to it (sort of)

February 10, 2012 § 3 Comments

Every Saturday morning, while the washing machine chugs away with our clothes, our dogs wrestle in the living room, and Dave sleeps in, I drink my coffee and make a menu for the week.  I encourage Dave to sleep in on the weekends…he needs the rest, and I also enjoy my early morning time.  We subscribe to several cooking magazines, and I’m always bringing home new cookbooks from the library (if we like them, we end up buying them for our ever-expanding cookbook collection).  Every week, I select a magazine or cookbook that will be the week’s inspiration.  From it, I select recipes for the week’s meals, and then I consult the pantry and prepare a shopping list.

Although we do have regular favorites for which we use no recipe at all, much of the week’s meals come from that week’s inspiration. I try to use only one cookbook or magazine per week.  More than that is just too irritating.  It’s difficult enough to prepare meals during the week, and I want as little of the hassle factor as possible.

Once I have my cookbook (or magazine) for the week, and the recipes I’ll be making from it, I grab my list, and head to the farmer’s market and several grocery stores.  Always on our list are items like 2% organic milk, dog food (we have 3 rather large dogs, so buying 50 pounds of food a week for them is our norm), salted butter, eggs, Greek yogurt, sour cream, flour, and apples (which we each eat for breakfast every morning).  In addition to the regular list are the items needed to prepare the week’s “special meals,” which include dinners, as well as the ingredients for 1-2 lunches for me and Dave to bring to our offices.  I enjoy, but don’t always get a chance to prepare, one weekly meal for me and my coworkers every week.  Dave, whose work group isn’t as welcoming of home-cooked treats, just packs the occasional lunch for himself.

I find it is very helpful to write my menu on the same sheet of paper I use to prepare the shopping list.  While I’m at the market, I’ll invariably see something on sale and end up substituting  or completely slashing a menu item.  Having the list and our menu in hand prevents me from the spontaneous and completely unnecessary purchases (14 bags of vinegar and black pepper potato chips, anyone?), but allows me to make logical and astute substitutions.


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