Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Menu Book

Okay, so this is something I started last fall and it has been one of the most amazing and beneficial things I have ever created. I love to cook. I really do. BUT I HATE trying to figure out WHAT to cook. Anyone else with me on that? There is nothing worse (at least I don't think there is) than it being about 5 o'clock and going "What do you want for dinner?" And everyone else saying "I don't know. Anything is fine." argh! So annoying! And then you have to make sure you have the food in the house and usually you are missing one key ingredient to every recipe you have? Yeah, that's how things were going here and I was TIRED of it. SO...I created this beauty:
I am in love with my menu book. You might laugh, but it't true. It has totally eliminated the "What do you want for dinner?" battle. And now if you want to know what IS for dinner you can look for yourself at the menu. It has ensured (well 99.9% of the time) that we have the food we need in the house. It has given everyone an opinion (because we all know that with 4 adults in the house, everyone does have an opinion on what's for dinner at some point). Unless we want to have the same thing more than once a month, this has given us enough options at out fingertips that we can have a different meal every night of the week. If I am not feeling up to cooking, or if I'm not home when dinner should be getting started someone else can just look at the book, see what's for dinner, pull out the recipe and get started on it. Basically it has been a life saver and I really just couldn't live without it. So let me share with you how this amazing thing works.

First off, I have to say I've seen a few different menu ideas around and none of them worked for me so that's why I made this one up. A different way might work for you , or after you see this you might find all the things wrong with it and what I can do to make it a million times better. But for ME, it's perfect :)

So I have 5 tabs in mine. And I use the 5 tab folders that have the pockets on both sides so I can put notes, coupons, recipes that need to be filed, and other things in them. My 5 tabs are: Menu, Grocery List, Meal Ideas, Monthly Recipes, and Recipes.

This is what our menu looks like this month. No, it's not pretty. Yes, things get moved, changed, crossed out, etc. But that's just the way it goes. Sometimes people have things going on one night and I realize I don't want to make a casserole that feeds 12 people when I am the only one home. But we are usually pretty good at sticking to it. At the end of the month I MAKE everyone fill in at least a weeks worth of meals for the next month. Sometimes it takes a week or so to get the whole month filled in, but so no one complains about how we never have this anymore or we ate that last week, etc., I make everyone put in their two cents worth (or 5 days worth, however you want to say it). Occasionally I will change things around so we aren't having 5 nights of meals that are huge and create lots of leftovers.

Then comes the Grocery List. The menu has been a wonderful thing because we can go grocery shopping once a week, or if you want to get the whole month done at once, or in two weeks, you can, but one shopping trip a week works for us. I just pull out the recipes I need for that week, go through them real fast and look through the pantry and whatever I'm missing I put on the list. I am currently learning how to coupon so now I kind of look at the whole months worth of recipes and see if there are any coupons for that week that I could stock up on items I'll need later. And again, I love the dividers with the pockets so I can put my current weeks coupons in there and when it comes time to go to the store I can grab my list and coupons and be on my way. Oh, and also throughout the week I can just turn to this page and jot things down that we need like paper towels etc.

Next is the Meal Ideas. I have a page of Main Dish Ideas, Side Dish Ideas, and Desserts. On the lists are all the recipes we like and the recipes we have in the menu book. This is nice when we are filling out the monthly menu because we can just scan through the list and pick off things we want. And the side dish list is nice because I am always trying to figure out what to make with our main dish and with that list handy I don't have to think too hard.

Then comes the Monthly Recipes. You might have wondered why I have two tabs for recipes. Well, let me tell you. The monthly recipes are were I put that months worth of recipes in the order we will use them. This makes it easier to put a grocery list together, it ensures that I have all the recipes I need, and it just makes things easier to find. After I make that recipe I file it back alphabetically under the recipes tab.

Last comes my Recipes tab. Do any of you have a cupboard FULL of recipe books, magazines, loose recipes, recipe card boxes, etc? And if you are like me you really only like about 2 or 3 recipes from each of these books, magazines, etc? I made photo copies of the recipes from magazines and books I like and I typed up the recipes I had on little cards. Then I just gave them each their own sheet protector and filed them alphabetically and tada, all the recipes I actually use are in one place! And if I print something off the internet I can just add it to the book, or if I go through a cookbook or magazine and discover something I want to make I photo copy it and add it to the book too. (from the picture you can see that I have a few recipes that need to be put in sheet protectors and filed away)

So I have a nice stack of about 60 recipes in my book (all of which are listed in the Meal Ideas tab so I actually know what I have without having to skim through the pages all the time).
So that's my pride and joy. I love it and I probably gave you all WAY more information about it than you wanted, but you also could have stopped reading at any point ;) Some people have asked if we have actually stuck to this and I am proud to say that yes we have! We started it sometime last fall (September-Octoberish) and we have filled out the menu EVERY month, done our weekly shopping trips, saved lots of money (because we are making fewer trips to the store and we have a nice list of things we need) and made my life a whole lot less stressful :) I have even made one for my mother-in-law for when we move out (because she informed me I couldn't take this with me when I left, see how wonderful it is?), my sister-in-law, and my best friend Heather (because she informed me she can't cook and she is getting married next year so I thought I would help her soon-to-be-husband out and help her learn to cook).


Chels said...

Amy's gonna LOVE this...if she doesn't already have one...i love it, but doesn't so much apply to me right day...:)

Jamie said...

Chels, this totally applies to you! You don't have to be married to do a menu! It will save you money AND you'll know what you are having for dinner each night :)

Amy said...

Have I told you lately how much I love you? Mind just isn't a binder that's the only difference.

Julie said...

I love it, I too made my own compilation of reciepes and then of course before I printed them, my computer crashed. I hope we recover it soon. Way to go and I bet your MIL will love her book.

I too hate the what's for dinner, then what I have planned doesn't sound good, which means I get upset so I learned just to cook before he comes home then no complaining. :)

Anonymous said...

This is awesome! I've been looking around for something to organize recipes, coupons and meal planners. I'm going to have to copy your idea. Aren't there times like these you wish you could be at work where we had all day long to work on projects like these? :)

David and Melissa Gardner said...

This is a fantastic idea, I would love to see your other idea lists for sides and desserts. I am always trying to find new things to add to our list.

Kelly said...

You need to bring this with you next time! I totally get it. Wish I was as skinny as you so I could eat whatever I want. It sure limits my choices.

cwarren said...

Wow! You need to come on over to our side of the mountain and get me started:) Please:)

Ruth said...

I feel the exact same way, I canNOT cook dinner unless I have a menu planned. I'm not as organized about it as you are though!