Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Menu System

Putting together menus has often been a challenge for me.  Over the years, I have tried different systems to make it easier.  The one I used for years, just writing down two weeks worth of menus in a 3-ring binder, worked okay.  However, it was not as "perfect" as what I was looking for; it seemed like meals were being repeated too often, and I really didn't enjoy cooking very much because of it. Then I came up with the system I've now been using for about 15 months. 

I generally shop for groceries twice a month, and with this method, it is so quick and easy to do menus for a couple of weeks at a time.

I use a recipe box that holds 4x6 tabbed cards and colored index cards.  There is a tabbed card for each month and also one for each of the days in a month.

The main dishes go on green, yellow, orange, blue, or pink cards depending on whether it's beef, chicken, pork, fish/seafood, or meatless.  Right now there are 88 main dish index cards, which means it could take close to three months before I have to repeat any of them.  However, it wouldn't be that long because some of the main dishes are specifically for a certain time of year, such as soups for the colder months.  Even so, I don't usually repeat a meal more often than every six to eight weeks.

On each of these cards, I have written down the ingredients needed and where to find the recipe if it's not in my regular recipe binder.  As I plan for the two weeks, I pick the first 14 cards in the main dish slot and put one behind each of the next 14 day-of-the-month cards.  As I do each one, I write down on my grocery list any of the ingredients that I don't have on hand.  I then take out the side dish cards (on purple) and add one or two of the cards to each of the 14 day slots, also writing on the grocery list any ingredients I don't have. 

In addition, there are card dividers for Breads, Appetizers, Desserts & Snacks, Beverages, and Holiday, and those get added as needed.

Putting together a menu and grocery list for two weeks generally takes about 10 minutes or so.

This method works beautifully for me.  I no longer get up in the morning and wonder what I'm going to fix for supper that night.  I simply pull out the cards behind the appropriate day, put that day-of-the-month card at the back, and take out anything from the freezer that needs to thaw for supper that day. When that meal is over, its cards go to the back of the main dish and side dish slots so that the same meal doesn't come up again too soon.  We have a simple breakfast and generally eat leftovers for lunch, so this system is only used for the evening meals, but it could be adapted to include all the meals of the day.

Surprisingly enough, I now enjoy cooking, much more than I did previously.

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  1. Love this, sometimes the simplest things are the best.

  2. I Thanks for sharing on Wicked Good Wednesday at!4mslove yur organization! A great idea!

  3. I just found you through & I really like this idea - simple, frugal, varying, immediately startable. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog and for the great description of my system.