Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why plan a weekly dinner menu?

The second to the last blog of my favorite blog list is "This week for dinner". She briefly summarizes each week what she plans for dinner each night and encourages her readers to do the same. She is offering a prize or two for a contest she is having, you need to enter by Monday, Jan. 11 to qualify. Be sure and comment under the post for Jan 6. There is also a beautiful weekly dinner menu that you can download for free on that post. Monday-Sunday and you write your plan in. Information on that post also on how and where to get other cute menu helpers.

Which segways nicely into a thought I had yesterday. We are a family of four. Two adults and two kids but kids with adult appetites. Whenever we eat fast food, it's at least $20. Let's say a family did that twice a month. Multiply that by 24 and that's $480 per year. When I don't plan out what we are having ahead of time, we eat fast food more than 2 times per month.

When we eat out at a casual dining restaurant or if Mr. Budget Menu and I go out to a nice restaurant, it's always at least $50. So let's say we do that once a month, multiply that by 12 and that's $600 per year.

I'm not saying that you should eat at home ALL of the time. But it amazes me how much a family can save per year by cutting out the times they eat fast food or eat out. Menu planning can help eliminate the need for eating out or grabbing a quick burger.

You may be saying to yourself, "I work full time, I don't have time to plan or time to cook." I am a SAHM, but with two very busy kids who always need to be somewhere or be picked up during the time I would be cooking dinner. I don't always get it right but here are some things that help when I am on track.

1-Crockpot. The crockpot is your friend. This week I made crockpot lasagne for dinner. I put it on late (after 2 p.m.) so cranked it up to high. At 5:30 when we got home, dinner was ready.

2-Prepping ahead. They do this in restaurants. They prep the day ahead or hours ahead so that they're ready for dinner service. Here is what I do. When ground beef goes on sale I buy a bunch at one time. I then bring it home and cook it. I then drain the fat off of it and rinse it under hot water. After the water drains off of it, I season it with salt and pepper and sometimes garlic powder. I then bag it in dinner sized portions for spaghetti sauce, tacos, casseroles, etc. at a later date. I freeze and then when I need hamburger for dinner I pull it out of the freezer, defrost or heat in the microwave and dinner is ready in a flash. NOTE: freeze the bag flat and it will come out of the bag in it's frozen state easier. You can prep lots of things when you have time. Onions, celery, chicken, pork, etc. Either park in the fridge or freeze. When you buy those items already prepped in the grocery store it's a time saver but if you need to save $, do a quick adding session of how much you'll save if you do it yourself.

3-Make ahead. When I can, I make the casserole earlier in the day, or you could do it the night before, and park it in the fridge. Microwave when you're ready to eat.

4-Freeze leftovers. When I've made too much or planned to make too much, I freeze the overflow and use it on a night when I don't have time to cook dry beans or pasta or whatever else. Frozen pasta (without any sauce on it) just needs to soak in hot water and it's ready to serve in about five to ten minutes. Cook a ton of beans in the crockpot and then portion them out in smaller containers and freeze to use for burritos or bean and corn salsa or salad in the future. This tip only works if you remember what you have frozen in the freezer and use it so you're not throwing it out a year from now.


  1. I used to think I didn't have time to plan meals or cook. I used to feel that way the times I worked and the times I didn't. One day, it occurred to me...

    It takes a LOT longer to schlep to a restaurant, sit down, order dinner, wait for dinner, eat dinner, wait for waiter to bring bill, pay bill, go home...

    then it takes to

    grill a steak
    put a pound of pasta on to boil
    open a can of tomato sauce
    scramble a few eggs
    pressure-cook a whole chicken (with potatoes and carrots - no, don't peel anything)

    it's also way cheaper.

    And fast food is bad bad BAD for us. We know that.

    Good post, Jeri. Dinner planning can be as simple as pulling something out of the freezer the night before and putting it in a crockpot in the morning.

  2. now i REALLY need to separate sphagetti pasta in its sauce..
    so when there's leftover, my sphagetti still looks good not that one that's sticky & all...

    i really do love freezing, it really do save time on food preparation ...