Thursday, July 14, 2011

One-year menu plan

Wow, this has been some project! 

Here is the menu for the month of July. Click on the picture to see it large enough to read. (This is a screen shot of the document I made in MS Word)

And here is the accompanying shopping list for the first two weeks - again, click on the image to enlarge.

- The above shopping list may contain some errors, omissions, and/or misspellings. It's a work in progress.
- We buy a lot more produce than what is listed because we get a weekly share basket of a produce co-op. The produce on the list is what I HAVE to have in order to make the meals, so if they are not in the co-op basket, I need to buy these at the store (we get no choice in what ends up in our co-op baskets).
- We eat a lot more produce than what is listed on the menu plan in the form of daily green smoothies, side dishes with each meal, and snacks. But again, because of the nature of the co-op, we play this by ear and serve whatever is on hand, so they are not included on the menu. 
- I aim for one vegetarian main meal, and one fish-based main meal, per week - but this month I somehow did not include any of the latter. The menu will need to be tweaked before next July. 
- I cannot think of any other disclaimers for my dietary shortcomings, but I'm certain some anonymous reader will be kind enough to point them out for my future improvement.

The way it is supposed to work is that I pre-plan 28 meals per month. The remaining days are for special occasion meals (holidays, birthdays, etc.). Each month lists different special meals, snacks, and season-appropriate desserts. The ingredients for these are not listed on the shopping lists, but there are blank spaces for me to pencil them in.  

Since we have switched to eating only organic foods, we almost never eat out any more, so there is no need to allow for nights that we won't be having dinner at home.  

Before I made the yearly menu plan, I first made a list of all the foods I ever cook. Again, this list keeps being updated as I remember old favorites that I forgot about. There are enough meals on it now to never have to repeat any meal for about 2 months. Therefore, my meals repeat about every 8 weeks, but allow for seasonal changes (such as pumpkin pie in the winter, smoothies in the summer, various holiday meals, etc.). I think the yearly plan will work better for us than simply making a 2-month plan and repeating it every 8 weeks year-round.

In spite of how much work this has been, I can see how this investment of my time now is going to offer the following advantages down the road:
  • This is going to save me a lot of thinking, planning, and time in the future. 
  •  We only order from our grocery co-op (different from the produce co-op) monthly, but I have been making weekly menu lists until now. That means that I have not been able to order everything I might use in one month (and that would keep that long) due to my lack of planning. With a monthly plan, I will be able to get more stuff at the lower prices the co-op offers.
  • Eventually, I want to have a copy of all the recipes I use sorted by category in one binder. Maybe I will even combine all the shopping lists, menu plans, and recipes in one handy document/file. Right now, only about one quarter of them are in my binder of favorite recipes, while the rest are in various cookbooks, cooking magazines, or on websites. If my daughters want a copy of all the recipes I use when they grow up, I could just print the whole thing for them easily, and they could add/edit/delete stuff to suit their own families with ease.
  • Sitting down to make a list of all the foods I ever cook made me remember some that I had forgotten about. With this yearly plan, I won't be leaving out any old favorites, or cooking the same meal more than a handful of times per year.
In case you were wondering, I am NOT a first-born child in spite of my love for lists and all things planning-related. I really enjoy steam-lining repetitive tasks and eliminating mental clutter as much as possible - it allows me to spend that extra time taking care of our little family.

Coming up sometime soon: Our chore system.


  1. Oh my Lord! This is AMAZING!!! You are so organized - I've always thought I am, but you put me to shame. Your daughters (and sons!) will be so lucky to have the benefit of all this planning when it comes time to start their own families. Can I also get the benefit of this awesome planning :-) If I leave you another comment with my email address (not to be published), how would you feel about emailing the actual Word documents? You've inspired me to do something similar (albeit with my own recipes).

  2. This is amazing. I love lists, so I'm tempted to copy you now.

    Question: What do you do for lunches? I see you have lunch ideas on your master list of things you cook, but not on the monthly menu. We usually eat leftovers for lunches, but I keep certain things on hand for when we run out of leftovers. Is that the basic approach you take too? I'd guess so, based on this, but I'm curious.

  3. The only thing I see wrong with your menu plan is that it is not filed in MY kitchen right now. *sigh*

    That is really impressive and admirable. Oh, and it's made me hungry for rice pudding....

  4. W~O~W
    You. Are. Amazing.

    I LOVE organization, but this is above and beyond! This is going to benefit you so much!

    Great job!!!

  5. Menu planning is one of the best things I did, organizationally, for my family. I love trying new recipes, one thing I did in addition to the weekly menu and shopping list is I attached menu's to the week.

    I too plan vegetarian 2x's a week, and try to make one of those vegan. I also do ome sort of salad main dish 1x a week during the summer, and then I do a hearty soup in winter. Changng i up according to the season is good.

    I love your menu/list and I know you are going to be so happy for having done this.

  6. I always try to make my life super organized and streamed like this but somehow it never quite works out ( probably because I get excited when it's works well for a few weeks and then give myself a break). This is awesome!!

    I also hope to have a huge recipe reservoir like you do one day.

  7. What an inspiration! Great job!

  8. What a great job! This is a wonderful idea!

    You know, it is sad about the disclaimers you have to make on your own blog because of anonymous commenters! It just makes me sad for nit-picky people wishing to make fun of you and your family!

    If I am ever coming through your area, I am stopping by and eating!

  9. I am impressed. How long have you been working on this?

  10. Can I still this list lol. This is awesome. You are a super mom!

  11. Love it! Can I use this list? How did you create the calendar- Microsoft Word?

  12. I do not get how you don't shop or buy for lunch. I know before that you said you don't make lunch, but aren't your kids starving? I spend an ENORMOUS amount of time trying to work lunch out. I mean, ENORMOUS. Even in summer, I have to fret over lunch. We've been spending about five hours a day at our gym/waterpark/spa and I won't let the kids eat there because the food is deplorable. So I have to pack this behemoth bag of food to sneak in so my kids aren't eating processed chicken nuggets or hot dogs all day long. Then when school starts, my morning revolves around packing nutritious lunches for them to take with them because I won't let them eat the disgusting putrid school lunches. So aren't your kids starving? How are you working out lunch? We almost never have enough leftovers to satisfy my hungry crew the next day. I am perplexed.

  13. Wow I can't believe you have a different meal everyday for 2 months , and your meals sound great to . I am trying to organize my recipe's to , can't wait to see your chore list .

  14. Thank you, all.

    As for the file, once I am all done with it, I will make it available to any of you who are interested. I have slowly been plugging away at the menus for the other months, shopping lists, and entering all my recipes I use. It will be a while before it is finished. I am using MS Word, which is probably not the most efficient way to be doing it.

    Lunches: We always eat leftovers from the previous night's dinner. I just cook a double serving of every meal when I make it. With homeschooling in the morning, I simply cannot spend any time cooking. Everyone obviously gets to eat as much as they want. On the rare occasion that we do not have enough leftovers the next day, I pull together one of the quick lunch ideas.

    Michele, one tip that I read about getting food into places that don't want you to bring your own is to tell them your kids have dietary restrictions. If they question you further, just tell them it has to be kosher and organic - nobody will harass you after that! :) I've never had to use this yet. Our kids think individual sack lunches are the coolest thing, so when we do field trips during the year, I always make sure to buy stuff for their lunches. But every other day, it's just leftovers. They have never known anything else, so they think it's normal to eat the same meal twice in a row.

  15. Zsuzsanna, you have given me so much motivation in this area! I agree that the yearly plan will certainly work out better than either a montly or bi-monthly plan. What a wonderful idea to also share the file with other busy ladies!

    I have already started my meal list! Thank you again for posting this!

  16. I hate to admit that I never thought of doing a double amount at dinner and then serving it for lunch the next day. Lunch has always been my biggest stress and that is such a simple and easy way to go. I can't believe I never thought of it. I've always saved dinner left-overs for another dinner.

  17. This is really just incredible. Totally amazing. No other words ... just wow.

  18. I love your menu idea. it has been very helpful to me.

  19. Oooh....would you be willing to share recipes?! The problem I have is we have 2 people in our house (hubby and me) and cooking meals sometimes feels like so much work for two of us. We eat lots of sandwiches and pasta! Not that we don't love those but they get awful old sometimes!

  20. Awesome! You inspired me to do some clean-up with our menu plan. I told a friend about planning menus for a full year and she was baffled as to how I could do it! Saves SO much money because we aren't eating convenience foods when we are stumped for what to eat at the last minute. I've been going to leftovers for lunch, I love it because I love a nice hot lunch rather than a quick sandwich and things like tacos are just better reheated on the stovetop (don't use the microwave since Jessica and Chad did that insightful post- wish their blog was reopen. I use it to store our bread though!). Thanks Zsu!

  21. Wow, what a project. I am curious how it worked out for you and your family? I have a lot of struggle coming up with variety and getting food prep done in time for dinner. I would love to learn more, so that we are not wasting food too.

  22. did you get the yearly plan done? I need one!!!


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