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.