Friday, March 09, 2012

Five for Friday: menu planning

1. I find that lately, I don't enjoy cooking.

I dislike trying to figure out (usually in the mid-afternoon) what to make for supper. I dislike trying to make supper during the most hectic & "mom-attention-seeking" hour of the day (right after school.) I dislike making meals, only to hear complaints from at least one family member (& it's not always the kids...) Basically, I dislike the whole experience.

Which is strange, because I like cooking. I like trying new things. And I enjoy eating. Very much.

So, I was thinking that I need a plan, because really, as much as I can help it, I don't like having things in my life that I dislike.

Enter: menu planning.

2. I figured that to get a handle on this new plan, I needed to organize my recipes. You see, last year, I went through years worth of the Kraft What's Cooking magazines that I get free in the mail each season. I looked through each one and cut out any recipe that I thought I might want to try, as well as the ones I'd tried in the past and liked. Then I put them all in a big pile. Note: not an efficient form of organization.

3. So, this week, I started sorting through my pile and organizing them.

I made thirteen categories: appetizers, breads & pizza, chicken, hamburger (ground beef), beef,  pork, fish, pasta, eggs, veggies, soup, salads & desserts.

I took a large white binder (which I found in my basement) and some white printer paper, in which I punched holes with my three-hole punch. I trimmed each recipe and adhered it (using my tape-runner) onto the sheets of paper. I chose to leave a lot of the photos, because I know this catches my eye when choosing recipes (& because, well, it's nice to know what it's suppose to look like when it's done.)

Some pages got more than one recipe...

whereas others only got one...

I also included recipes that I'd printed off the internet, which I just punched holes and added to the binder.

4. The binder I'd chosen has a clear sleeve in the front, into which you can slide a cover page. I decided to make something pretty for my cover (because things are just all the more fun when I can get crafty with them!)

Since I couldn't picture any "food" related stamps sets or patterned paper that I owned, I was a little stumped. Then, as I was flipping through my sheets of patterned paper, I came across the perfect sheet to use:

See, it's all ingredients! Isn't that perfect?

It`s a sheet of Crate Paper from their Farm House line. I added some sweet blush Papertrey Ink cardstock, which I stamped with my PTI bb:woodgrain stamps. Then, I cut out some PTI canyon clay cardstock using a Layerz Mat Stack 4 dies & this week's Make It Monday at Papertrey Ink: Die Cutting Partial Images. To this I added a strip of PTI patterned paper (aqua mist), two Crate Paper stickers and my title, which I made using PTI dark chocolate cardstock and my PTI block alphabet dies. I had to keep it thin, since it would go in the binder, but I was pleased with the layering I was still able to do, thanks to the MIM technique and the stickers.

To organize the categories in my binder, I chose 6 shades of PTI cardstock that matched the cover (summer sunrise, sweet blush, canyon clay, ripe avocado, hawaiian shores & simply chartreuse) and diecut them using one of my PTI journaling tab dies (the largest one). I also stamped each one with versamark and a BB:Woodgrain stamp, before handwriting the category.

5. I wish I could say I`m done, but I`m not. I still have half of the pile to finish going through and adding to my binder. Of course, I`m not adding all of the recipes. If they`re unhealthy, or if there`s an ingredient in it that I won`t buy (like Bisquick or minute-rice) or don`t know what it is (like, olive tapenade), I toss it.

So, once a week, I will go through the binder (most likely on Saturday) & plan our menu for the week. The kids have been enjoying looking at the recipes on the table and suggesting we try certain dishes, so I`m thinking that maybe on Saturday evenings, while we`re still sitting at the dining room table after supper, I`ll pull out the binder and take suggestions. Maybe if they have a hand in the meal planning, there will be less complaints. A girl can dream, right?

I`m also open to checking out menu-planning sites for ideas, like this one: Shrinking Menu plan your butt off. I found a great recipe there this week: Hearty Taco Casserole, which was a huge hit and will be added to our regular rotation.

So, if you`re still reading, do you menu plan? What works for you?

Thanks for looking!


Anonymous said...

Great idea Leigh - hoping that getting your family's input will help. For the record, I dislike cooking very much, too.

carol (krillsister) said...

WoW! You are totally organized. I'm jealous. Most of my recipes are in an envelope. However, i have been using allreciipes lately and their site has its own recipe box which really comes in handy.
I also have a list of entrees and I often ask my husband what he wants.
Some months when I am well organized I plan an entree for the entire month. I like that the best since it allows me to have all the ingredients available when cooking.

Michelle said...

I completely need to do that too!! I have quite a mess. I need to get back into meal planning. I am not liking it too much, but then I am doing all the cooking for a tax office I work for. So, double the cooking. About 6 weeks left of that, then life goes back to normal, in that area anyway. :) Have a great weekend!

Elena said...

I did something similar awhile ago, but I didn't pretty it up like you did ;) Way to go, you!

Joyce said...

Good for you for making a pretty binder. I've had a recipe binder for years now, and I find it extremely helpful. I usually plan what dinners I will make for the week on Sunday. (You know, I don't cook every day) I often base it on what the kids afternoon activities are. I normally prep dinners in the morning--afternoons are too hectic. Other than not being gorgeous like yours, my recipe binder only has the recipes that I've tried and we have all approved to be keepers. That way, I can flip through it and know that everything in it is a possibility. A recipe has to be pretty good to 'make it into the binder' Last night, I made a modification of the vegetable chowder that Dawn posted about earlier in the week, and it achieved binder status! I also jot notes onto the recipe about things to do differently next time. And, everything is in plastic sleeves, because I'm a mess when I cook.

Cassi said...

what an awesome project leigh! menu planning is in on my to-do list. thank you for sharing your process and links to other sites, i look forward to checking them out.

Cheryl said...

You are amazing. I think I need you to be my next-door neighbor.

AnitaRex said...

Hi Leigh! I love this binder! :> I menu plan! And actually have been trying out TONS of new recipes lately. I do a slowcooker Monday since my kids have skating at 4:30 it's nice to come home to the meal. And a good friend organizes a menu plan swap. I did it twice. It involves sending in your menu plan for the week and getting all the plans for everyone taking part. It's a great way to try out recipes that have been tried and liked by others. The last one was 108 pages! Send me your email at incardible at gmail dot com and I will send you the last two menu swaps I did. Are you on pinterest? I have found so many good recipes too there. I don't have a system like you do. I should but I have a super good memory and go off of that. I know strange. I find if I don't plan ahead I don't have what I need and it's annoying! :> But to have at least 1 child or the hubby not complain I haven't figured it out yet. I noticed that when I was in Europe they eat huge breakfasts and lunches and small dinners. I noticed that kids eat great in the morning and lunch, seems like dinner is a battle. I think there bodies know that dinner isn't supposed to be a huge meal but with our society it works that way! :> just a thought! :>

Deanna Jean said...

Way to get organized. Wow..that looks like it was a lot of work. I'm with you on the whole cooking thing. After working all day I just don't want to do it. Unlike you...I don't like to cook. I think if I had more time I would. I like the idea of doing your menu for the week. I may try this.

Jessica Wekenman said...

Great binder, Leigh! I love how you decorated the front! I have one like this that I have been planning for years! I actually made one about 10 years ago, and used it often! I love the idea of planning your whole week in advance with the family! This is very inspiring! Too bad I dislike cooking!

nancy jane said...

First, I need to say thank you. My 'to the full' search just earned me 59 swagbucks.
When I was little, my mom used to complain about cooking. (Actually, she still does.) I never could understand her complaints, until I was in the same position. My problem with it was the time involved. Planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning up take so much more time than the actual eating. Since there is no way around that, I found, like you, that planning the week ahead with input from the eaters helped. (Having them participate in clean up doesn't hurt either!) You'll find that having all of those recipes organized makes a huge difference... as would an Iron Chef team in your kitchen.

cards by cara said...

Great binder idea! Love the organization and use of the tabs and MIM technique. Oh, and you should definitely try olive tapenade - it's divine!! :)

Joy said...

WOW! Leigh you are super organised, I can only dream that I could be that what you did..hugs

Debbie said...


I have a pile of recipes just like that. Many from the same place as yours. Thanks so much for sharing this. It gives me some motivation to get mine organized, too.

Sherri said...

I wish only one meal a day was required, lol. I really dislike the planning of it, and the shopping for it. The actually cooking, I don't really mind, it's everything that comes before and after. Your binder looks great. Hope you find success with your new system.

Alyssa S said...

This is fabulous!! I love your cover page too - so perfect!