Making Weekly Menus

The family food budget is one of the biggest demands that take a huge chunk of the family’s financial resources. Think about it, we eat about three times a day which means that is three times a day that we spend money to feed our family. And if we do not plan out what we are going to cook daily we are tempted to go out to eat and that is when we really wrack havoc to our food budget and not to mention our family’s nutritive intake. And before you tell me that .99 cent hamburgers and .99 cent tacos are the way to go for a family that is on a budget ask yourself, “Can they really sell hamburgers and tacos made with 100% beef  for .99 cents and still make a profit?” Do not kid yourself, you and I know the answer is no. Being prepared in knowing what to cook and having the ingredients on hand saves money, our family’s health and stress.
I know that family meals cost a lot and that is probably an area in the family budget that is first to be slashed when you are trying to cut back on expenditures. So you start thinking, how can I fill my family’s stomach without breaking my budget? Next thing you know your family is surviving on macaroni and cheese and Raman noodles three to four times a week. Okay you are saving money but you are not providing healthy meals for your family. Family members need healthy meals to do their best at work and at school. They need healthy meals to grow up healthy and to maintain their health. If family members are not doing their best at school and work and are not growing and maintaining their health it does cost more financially in the end.
Being the family member, that is in charge of selecting and preparing the meals in your family takes a lot of time. Thanks to modern conveniences it does not take as much in time as back in the day of the pioneers where the pioneer woman’s day was consumed in preparing meals for her family. The pioneer woman prepared all of her meals from scratch. She got the milk from the cows that her family drank, she made her own butter, collected the eggs, helped her husband make the bacon taken from a slaughtered pig, and more than likely also helped in planting and processing of the wheat that was made into flour to make the biscuits. And that was just for breakfast!
I have been preparing my own family’s meals for over twenty years. I have found a few things that have worked wonders for me. The most important advice is to make a weekly meal planner. Plan out what you are going to serve for each meal of the day for the whole week. To make meal planning easier I use a meal rotation method. For example, for breakfast Monday is oatmeal, Tuesday is cereal, Wednesday is bacon and egg burritos, Thursday is cream of wheat, Friday is omelets, Saturday is pancakes and eggs, Sunday is Farmer’s breakfast with sausage, potatoes and eggs with biscuits and gravy.  I always have coffee, juice, milk and hot water available for tea, hot chocolate or apple cider. Then when the week is over the menu starts all over again.  I do the same thing for lunch.  For example, Monday is tuna fish sandwiches, Tuesday is bologna or ham sandwiches, Wednesday is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Thursday is can soup, Friday is bologna or ham sandwiches.  I always have fruits available to round out the meals with an occasional bag of chips. On Saturday and Sunday I only cook two times a day, so for lunch we have leftovers or “you make it, you eat it” lunches which means each person is responsible for making their own lunch.
Dinner meal rotation is not as rigid as breakfast and lunch where I make the same meals over and over. For example, Monday is soup, which means I make any soup I want in the crock pot and when I come home it has already filled the house with a wonderful aroma and is ready to eat. Tuesday is chicken, which means I can make any recipe using chicken. Wednesday is burrito night, which means I put pinto beans in the crock pot, when I come home I quickly smash the beans, cut tomato and lettuce, add cheese to a hot tortilla and dinner is ready. Thursday is pork. Friday is beef. Saturday and Sunday dinners are decided by what type of meat I have on hand in the freezer, what new recipe I want to try, or what were in the weekly grocery sales advertisements. I round out my meals by using fresh vegetables I grow in the garden or that I have bought on sale. I make two different vegetables available for every dinner unless it is a recipe like soup that already has the vegetables in it. For dinner bread I can easily make cornbread or heat up a tortilla. For days when I have more time I make fresh bread from the oven.
This type of dinner meal rotation helps me in planning my weekly food menus because it helps me to narrow down the choices of my main dinner entrée will be for the day. For example, if I know that on Friday beef is on the menu then I can decide if I want to make beef stew or a roast in the crock pot, meatloaf in the oven, grill steaks or burgers outdoors in the backyard, or any other recipe that calls for beef. This type of dinner meal rotation helps me in providing a healthy variety of foods for my family. Also this dinner meal rotation is not so strict, to where if I have extra chicken on hand because I butchered a couple of extra roosters, or if  a neighbor brought over some extra catfish they caught, I can easily replace dinner entrees to meet my family needs or plans for the week.
During the work week and on days when I have a lot of chores, I use my crock pot to make dinner. I can easily fill my crock pot in the mornings with fresh ingredients and during the day while I am busy working my crock pot is busy cooking. A crock pot or slow cooker recipe book is a must for any busy woman.
There are also days when I wake up late and consequently do not have time to make breakfast or get ingredients in the crock pot for dinner. What then? That’s when I have easy meal plans ready. For breakfast, I can easily make instant oatmeal or put cereal in a paper cup so it can be eaten on the run. I try to have a stack of microwaveable paper cups that are used for coffee and a variety of instant oatmeal available on the counter that I can use on days like these. For lunch, I can easily make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I keep those food staples in my pantry and stock up when I find them on sale.
For dinner, my two easy meals are rotisserie chicken and take and bake pizza. I can swing by my local grocer and pick up a rotisserie chicken and bring it home. At home I can microwave corn on the cob from the freezer or canned corn. I also can make four baked potatoes in my microwave in 11 minutes. I wash my potatoes, place on a plate, and microwave each side for 5 minutes each. Then take the potatoes out, split them open, add salt, pepper, butter and cheese, place back into the microwave for one minute, and then they are ready to eat.
Another easy dinner meal plan is to buy take and bake pizza when it is on sale, wrap well, and store in the freezer for hectic days. I buy take and bake pizza from Papa Murphy’s.  There are two reasons I prefer Papa Murphy’s, the fresh ingredients and the price. Their pizza is made with high protein wheat flour, 100% natural whole milk cheese, fresh veggies, fresh made pizza sauce, and meat toppings do not have fillers, it is made with real meat. The price is very reasonable. They always have some sort of pizza on sale and have coupons in the local mailer or they can also text coupons to you by using your smart phone. Also if you take a survey after buying a pizza you can redeem a coupon for either free cookie dough or free cheesy bread. And if that is not enough they have a Take and Bake Club, which is a stamp card that you get stamped for each pizza you buy which means that you receive a free family size one topping pizza after you buy 8 pizzas. It is nice, really nice, to have something in the freezer that can be pulled out and popped in the oven for busy days.
Take it from me and my twenty plus years of experience, when I tell you that planning your weekly meals will save you money, provide nutritious meals, and be a lot less stressful. This meal rotation idea and easy meal plans for busy days can be easily substituted with your own meal ideas to meet you and your family needs.

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