March 1st! How can it be? Another month beginning already! It seems we were just packing away our Christmas decorations.
We have been so busy with our kids' basketball teams and activities lately. It's been so good to have an "anchor"- AKA, my menu plan! Today it was time to turn to a new month and so it was time to plan out the month's menu. I know that sounds like a lot (well, it used to to me before I started menu planning) but now it's really not hard at all. And it makes it so easy to go through our days and weeks, knowing what I need to shop for and prepare.
I've shared here and here about how menu planning has become such a sanity saver for me. I was not always organized in this very important area. It continues to be a journey for me (as all areas of organization are for this natural-born procrastinator!) This week I thought I'd share how I do my menu planning binder. It keep it right in my kitchen on my island/bar, propped up on an iron cookbook holder. It's so helpful, always accessible, an invaluable resource to me, and it was really easy to put together!
First of all, don't be impressed with the cover (or the pages.) I have found that a cheap package of pretty paper from the dollar store or the sale table at the office store and some cheap page protectors makes even the most boring print-outs look "fun." A few years ago when I put this binder together, we had purchased this "bamboo" looking paper for some letters we were sending out for a mission trip to China. The green matched my kitchen so I used a couple of sheets. :)
At the beginning of the year I printed out monthly calendar pages from donnayoung.org (Oh, if you haven't been to her site GO THERE. Forms for EVERYTHING!!) I printed all 12 months at once on some dollar store paper, three-hole punched them and wah-lah. They were ready for the binder. So. On the right I've got my monthly pages and on the left are the recipes I'll be needing for the current week.
This particular photo was taken at the end of January, so you can see my checkmarks for the meals that actually happened. If they don't, then I know I can bump that recipe to another night the next week/month/ whenever.
The current month stays in the very front, but the other months' pages go behind this sheet, one of my favorite resources I created. This is a "quick reference" I typed up of my family's favorite recipes. (You can click to enlarge.) Again, it's really not rocket surgery, and it looks like a bigger deal than it is because it's on pretty paper and in a page protector. I simply categorized my family's favorites and beside each one put where the recipe is located. So when I sit to plan my month, if I'm not cooking from a new book or trying some ground-breaking new recipe, I can scan this list easily and plan a chicken, a beef, a meatless, an Ethiopian dish and a soup. There. It's all listed. Each week I try to do that type of variety, so I can simply choose from each category of "tried and true" recipes. It's so helpful, and it really didn't take that long to type up.
This particular list continues on a "page 2" which is on the other side of the page protector. At the end of this year I'll add new recipes to the list that we enjoyed during the year, since I'll have my year's worth of monthly pages. If we love a recipe I'll put a star on it, or I'll notice as I go through the pages to make my binder in January if I kept making something repeatedly, it'll get bumped to "favorite" status.
So, there it is, one of my most helpful resources in my monthly menu planning. There are many (and better!) ways to do this, but this has helped me tremendously. I'd love to know what works for you, as I'm always looking for ways to improve. If you have something, please let me know!
And now for our menu for this week:
Monday: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, rolls
Tuesday: Mini Meatloaves, baked sweet potatoes, green beans
Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Ye Doro Alicha Wet (mild chicken), chick pea paste (yummy and so healthy!) and injera bread
Thursday: Senior Night at the basketball game, and out to eat with the team afterwards
Friday: YO-YO (you're on your own!) leftovers, etc.
Please, please if you have a menu planning binder idea do share it with me! If you have a menu you'd like to share, or want to visit more weekly plans to get some ideas, hop on over to Laura's at Orgjunkie.com. She's such a great resource for getting organized (one of my major endeavors at the moment.)
Have a yummy week!