One of the most rewarding aspects of motherhood is feeding my family. Putting meals on the table that will nourish and satisfy my husband and children bring a sense of joy and fulfillment to my heart. But it can also be challenging and overwhelming keeping a family fed three times a day, every day!
Growing up, my mom would write down meals for the week, and then compose a coordinating grocery list. So, when I got married, I did the same. Each week, for years, I would sit down and think about what we were going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As my big girls got older, they too would help in this area.
But it was still a big job! Especially as our family grew. Often times, just sitting there thinking of what to eat was mentally exhausting.
One day it occurred to me....why not put this menu into a database, with the coordinating shopping list, and hit "SAVE"!! And, each time we write a new menu, we'll do the same and eventually accumulate many menus from which we will rotate. Then, all we have to do is print off a menu and coordinating list and shop!
So that's what we have done for the last seven to eight years. We now have about ten menus that rotate every two weeks. If we get tired of a particular meal, or want to incorporate a new recipe, we simply change it out on the database and adjust the ingredients on the list. Done! So much easier than starting from scratch each time.
For us, two week menus work best since my husband gets paid every two weeks. In addition, I only have to 'big' shop twice a month instead of four. But plan your menu according to what works best for your family schedule. Whether weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly, having an organized menu plan will save time and money in the end.
Here is the menu we are currently using. Click on image to enlarge.
And here is the coordinating grocery list. (click on image to enlarge)
As you can see, this list contains only food items that we need for every recipe on the menu. If we need to restock other items such as cleaning supplies, paper products, or toiletries, we simply add them to the end of the list where it says "Other Items Needed".
The night before we shop, we print off our list and go through the freezer, fridge, and pantry and cross off anything we do not need. For instance, we have yeast on the list because we bake breads, rolls, etc. But since we buy yeast in bulk, we don't always need to restock it. Same goes for Chicken Stock. I almost always make my own, so I rarely have to buy it. But, I have it on the list just in case I don't have any in the freezer. It's always best to include all ingredients on your list, and simply cross off what you don't need. The key is ensuring you have all the ingredients you need to prepare your meals so that you're not running to the to the store in a pinch.
What if I don't want to prepare or eat what is planned on that particular day?
Because we've shopped for everything on the list, we're free to swap dishes as we please. If we've had a hectic day and there is a more labor intensive meal planned that day, we just switch out for something faster or easier to prepare. Or, if another meal sounds better that day, we switch. The important element here is that you have everything on hand, and you don't have to think about what to eat. This also helps us to look ahead and get meat out of the freezer and into the fridge for thawing.
We try to balance our meals. Some require a little more prep time or cooking time. Some are quick and easy. Some are cheap and some require more costly ingredients. We like variety in the meals themselves, as well as the work involved.
What is FFY?
FFY is Fend For Yourself. Since we usually eat a big lunch on Sunday, dinner is usually clearing out leftovers, or making a sandwich, or snacking on fruit and crackers. Greg and I tend to the little ones, but the older, capable kids fend for themselves!
In our family, life is so busy and there's much work to be done. This menu system has saved a lot of time.....and gas. Since we've shopped for everything we'll need, I'm not running back and forth to the store. If we need milk or fresh produce, we make a stop while we're out running other errands. The best part is...I never have to stare into the fridge, ominously trying to decide what to make for dinner.
So how about you? What are your favorite tips for feeding your family with efficiency? Do you have any questions about my system? Please leave a comment...I'd love to hear from you!