Menu Planning and Recipe Organization to the Rescue
You may all remember that one of my “challenges” of living a healthy lifestyle in temptation city (aka NYC) is my missing menu board. Prior to my move, I would faithfully plan my meals for a two week span and carefully organize my grocery shopping to fit my healthy eating strategy. I loved it because I actually used the recipes that came in the monthly magazines that used to only be dust collectors. I was also able to challenge myself into cooking and eating new food while skipping over the whole Spaghetti Sunday routine which made me a better chef and a more adventurous eater. Unfortunately, since I moved to the city, my menu board has mostly remained blank which is extremely disappointing. This doesn’t mean cooking has left my life, but it does mean I am eating out more frequently than I like to and that I spend way too much time staring into my refrigerator trying to muster up meal inspiration with whatever straggling product has been left behind. In short, I have greatly missed my menu board.
In my heart, I am a meal planner. Going to the grocery store listless gives me shopper’s anxiety. I wander the aisles aimlessly hoping I get the ingredients that will turn into an edible meal. Shopping with a purpose is key for budgeting and for eating healthy…at least it is for me. So it was set in my mind that the menu board would come back to life!
So the first menu board of our NYC life has 5 planned meals which leaves room for a couple play dates or nights out to dinner. It is important to consider your week schedule so you don’t buy groceries for particular recipes and consistently waste them. If 5 meals is too many than plan for 3 or 4 or if you always eat in than plan for all 7 days! You want to be flexible with your life and your plans. Another thing to consider when planning your board is the level of meal difficulty. I always try to choose a happy mix of both simple and more daring dishes from my menu binder so that on a busy night I can pick a quick and easy meal and save the dish that takes more cooking or prep time for another day. Some people choose to organize the board by day or with a theme. I like to make a list in no particular order and make decisions from there, but do whatever works best for you!
I also like variety so, for example, I will likely never put fish on the board 2 times and avoid making two pasta meals. My menu binder is an amazing resource for recipe inspiration that I broke down into sections for easy meal planning. I am also obsessed with Pinterest (like everyone else), so my recipe collection is constantly growing. Whenever possible I consider what is already in stock in my pantry and try to develop a meal from there. This helps a lot with the grocery list and the amount of product we will have to carry back from the store.
Why you should invest time into creating your own menu board:
- It will help you stick to your plans. Every morning I am greeted by my menu board that reminds me to pull meat out of the freezer before heading out the door. Usually when you plan your eats early in the day you will stick to it…kind of like if you bring your lunch to work you are likely to eat it rather than go out.
- It is a major time saver. The amount of time you spend thinking about what to cook is eliminated. You can just walk in the door and get right to it! It also speeds up your time in the grocery store because you shop with a list.
- It can help with your grocery budget. Planning your meals means you can go to the grocery store with a mission and skip over the “what if” product that doesn’t normally make it into a conceptualized dish. Without my menu board, my grocery costs increase drastically because I tend to grab whatever I want off the shelves which is a dangerous thing to do and usually I waste my purchases. Plus you decrease the amount of drive through trips and take out costs.
- You will try more things. There is no doubt that your recipe book will be more frequently utilized if you spend a couple hours on the weekend preparing your eats. There are only so many times you can eat burgers and tacos.
- It can help with your healthy eating goals. Half of the weight loss and maintenance challenge comes down to food, so when the delivery option is removed you have to make it work in the kitchen. You can plan your meals based on healthy menu options that work in your plan. My menu binder is full of recipes from Cooking Light and Weight Watchers. The husband hardly ever knows the difference between a skim milk sauce and whole milk sauce. You can become a chef and you eat right!
There are a bazillion ways you can display your menu board from chalkboards to corkboards to those that are painted and embellished. Mine is a simple dry erase board that has magnets so it can be displayed on my fridge. You can definitely make yours incredibly special and match your home décor if you have more creative DIY skillset that I do. Or you can go electronic with the MealBoard app that allows you to seamlessly store your recipes, generate your grocery list and create you weekly meal plans all in one spot.
A menu board is useful for the cook who likes to be organized and plan ahead. Or for someone who just want to remove the “what’s for dinner?” question from their lives. My menu board is back! That means more healthy eats at home and trying new recipes…just the way I like it!
Have you ever considered using a menu board? What do you think? I strongly encourage making your own menu board and then share a link of what your display looks like!