Friday, December 30, 2005

Menu Planning

Lately there has been a lot of discussion at Thrifty Homeschooler about menu planning. I, too, have tried different "pre-packaged" plans and found that none of them are quite what my family likes. I've always planned menus weekly or bi-weekly shopping accordingly. However, constantly making out menu plans was time consuming and sometimes daunting because everyone likes to eat different things. Often I felt that I couldn't please anyone no matter what I served for dinner. A friend of mine suggested making out a season of menus. Here's how it works. Print out 12 blank monthly calendars and staple together. Make a list of your family's favorite main course meals; the one's you can prepare blindfolded. Now label the first calendar with January. Place your family's favorite winter meals on the calendar using pen. Then in pencil fill in the rest of the blanks with new recipes to try. Use pencil so that if they aren't winners you can erase and try something new again next year. During 2005 I filled in each month according to the season. More chili in the winter, more grilled hamburgers in the summer months. I don't get too concerned if what's marked for the 2nd Wednesday of January doesn't get made on the 2nd Wednesday of January. This is just a guide so that grocery shopping is made easier and I don't have to think as hard about dinner. Now it's a new year and all I have to do is turn back to January's menu and go shopping.

If your family likes tacos here a a couple of suggestions:

Taco Meat Mixture
2 T. chili powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. cumin
1 clove garlic, crushed or 1/2 t. garlic powder

Mix together and use instead of the prepackaged taco seasoning. Brown 1 lb. ground meat, 1 small chopped onion, drain and add 3/4 c. water with the above seasoning mixture. Boil, then simmer for 10 minutes until slightly thickened.

Taco Soup
1 lb. browned ground meat
1 qt. tomato juice
1 can diced tomatoes and juice
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can Mexican or chili beans and liquid
1 recipe of above taco seasoning mixture

Simmer until warmed through. Place a small handfull of corn chips in bowl, top with soup, dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese. Yummy and fast! Tastes even better the next day for lunch.