I've had some people ask why do I make a menu each week. I think one of the main reasons I make a menu is because it helps me to keep my grocery bill managable, which in turn makes me a better steward of the money that I have. A lot of people think that having a menu for each week can stifle your creativity but I have found the opposite to be true. It makes me really be creative while making my list but also, I need to be creative WITH my list so that if things don't work out, I still have ingredients to work with. Here are some examples of how I use my menus...
First I come up with 5 main ingredients that I want to use for the week. I only do 5 because I've found that left overs take at least one day and usually someone wants take out on Saturdays.
Let's say I decide on 2 ground beef, 2 chicken, and one bean for this week. Now I decide on the secondary ingredients that give me the most freedom with these main ingredients.
I will usually buy one spaghetti sauce and noodles. I will also make sure that I have 2 cans of tomato sauce in the pantry and different kinds of cheeses in the fridge. If I'm out of something, it goes on the list.
Now with those ingredients I can make: spaghetti, chili, baked spaghetti, soup, I can also branch out to make meatless spaghetti with garlic, butter, and cheese. I can also decide to use my sauce to make pizza.
I can also make salsbury steak with the meat, some flour, seasonings and water and serve with rice. (If rice is in my pantry.) Now, with those two ground beef dishes, I just got a total of 7 dishes! This was just using staples and the few ingredients from the store. If I buy the ground beef in bulk, it will be cheaper and I'll have it in the weeks to come and it becomes a staple in those weeks, lowering that bill for that week. If I buy frozen veggies in bulk, then I can also expand my menu to make even more dishes. (Like De'Etta's shepard's pie.)
Now lets look at the chicken...depending on what I have in my pantry, it may be the only thing I need to buy! I can grill it, saute it, use it in stir fry, fry it, bake it, BBQ it, kabob it, make it into soup, whatever! Depending on my staples. I usually buy BBQ sauce in bulk from BJ's. It usually lasts me for 2 months. I also have soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, flour, season salt, taco seasoning, and broth. Now all I need is my secondary ingredients: I usually buy frozen veggies, potatoes, rice, and egg noodles. With these ingredients, I can make at least 8 different meals that week. Pretty cool, huh?
Next my beans. We love black beans. They are usually a staple here, so on bean night I just need to check my pantry and purchase any secondary ingredients that I may need. I make sure that I have bacon, onion, rice, canned diced tomato, canned corn, tortillas and salsa. With these ingredients, I can make two different meals: Black beans and rice, or beans, corn and salsa on tortillas. Usually, I have most if not all the ingredients for this meal, without even needing to buy anything extra.
I've found a lot of freedom with my menus and I've saved a lot of money. I would recommend this to anyone who is on a budget or is looking to cut back on their spending in this area. Use your favorite main ingredients and add your favorite secondary ingredients and you'll see that you have almost endless possiblities.