Back in June I attended an enrichment meeting and learned about this really cool way to plan meals. It's called a "Master Menu," and the concept is that you create 28 day (or 4 weeks) of meals and every month you repeat the menu. It sounds repetitive, but you only eat each meal 12 times every year- not that often!
The Master Menu idea gets even better because you organize the meals so that they are intuitive, by assigning each day a theme. For example, Monday is "Beef", Tuesday is "Breakfast", Wednesday is "Mexican", etc. So each Monday you might not remember what you are making, but you know it's beef, so you can anticipate how long it will take to make, and after a few months you do have it memorized because the first Monday of every month is always the same meal.
The final way to simplify meal preparation is to assign side dishes. If you are general then you have more flexibility and can still have variety without much additional thought or planning. For example, every night we have Mexican food we have corn and rice. Some nights we will have creamed corn, some nights corn on the cob, some nights canned corn, etc.; similar story with rice, some nights Spanish rice, some nights we will have rice in burritos, some nights we will have rice and beans, but I know that I need enough rice and enough corn on the shelf that I can serve it once a week. That makes food storage easier too!
My Master Menu
I like variety, so I've created an 8 week master menu. Here's what mine looks like:
|Garlic Bread |
|1||Hamburger||French Toast||Taco Ring||Lasagna||Yogurt Chicken||Lettuce Wrap|
|2||Steak||Omelets, Cinnamon Rolls||Tacos||Calzones||Chicken Parmesan||Chicken Croquette|
|3||BBQ Beef||Waffles||Beef Enchiladas||Chicken Alfredo||Orange Chicken||German Pancakes|
|4||Kabobs||Breakfast Burritos||Chicken Enchiladas||Stromboli||Moroccan Chicken||Pork Chops|
|5||Meatloaf||Breakfast Casserole||Fajitas||Spaghetti||Cordon Bleu||Ravioli|
|6||Café Rio||Pancakes||Nachos/ Taco Salad||Spaghetti Pie||Sweet & Sour, Rice||BBQ Ribs|
|7||Meatball Sandwich||Crepes||Mexican Pizza||Pizza||Chicken Monterey||Brazilian Dinner|
|8||Sloppy Joe||Quiche||Chimmichanga||Stuffed Shells||Teriyaki||Big Salad|
Life happens and we don’t always stick to the menu, but when it’s time to shop for the week or time to cook dinner, I know what’s on the menu, and I know that we have the ingredients to make what’s on the menu. I also know that when there is a great sale on spaghetti sauce, I should buy enough for at least 8 meals every menu cycle. The master menu has really simplified my meal prep. Another technique that has simplified meal preparation is using homemade mixes.
I have recently started using the Make-A-Mix Cookery book to make my own mix, to further simplify meal preparation. The book lists some “master mixes” which are usually dry ingredients that you mix n a large volume and then store. You make the mix whenever you have time, store them, and when you are ready to make a dish, you add a few additional ingredients to the master mix. It’s all the convenience of a store-bought mix without the extra cost.
I love to have a variety of foods, but it’s not worth all the mess of measuring cups and spoons just to have biscuits for breakfast, or to have rolls for dinner. With mixes, I make a mess when I make the master mix, but when I am ready to make biscuits, I just measure the mix and add water, or to make rolls, measure the mix, add a few other ingredients, and I’m ready to bake.