Ready or Not #37: Step 1 Deciding What to Fix

What is the hardest thing about cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner every day? Let’s all say it in unison, “Deciding what to fix!” It isn’t the clean up, although that can be a bother, and it isn’t even the preparation – it is figuring out what you are going to feed your family day after day, after day, after day – okay, you get the idea.

Another problem that you might have, after you have gone through the grueling process of finally deciding what to eat, is having all of the ingredients on hand so that you don’t have to stop by the store on the way home from work or make a special trip before getting started. What a bother, sometimes I can see why we are such a fast food society. We have made it so difficult on ourselves to maintain healthy, less expensive, eating habits by not being prepared. It is easier than you think and I am here to help you.

Some of you might remember in the old days there wasn’t as much variety as there is today. Now we like to eat Italian, Mexican, Chinese, pizza, burgers and more. In our grandmothers day it wasn’t uncommon to have a set weekly menu: Sunday was roast beef with cabbage, Monday was hamburger stew with homemade bread, Tuesday was fish night with rice, Wednesday was spaghetti with bread sticks, Thursday was meatloaf with mashed potatoes, Friday was hash and vegetables and Saturday was leftover night (all the leftovers from that week) or a surprise meal (maybe homemade mac-n-cheese). On Sunday it started all over again.

Right now you are thinking that there is no way that you could eat the same thing over and over again each and every week. It would solve the “What’s for dinner?” issue, but it would be pretty boring after a while, and I agree. But did you know that we are creatures of habit? We tend to eat the same things over and over more often than you would think. They (whoever “they” are) have found that on average we generally only eat about 15 different meals each month. It has even been recommend by some that it is an easy way to figure out how much food storage we need by taking our favorite 15 meals and multiplying the ingredients by two and then 12 and you have a list of what you need for a years supply of food. That sounds easy enough, but after the first or second recipe you are thinking that this is harder than figuring out what to eat every night.

I agree with you and so I have created some food storage calculators that will help you to first decide what you want to eat, how many ingredients you need on hand to be prepared to fix each recipe as often as you like, and to figure out how much of each ingredient that you need to purchase to be prepared for the entire year for all of your recipes combined.

We will do this in steps so that you don’t get overwhelmed. The first thing that you need to do is to figure out what your family likes to eat: for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Go to the Food Storage Calculator Worksheet section here on our site and click on the First Step – Figuring out your menu.

You can either type in what you eat all at once (which is harder than you think) or you can print it out and fill in the spaces with what your family eats each day. This method takes a little bit longer, but it is a lot easier. If you are eating a lot of prepared food by default because of some of the issues that we mentioned earlier, then write down what you would have liked to have cooked for your family instead, if you had all of the ingredients on hand. After you have as many weeks figured out as you would like, then go back in and type them in the computer menu planner.  (Click on the picture to see a larger version.)

I have actually provided you with enough worksheets for up to six weeks worth of menus. You can fill out one, two or all six weeks worth of menus, but you don’t have to have different food to eat every night. You can repeat a favorite meal several times during your menu planning. I can guarantee that we will have spaghetti at least one time a week, because I really like spaghetti. Get the whole family in on the menu planning, especially when it comes to what they want for their lunches.

Now that you have your weekly menus finished, print them out, cut them up so that you have each week separate, laminate them and put some magnetic strips on the back so that you can place them for easy access on the fridge. The remaining weeks will be placed in the pocket of a loose-leaf that you will purchase to put a copy of all of your recipes in, but that is the Second Step – Favorite Recipes. Now you can rotate your menus each week so that nobody gets bored eating the same thing each week and you will never hear, “What’s for dinner?” again.

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