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Menu Planning - Getting Started

Contributed by: Cyndi Roberts

Getting started making a plan for a week's worth of meals can surely be a bit daunting at first. It need not be complicated - though a little bit of time spent planning will be well worth it!

A good way to start is by looking at what you already have on hand -- sort of taking a visual inventory.

Next,it's helpful to list on a piece of paper, all the meals for the coming week. For example, list all the days, then Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, etc.

On this list of meals, write down a main dish and a couple of side dishes that you want to make, keeping in mind what staples are on hand in the cupboard and in the freezer. Try to come up with as many meals as you can with what you have on hand.

Remember to write down some of the extras you think you might like to make during the coming week -- such as cookies, snacks or desserts.

Always keep the ads from the local grocery store handy and plan meals around the weekly specials, if possible. Don't just think about main dishes; if bananas are on sale, make banana bread for snacks, or lunches, for example.

While you are making your menu plan, think about what will be happening in the next week. Is Friday night Football Game Night? Plan to have a supper that is quick to fix. Is Wednesday your day off? That is the day you might want to try out a new recipe that takes a little longer to prepare.

Whatever your schedule, plan your menus around it. And be flexible! If it snows on Tuesday, and you hadn't planned to make chili until Thursday, you can just switch the menus around.

Keep your lists, so that in weeks to come, you can be reminded of some meals your family especially liked (or disliked!). After a few weeks, you will end up with a set of weekly menus that you can use over and over.

With your plan in hand, you won't be tempted to go for takeout because you just can't think of anything to make for supper. And you won't get caught without that "one ingredient" you need to make tonight's supper, so no more last minute trips to the grocery store!

Cyndi Roberts is the editor of the "1 Frugal Friend 2 Another" bi-weekly newsletter and founder of the website of the same name. Visit http://www.cynroberts.com to find creative tips, articles, and a free e-cooking book. Subscribe to the newsletter and receive the free e-course "Taming the Monster Grocery Bill".


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