June Menu

Seems like all this Mama Frog has been posting about has been food.  With 7 people here eating 3 meals a day plus a snack, and then add in Papa Frog when he’s home, I spend a good part of my day cooking or planning cooking.

I love my kitchen helpers.  Even Tiny Tadpole (who is no longer tiny) loved to be involved in the kitchen.  Just for some throwback Thursday cuteness, here is Tiny Tadpole’s First Birthday and a picture from our Coastal Anniversary Roadtrip in February.

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Anyway, menu for June, (sorry sometimes this Mama gets sidetracked, especially with Tadpoles fighting and trying to show me things, and a Tiny Tadpole who is wanting to nurse.  So here is my menu for June.  Happy Eating!

P.S.  You will notice menus on there as well for Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Jurassic Park, Toy Story and My Neighbor Totoro, which are this month’s dinner and a movie fun!

June Meal Planning Menu 2015

May Meal Planning Part 4 – In Which Mama Frog Unveils the Shopping Lists

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It has been the world’s longest day here today- if you want to get technical about it, is has been the longest week ever.  However, May’s lists are finally done.  I am shopping this Sunday.  Are you?

Print your shoppings lists below:

May Meal Planning LISTS 2015

May Meal Planning (Part 3)- Or Mama Frog Shares Some Downloadable Printables

I will have the shopping lists posted tomorrow, but I wanted to make sure you could get a head start printing and planning for May!  Here are some sample.  I included a cover page so you can tape it to a 3 ring binder if you choose, or slide it in the little clear pocket thing in the front.  I would love to know what you think!  Shopping lists are coming tomorrow.  🙂

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DOWNLOAD YOURS HERE:

May Meal Planning Cover 2015

May Meal Planning Menu 2015

May Meal Planning Recipes 2015

Meal Planning- This is How Mama Frog Does it (Part Two)- In which the Work Begins

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So, you have your recipes, and you have fit them into a monthly menu, right?  If not, see Meal Planning Part One- here.  You will no doubt have filled your menu with family favorites, new recipes to try and fun treats.  And if your meal plan looks like this:

Monday- Meatless Monday

Tuesday- Tacos

Wednesday- Spaghetti

Thursday- Chicken Bake

Friday- Meatloaf

Saturday- Breakfast for Dinner

Sunday- Leftovers

Well that is fine too.  Whatever menu your family is happy with.  I would suggest making sure you have actual copies of the recipes on hand.  Also make sure your menu has an extras section for any other items you make regularly, be they bread, cookies, lunches, or that church potluck every 3rd Sunday (Yep I grew up Baptist.  We potlucked).  You don’t have to have exact recipes, but you will want to list what ingredients each recipe uses.  I actually do this with recipes like my foil-wrapped chicken and potstickers.  I don’t use an actual recipe, since I have made them enough that I have evolved my own recipes.  Now here is how I like to do things, because this blog post is about my way.  You will no doubt find your own way 🙂

I like to have actual printouts of the recipes I am making.  Some of these are from month to month, some of these are new to this meal plan.  (At the end of the year I go back through the recipes we have made all year and make a book out of our favortites.  This year I plan to have one bound for my kitche.  These make great family gifts.  When my kids are old enough to move out I plan to send a copy of our family recipes with each of them).

I copy all the recipes text-only and paste them in a Word document, then I print them off.  Each recipe gets its own page.  Then they go into a three-ring binder with page protectors.  This month I need to replace my page-protectors.  They are several years old and are hard to read through anymore.  My calendar of meals gets printed as well and put in the front of the notebook.  (Don’t worry there will be pictures of this after I get my new page protectors).

Now comes the work.  I label 4 sheets of notebook paper thusly:  PRODUCE, DRY GOODS, MEATS/DELI, FRIDGE/FREEZER.  If you are new to meal planning, I suggest you also label a fifth sheet: PANTRY STAPLES.  I have been doing this long enough that pantry staples that I know I am out of go on the dry goods page automatically.  Before I even start I can add things like flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, vanilla, oil, oats, brown sugar, and other staples that I know I buy monthly.  Don’t worry if you can’t make a list like this off the top off your head.  Just add the pantry staples, that a recipe calls for, to the PANTRY STAPLES list.  Then you can check that list against what is actually in your cupboard.  If you are increasing the amount you are cooking, then you may have a couple of months that require you to purchase a lot of pantry staples while you build up a good base stash.

One by one, I go through the recipes, adding ingredients to the proper page.  Tomorrow I will post my shopping lists for you to see in their rough form.  If more than one recipe calls for the same ingredients, you can use hashmarks to indicate that you need more than one item.   Let me give you a couple of examples:  If I am making scones and biscuits in a month, I know they will both need baking powder.  One jar of baking poweder is likely plenty.  But if I am making fajitas and stuffed bell peppers, I know I will need 2-3 peppers for the fajitas and 8 additional peppers for the stuffed peppers.  So while baking powder will be there singularly, bell peppers will have XI after it.   As I continue through I will keep adding ingredients, so I may end up needing 15 bell peppers for the month.  That gives me a very concise number as a base when shopping.  If I find bell peppers on sale, I may buy extras for the freezer, knowing that we will eat them in fried potatoes or a few to keep fresh knowing that the kids love bell peppers and dressing for a snack.  But at least I know what I NEED.

I also like to have the store flyer handy when making my list.  If I need ground chicken or turkey but I see that leg quarters on sale for cheaper than I can buy already ground (and they usually are), I will get legs and quarters to take home and grind myself.  If this is not an option for you that is fine, but keep in mind that if hamburger for burgers is $5.99 a lb and ground turkey is  $3.99 a lb, you can easily sub in and make turkey burgers.  Alternatively, instead of making burgers for everyone, you can also change your meal plan to include those legs and thighs, making half burgers and half grilled chicken legs.  The key to shopping within a monthly budget for me is flexibility.  It means thinking outside the box.

Many months, because of what is on sale, you will notice that our meals are heavy on chicken or heavy on meals that don’t use much meat.  That is because I am shopping within my local sales, and planning accordingly.  My budget doesn’t change just because the food  I prefer to cook is not on sale.   Another trick is to shop two or three different stores, time permitting.  You can often find different items on sale different places, making it easier to round out your month with different options.

So send the kids out to play in the spring sunshine, take your notebook and recipes outside and get your lists roughed out.  If they are messy or you make a mistake and put an item on there more than once, don’t sweat it.  We will get there.  Consider sides you might like to make, treats and snacks.  You are halfway there!

Family Movie and Dinner Night and “I Love…Day” – This is How We Eat In May

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As promised today I am posting my menu plan for this month.  Now you wil notice a couple of odd things on my menu, so let me go ahead and clear those up now.  Here on the Pond we do things a little differently.  I like to surprise the Froglets with “I Love You” days.  These days are days where we focus on one member of the family and consciously do and say nice things to and for them.  I also like to make foods I know they particularly like.  These days happen roughly once a week, but sometimes they are more frequent.  On my menu plan you will see that I have them “sceduled” for Wednesdays.  That is strictly for ease of making the plan, as the days do change.

Another thing you will notice are that I have scheduled Family Movie and Dinner nights.  These nights we have a themed dinner that fits with the movie we plan to watch.  This is a new thing on the Pond, (we already do movie nights, but these will be even more fun!).  The food I have planned may not be your family’s favorites, but I encourage you to consider adopting this with your own Froglets.  (Stay Tuned for more information about these, including recipes, crafts and desserts as they happen.)

I have also included two nights of eating out, although one is Ice Cream For Dinner.  We typically go out and get ice cream when Papa Frog gets home from work, and then come home and make dinner for dessert together.  It’s a fun treat for everyone.  I was concerned when I first did it that perhaps the Froglets would not want to eat their dinner, but its a ritual here now and we have never had a problem with that.

As I mentioned yesterday, my menu planning runs from the 10th to the 10th.  I don’t remember why it started that way, but it did several years ago and that tradition continues on today.

Meal Planning May 2015

Meal Planning- This is How Mama Frog Does It (Part One)- In Which Mama Frog Chooses Recipes for the Month

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It is no secret that I have been menu planning for several years now.  I have shopped once a month for as long (minus some perishables) and have found that menu planning allows me to plan well and easily, making sure that I do not go over budget.  As the Frog Family has grown, I have increased our budget little by little, and expanded my meal planning to also include snacks, desserts, lunches (homeschooling), breakfasts and the occasional craft.  If it involves food, it goes into the menu plan.  When I first started, I was drawn to menus and shopping lists that were already made and posted on the internet.  But I soon encountered several problems with them.

1.) Most menu plans do not feed a family of 8.  They just simple do not.  Most include recipes for 4 people, or maybe 6, but they are designed to be budget friendly at that level.  Doubling them to 8 servings (or 12) was cost-prohibitive for my budget.

2.) At least half the recipes on any given meal plan were recipes I would never make- For a while we dealt with dairy free eating, I avoid processed food as much as possible, I don’t like to cook with the “cream of” soups or exclusively with the crockpot.  And then there were the recipes I would just never make.  The carrot, raisin, chicken curry recipe in one of my books comes to mind.

3.) Many meal plans rely heavily on freezer meal cooking.  There are two reasons I don’t tend to go this route, although I have certainly tried it in the past.  The first is that I (up until 2 days ago) have never had a deep freezer, and cooking meals large enough to feed my entire family was not something I found condusive to the small kitchen freezer.  Second, I like to cook.  I have the time to cook.  I do not enjoy just throwing food into the crock pot or oven every night.  So, what happened was we had several meals that would never come out of the freezer.  Now, that is not to say I don’t still double up on my favorite recipes and pop a lasagna in the freezer for an easy night’s meal.  It just means I don’t like to have 30 days worth of dinners in the freezer.

4.) Most meal plans I found, involved either repeating meals (see reason #2 that this didn’t work for me).  So, I was left with the option to either put 2-4 plans together (which left me doing MORE work than making my own plan) or I meal planned part of the month and not the rest, which led to overspending.  We like variety in our food.  There is so much wonderful food out there that I don’t want my family to be limited to meatloaf friday.  If that is what works for your family, then great.  But it didn’t work for mine. (see #6)

5.) Eating whole food and skipping out on the convenience food is only affordable for ME when I meal plan.  I can afford to buy in bulk and shop sales and feed my family well on budget.  Shopping even weekly does not offer us that same ability.  Check your store and you will see that a family sized package of meat is actually significantly less per lb than small packages.  So when I shopped weekly, I either over-used the meat or over spent on smaller packages.

6.) Meal planning is such a personal thing.  We recently moved to the Pond from Texas.  What was cheap, local and abundant food there is expensive specialty food here.  The cost of food here is twice what it was there.  I used to spend $425 a month to feed our family of 7.  Here I spend closer to $800 a month to feed a family of 8.  It is just food costs that make the difference.  We can’t eat the same menu here that we ate in Texas.  There are different fruit and vegetables available, different spices, different ethnic foods available (a great under used resource).  Potatoes were super cheap where we lived.  Here they run about 4.99 more for 10lbs – unless I stock up when the local farmers offer 50 lb bags for $10.00 on the dike.  My meal plans here will reflect those cheap potatoes, but what about the people who do not have that option or miss out on the sale?  They cannot eat the same menu on the same budget.  If I shop on a week where chicken is on sale, our monthly meals will be heavy in chicken, but for the person who shops two days after me, when the sales have changed will find that what they can buy for the same money is significantly less chicken.

My goal is to help you learn to make your own meal plans, to find recipes that your family loves, to shop and to eat on your budget.  And it is from that desire that this blog series is born.   My menu runs from the 10th to the 10th of each month.  Yours will run different.  I shop monthly.  You may find weekly, or even bi-weekly works better for you.  I keep a pretty stocked spice cupboard, you may need to stock yours.  My menus are based around my local sales flyers, so there may be some differences, but the principles are all the same.

So today lef’t talk about how you get started.  Again, this is how I do it.  There may be a better way for you to go about it.  But this method is tried and true for me.  I start with a few basic tools.

NEEDED:

Lined paper

Pen, pencil, marker etc

Cookbooks and/or Pinterest

A good solid 2 hours of time

Input from family (optional)

Store sale flyers (online or on paper)

I look at how many days are in the month, and make a list of the dates down the page.  I add in any paydays that we will likely eat out, special occasions like holidays or birthdays, and any theme days that may tie into our homeschooling schedule.  What I am typically left with are 22-26 days of emptiness.  If there are family favorites or meals that my family has been asking me to make I write them in starting with the first open space.  Throughout the month, I will have been pinning recipes that look tasty, desserts, snacks, lunches, breakfasts and dinners.  I create a board for each month so May- Meal Planning 2015 will be the board I go to this month.  Sometimes at this stage I have 120 recipes pinned.  Sometimes I have 12.  If I think of a food I want to make, I also pin placeholder recipes.  My May board may show that I want to make chicken fajitas and I may have a recipe pinned so I remember, but when it comes time to make my list, the recipe I will use actually comes out of my Mennonite cookbook.  I find over pinning is better than under pinning.  There are times, I simply do not find what I want on Pinterest.  Then I will sit down with a stack of cookbooks and a stack of paper strips and mark possible recipes.  I try to make sure there is a variety of foods.  In the past I have been guilty of very unbalanced meal plans with almost all soups and stews, or pasta dishes.

As I go through my pins/recipes, I try to keep in mind what the sales are.  I also know that making my own tortillas for example will shave 3.00 a package off my spending, so if I plan meats that are more expensive or if there are no good sales, then I try to plan in more homemade accessories.  ( I know food doesn’t really have accessories- just checking to see if I have lost you.)  I make sure that I balance heavy meat options with meatless meals, or meals in which a small amount of meat is stretched.  I double-check portion sizes and how many a recipe will feed.  I know that I can add extra veggies and sauce and pasta to a dish without necessarily having to add more meat.  I also try to plan 2-3 desserts a week (although I have staples on hand for more) and something special for weekend breakfasts.

I have also started making an additional “treat” list and shopping list, because sometimes I come in way under budget and can splurge.  Now you may be wondering why I don’t just go back to the store later.  Those of you who live in more rural areas probably already know the answer.  Let me add a disclaimer here – the area I live in is very food rich.  I can go to any local farm for farm raised meats and cheeses and dairy.  The marketplace here offers fruits and vegetables weekly at a reasonable rate.  From June-October the farmer’s market is in full swing.  And I do take advantage of all those things.  But my local grocery store is not an inexpensive place to shop for most things.  I do catch some awesome sales, but they are more a case of walking in and finding 1lb packages of organic, free range ground turkey for $1.99 while supplies last, than it is of planning.  The stores I do my monthly shopping at are 1 hour and 15 minutes away.  The more I can get cheaply there, the less I have to buy at my local grocery store and the more I can then buy supporting the local farmers.

I would much rather stock up on flour in the city and buy my raw local milk here than run out of flour and have to buy it here and have to settle for ultra pastuerized milk.  (My son with the dairy issues, handles raw dairy very well.  The processed stuff makes him sick if we use it too much).  I would rather be able to drop in on the marketplace and buy extras than to have to overspend locally on essentials.  Now, for those who are wondering, my local store is a chain, I am not passing over a mom and pop.  The fact remains, that to feed my family and stay on budget I have to plan and make choices.

Once I have the list of days completely filled in, then the next stage of menu planning starts.  Tomorrow I will post my menu list and Wednesday the 6th I will take you through step two.  In the meantime, if you are serious about menu planning, I encourage you to start your own May Foods P board.  I would love to see them linked below.