Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to Plan A Menu--Making Meal Categories

There are literally millions of recipes out there. No wonder planning a menu can be stressful. Where do you even start?! Well, when it comes to recipes, a little organization goes a long way. By making one meal from a different food genre every day, you'll avoid repeat meals, and narrow down your choices, making the menu planning process go much faster.

Decide What Food Categories Your Family Likes.
Here are some ideas.
  • Mexican
  • Italian
  • Asian/Stir Fry
  • BBQ/Grilled
  • Casseroles
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches
  • Soups
  • Main Dish Salads
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Vegetarian
  • 30 Minute Meals
  • Slow Cooker
When I sit down to plan my menu on Saturdays, I choose 6 categories for the week. Meal 7 is leftovers for us. You choose as many categories as you plan to cook at home that week. Once I have narrowed down my categories, I look through my recipes, and find recipes that fit the categories I've chosen.

Many recipes fit into several different categories, but the more broad the category, the longer it will take you to search for recipes. (A Google search for "chicken recipes" brought up 22 million results.)

I learn best with examples, so here's the idea when you're planning...
Meal 1-Mexican (Chicken Quesadillas with Black Beans and Green Salad)
Meal 2-Casserole (Chicken and Rice Casserole with Green Beans)
Meals 3&4-30 Minute Meals (BLTs with chips and fruit; Veggie Stir Fry over Noodles)
Meal 5-Fish (Broiled Fish over Rice with Steamed Veggies)
Meal 6-BBQ (Grilled Burgers with Chips and Coleslaw)

I look through my recipe binder for recipes that fit these categories. You can check out my Recipe Page for our Family Favorite recipes. I have also found the Allrecipes Ingredient Search to be helpful when searching for a particular ingredient. Once you've learned to plan a menu using categories, instead of spending hours poring through every cookbook you own searching for inspiration, you menu planning experience will go quicker and smoother.

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