A Little Bit Goes A Long Way

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Gretchen's Menu Planning

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Colossians 3:23

By: Gretchen Speer

Whether you are a mom of one or seventeen, you have probably already come to the realization that organization is your friend.  Even if you are not naturally gifted in this area, just puting a few things into practice can help you out big time.  Today I’m going to start a series on meal planning.  If you are already breaking out into a sweat at the thought of it, let me promise you, you will be able to do this.  It will save you time, money and much stress and frustration.  If you are like me and still trying to shed some baby weight, this will be of much help in planning healthy meals.

Before you start gather these things:

  •  Updated Calendar-  You need to have all your appointments, practices…everything on this calendar.  What you have going on that day will determine what kind of meal you will have the time and energy to fix.
  • Meals List-  This is a list of all the meals that you have made in the past that you want to continue to have.  I took my list a step further and separated it into categories on a spread sheet.  (ex: favorites, healthy, kids faves, crock pot…).  If you wanted to take it another step further you could have your husband pick his top five meals.  My husband really enjoyed picking his!
  • A Calender or computer for you to create your menu on- If you don’t like to be on the computer a lot I suggest having a calendar dedicated to the meal planning.  You could hang it in the kitchen for a quick reference.  I like making a spread sheet most of the time, because it keeps everything neat and organized.  Excel even has specific templates already made for menu planning.  For the last few weeks, I have just printed the blank templates out and hand written my menus on them.

Top 10 Tips for Menu Planning Success:

1) Check your calender as you are planning.  Think about what you have planned for that day.  I like to do crock pot meals after church and toasted sub sandwiches on busy days.

2) Consider having theme nights if you are struggling with menu ideas.  I really like theme nights.  Make Monday your mexican nights and pick from tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and chicken tortilla soup.  Tuesdays could be Italian night, you get the picture.  Meatless Monday is also a popular theme right now.

3) Consider the weather.  Who doesn’t love chili on a cold day?  If it’s going to be raining, I know my husband won’t want to grill, and if it’s in the 100’s, I don’t use my oven.

4) Make a Note.  If you are going to have guests make sure that you make a note on your menu.  This will be helpful with your grocery list.  Also, I have a few meals that I always double the recipe and freeze half.  If I don’t make a note on my menu, I always forget to buy extra meat-so frustrating!

5) Consider planning breakfasts and lunches too.  This is another suggestion that is important for your grocery list.  Planning a play date, wanting to do a big breakfast on Saturday morning?  Write it down!

6) List everything you plan on making.  I have found that if I don’t list side dishes on my menu, I don’t think about what we are having until we are about to sit down to eat.  When am meal planning, I try to put everything I plan to make for each meal.  (example:  Meatloaf, Sweet Potato Fries, Peas)

7) Keep it in the kitchen.  Whether you use a calendar, a spreadsheet or a post it note, make sure to put your menu in the kitchen.  I like to put mine on the refrigerator, because it is in my direct line of vision several times a day.

8 ) Check it.  First thing in the morning, check the menu to see if what meat you need to thaw out.  I try to do some of the prep work through out the day, because dinner time at our house is pretty chaotic.

9) Cut down on the work.  If you have 5 meals that require a pound of ground beef, then cook it all at once and freeze the rest for later.  Make two meatloaves and freeze one for the next time you put it on your list.  Chop onions and peppers for the next few days.  (Put them in a tupperware container with a damp papertowell over them).

10) Stick to it!  Don’t let all your hard work or your groceries go to waste!  If something does come up and you don’t end up making one of the meals, highlight it so you remember that you still have the groceries to make it.  Try to work it in to your next menu if you can.

Am I suggesting you go through every single one of these steps every time you plan your menu?  No, but if you are really serious about sticking to the menu try these out.  They will help!  Some of it may seem a little overboard, but all the extra planning will help you out when preparing a grocery list-which I will be posting about on Friday.  Happy Planning!

Also see: Gretchen’s Menus and Grocery Shopping





Gretchen’s Menus

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Gretchen's Menu Planning

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”  Psalm 90:14 (NIV)

Here is my menu plan for the rest of this month, and also the blank template that I talked about.  Jennifer put them both in pdf format for those of you that do not like to use excel.  Happy Planning! If you have any questions feel free to comment on here or our facebook page.

Example of Gretchen’s Family Meals October- Excel

Example of Gretchen’s Family Meals October- PDF

Blank Family Menu Planner- Excel

Blank Family Menu Planner- PDF

Related Articles: A Little Bit Goes A Long Way and Grocery Shopping


Grocery Shopping

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Gretchen's Menu Planning

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways.  You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.”   Psalms 128:1-2

By: Gretchen Speer

I hate getting home from the store only to realize that I have forgotten to get something-especially if it’s something we are going to need the next day.  This has happened to me enough that I now take my grocery list very seriously.  I am posting my personal list from excel today.  I do all my shopping at two stores, but if you have more than a couple of stores you shop at consider making a list for each store.   My personal list is designed around how I walk through the store’s, I’m all about efficiency!

6 Tips for Grocery List Success:

1) Go through your menu and count how much you need of each item.  I usually start with meat, then produce, and then side items.  (Example: 9lbs ground beef, 2 bags chicken breasts, 2lbs ground turkey, 2 zucchini, 2 squash, 2 red onion…..)

2) Check the Pantry.  Don’t leave something off of the list because you are pretty sure you have it.  Find it and make sure you have enough for the recipe.  I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to grab the bread crumbs, just to find that the container is almost empty.

3) Check your calendar.  Look to see if it’s your kids turn to bring snacks to school, or if you have signed up to bring snacks to bible study.  Were you planning to host a playdate or take a neighbor a special snack?  Spare yourself an extra trip to the store and put those items down on your list now.

4) Double check.  I don’t suggest doing this at the last-minute, because you want to really be able to take a minute and make sure you have considered everything.  Remember the point of this whole process is to save you time and money, but it won’t work unless you really make sure that everything you need is on your list.  This would also be the time to look through your coupons and pick only the ones you need for your list.(well, and maybe that coupon for the dove chocolates, you might need that one..)

5) Stick to the List.  I am tempted all the time to change my menu once I get to the store, but any time I’ve done that I will end up short of something I need.  Also, in the interest of saving money, stick to what you have put on your list.  Remember, you have already carefully considered what you need on this trip.

6) Have a quick list.  For quick trips to the store in-between your big shopping trips you might want to create a must haves list, and keep it in your purse.  This is a list of things that your family uses everyday and running out can send you running to the store.  Even if I’m just going to pick up a prescription, I still grab most of these items while I’m there.  I never waste a trip to the store!  Here is our family’s must haves:

Skim Milk, Apple Juice, whole wheat bread, cottage cheese, eggs,waffles, fresh produce, diapers,  and wipes

I hope all this has been helpful.  The important thing is to do what works for your family.  Whatever that is, a little bit of organization goes a long way!

Gretchen’s Grocery List- PDF

Gretchen’s Grocery List- Excel

Related Articles:  A Little Bit Goes A Long Way and Gretchen’s Menus



Chore Charts/Menu Planning Take Two

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Gretchen's Menu Planning

Entrust your efforts to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3 (GW)

By: Gretchen Speer

Is it just me or is time FLYING by these days!  We moved into a new house last fall.  (For a funny little story about settling in click here🙂 )  While I have had time to get us unpacked and somewhat settled, we are still a little out of whack where our routines are concerned.  After months of chasing my tail trying to keep our house clean it finally dawned on me that I had not done new chore charts for the kids since the summer.  I knew I wanted to try something a little different that I had done before, and after looking through my office this is what I came up with:

182Frames I found on clearance at hobby lobby for $2.99 a piece, card stock, stickers from the dollar isle at target, dry erase markers, and of course, a sharpie.

These came together in just a few minutes since I knew what chores I wanted each kid to have.  For some ideas on what chores work best for what aged, and how to implement them here is my chore charts post from last year.






Since I had four of these frames I decided to make a menu board too.(Eventually my littlest will need one, but not yet!)  My kids, and my husband,  are always asking me what’s for supper.  It drives me a little bit crazy, so I was hoping this would remedy that.  For the most part they refer to the menu board now, and if they ask me I just point to it:)  I still like to plan my menus two weeks to a month at a time, but I do like having this weekly one up to remind me daily what I’m fixing.

180For some more detailed help on menu planning and grocery shopping, click here.  For a more in-depth menu planner click here.

If you are wanting a quick easy chore chart and menu board these are definitely worth a try.  My kids have done really well with them.  Actually, they have done better with these than they did with the ones I was making before.  I think simple is better for now. 🙂