Menu Planning

In my many years as a homemaker, I don't remember planning a menu for our everyday dish. Although I did so when I was still single because my dad ask me to, I didn't appreciate it. I  find it tedious and a waste of time to search for recipes, plot them on a menu planner and write down the needed ingredients,.

When I got married, I used a different approach. I have a master list of all the easy-to-cook recipes . I group them into five categories namely chicken, pork, beef, fish and vegetables, write the title of the cookbook and the page number.
Sample Master List

I then choose which recipe to make from the master list, take out the meat I intend to cook and place it inside the ref to defrost and write down the ingredients I needed for the week, Most supplies are already available at home. The condiments I used are very common so I just mixed and match them in different ratios. 

From my last post, "Packing Lunch Box for our Children", I mentioned that I will be preparing bento as part of my child's lunch pack. With this, I want to give menu planning a go so that I won't have a hard time preparing them in the morning. 

I still prefer using pen and paper so I printed out a weekly meal planner with bento lunch. adopted from the site JustBento and gave it a little tweak to suit my needs.  

I first store the bento recipes from JustOneCookbook to BigOven ( a kitchen tool to help us organize our recipes, grocery list and to plan our menu). Each recipe has a save button, and by clicking it, a pop up window will open and you can save the recipes there. After which I copy and paste it on my doc file for quick access.After which,I started plotting the menu on the planner and then took note of the ingredients that I needed for the week. The most common condiments use for Japanese cooking are mirin, sake, soy sauce and sugar. Others are miso, rice vinegar and panko (Japanese bread crumbs). 

In order to minimize the time spent preparing the lunch box, I save a few pieces of cooked meat we had for dinner, place it in the refrigerator if  using it the next day.and then heat it up in the oven toaster for fried food or steamer for food with liquid. If you are not going to use the cooked meat the next day, you may freeze it. It will be good for 2 to 3 weeks. For rice, I cooked them every morning and steam leftover vegetables from last night. There is more info on how to freeze food for bento here.

Even though my son has not started his school for this year, I tried planning the menu for next week (sort of a dress rehearsal)  I realize that it does saves time in the kitchen as I already have the ingredients needed for the week. It saves time and money in the supermarket  as I already listed down the ingredients and avoid impulse buying. And it stops wastage because I know that there are some leftovers in the freezer before heading out to the market. Everything is organize and the flow of kitchen work is smooth. 

Just imagine if there was no plan and you're in the middle of preparing the dish and found out  one of the main ingredient is not available at home, you would frantically search for alternatives ( if there is) in your ref and pantry.  We might just end up ordering unhealthy fast food or buy quick and easy frozen dinners.

Now, how do I make this into a habit? I was thinking that since I'm always using my netbook, I'll place Bento lunch pictures on my desktop to inspire me to work on my menu planning once a week.

Note:  Do not throw previous menu, you can use it again after 4 weeks if we don't have the time to plan. : )


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