I would be lost without a menu plan. I have become so used to making one that the few times I have gone to the grocery store without one I wandered around having no idea what to buy! So every week I plan out the meals we will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, make a list of the baking I will do, and then create the grocery list based on what we need. I take advantage of sale items whenever I can by planning the menu around those items, as well as what is in the freezer or what is local and in season.
To make this easier I have always kept a list of the different meals I have cooked and what cookbook they can be found in. When I try new recipes they only get recorded if both of us enjoy them and would eat them again. Then when it comes time to make the menu, I just scan the list and slot in the meals. After I have planned the main meals I try to plan lunches around leftovers or similar ingredients to make the most of what we buy at the store.
This has worked well for me for several years, but my loose-leaf list of menu items has become too long to easily scan, the holes have ripped away so it keeps falling out of the binder, and as I have moved to cooking with local and seasonal produce, many of the meals listed have become obsolete in my cooking repertoire.
Enter…..the menu planning book! In its humble beginnings it looked like this:
Just a simple book from the dollar store with sticky-note tabs separating the different sections. But things are more fun to use when they are dressed up a bit, so I decided to give my book a little makeover:
It has three main sections. Spring/Summer is for meals based around frozen produce from last year’s garden that may be in the freezer, as well as items that pop up in the garden or markets early in the year (like fiddleheads – yum!). The Fall/Winter section makes the most of garden produce, as well as good winter keepers such as potatoes, carrots, apples, squash, etc. Anything that can be made all year round fits in the all-season section. I did consider creating one section for each season, but this seemed too limiting to me. I also included baking sections for each seasonal section, as many quick-bread, muffin and dessert recipes I make are based around seasonal produce as well.
Filling each page is easy – I just list the name of the meal and then follow it with the title of the cookbook where it can be found (or the colour of binder for printed recipes) and the page number.
For very little money this has made my menu planning easy, peasy!
Here’s a quick tutorial on how I prettied-up my menu planner.
You need: a notebook, a piece of scrapbook paper, Mod Podge and a foam brush.
If you want to divide your book into sections you will also need some self-stick tabs. Write the titles on each of the tabs and stick them onto the appropriate pages.
Then measure the length and width (minus the spiral binding) of your front cover.
Turn your paper over so the back is facing up. Using a ruler, measure out the length of your notebook and then make a mark a few millimeters smaller (you want your paper slightly smaller than the cover so that the edges will not get ruffled with use.)
You do not need paper with guidelines, this piece just happened to have them.
Do the same with the width measurement, again making it slightly smaller.
Use these marks as guidelines to cut your paper using a paper-cutter. If you don’t have a paper-cutter (I don’t!) and your paper is not gridded like mine, use your ruler to draw out the shape of the rectangle before you cut to keep your lines straight.
Lay your cut out paper on top of your notebook and trim if necessary. I clipped my corners a bit too.
Cover the back of your rectangle with Mod Podge, being sure to spread the glue right across the edges.
Stick your paper firmly on top of your book, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go.
For extra durability you can also spread another layer of Mod Podge on top. Be sure to place a piece of paper under the cover when you do this so you don’t accidently get glue on your book pages!
Place a label on the front of your book and you’re done!
Now you can plan your menus in style!
Ok, so literally a day after I post this my beautiful paper cover fell off of my book! I think perhaps it was because the paper I used was thick, like card stock? I’ve done this technique a bunch of times with other books and regular paper and never had a problem. Anyway, I needed another way to attach my paper, so here is option number two:
You need clear contact paper, your notebook, and your pretty paper. Cut the contact paper larger than your notebook and carefully lay it over the paper and notebook.
Smooth it out with your fingers then flip open the cover.
Cut a rectangle out at each corner.
Fold over your edges and press firmly.