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Experimenting with a Two-Week Menu Plan

Mpm-1 

I'm changing things up around here a little in order to strive for more efficiency. Not only am I experimenting with doing much of my cooking ahead, but I'm also trying my hand at planning two-week menus instead of one-week menus.

Kate, from Stolen Moments Menu Planning, asked if she could make a sample month-long menu plan for me to try out and review so I'm basing much of this two-week menu plan off of that. But I'm also adding in things I already have cooked up in the freezer and other items I have on hand which need to be used up.

I printed this Two-Week Menu Plan Template here and jotted down the full menu. However, since I don't like to be completely "boxed in" when it comes to menu plans, I wrote it in pencil! I'm going to do my best to stick with what's written here, but I'm sure there will be some adaptations as I go along.

I'm also going to be making some cookie dough and baking mixes to freeze this week. I'm finding that cooking ahead is benefiting me so much, I'm looking for other ways to maximize my efficiency in the kitchen. If my efforts turn out satisfactorily, I'll be blogging about them later on this week.

By the way, if you have any great Baking Mix recipes, I'd love to have the links or recipes. I've never done something like this before so I haven't a clue what I'm doing. But I might as well jump in and try, right?

Here's the plan:

Week 1 Breakfasts:
Sunshine Toast, apples, orange juice
Blueberry Banana Smoothies
Pumpkin Waffles, apples, orange juice
Southwest Scramble (scrambled eggs with hashbrowns, cheese, peppers, onions, and tomatoes), fruit, orange juice
Cereal x 2
Blueberry Coffee Cake, orange juice

Week 1 Lunches:
Cheese quesadillas, spinach
Homemade mac & cheese, applesauce
Baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese
Egg salad sandwiches, carrot sticks
PB&J sandwiches, applesauce
Leftovers
Bean and Cheese Burritos

Week 1 Dinners:
Chicken Tetrazinni, homemade applesauce, peas
Dinner at Grandma's house
Ziti, homemade bread, green beans
Turkey Sausage Corn & Broccoli Bake, fruit, banana bread
Homemade Barbecue Chicken Pizza, fruit, chocolate chip cookies
Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore over noodles, fruit, homemade bread
Leftovers

Week 2 Breakfasts:
Peanut Butter Toast, fruit, orange juice
Yogurt, Fruit, and Granola Parfaits
Mini Blinis, fruit, orange juice
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal (without pecans), fruit
Cereal x 2
French Toast, fruit, orange juice

Week 2 Lunches:
PB&J, carrots
Homemade mac & cheese, peas
Egg salad sandwiches, carrot sticks
Cheese quesadillas, fruit
Lunch at Grandma's house
Leftovers
Cheesy Rice and Broccoli

Week 2 Dinners:
Country Breakfast Pot Pie, fruit
Ziti, homemade bread, green beans
Chicken Tetrazinni, applesauce, carrot sticks
Hamburger Vegetable Soup, homemade bread, cheese, apples
Homemade Barbecue Chicken Pizza, fruit, chocolate chip cookies
Dinner out
Leftovers

Snacks
Apples
Carrot sticks
Homemade Bread
Homemade hot chocolate
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Apple Pie
Applesauce
Cheese and crackers
Banana Bread
Chocolate Chip Cookies

See more menus for this week over at Organizing Junkie.

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36 Comments

  • Beth says:

    I bake cookie dough ahead all the time, I have found this method for freezing to be the easiest! http://recipesdealsetc.blogspot.com/2009/04/notebook-experiment-freezing-cookies.html

    My favorites to freeze are shortbread and your peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I’m also doing a cooking ahead plan. I’m on week 8 here are the majority of meals I made http://recipesdealsetc.blogspot.com/2009/07/do-you-have-recipes-that-freeze-well.html I have book marked some of your recipes for the next time I have a cook ahead day.

  • Stephanie says:

    I was curious what your husband does for lunch when he is not able to get freebie sandwiches from coupons. When you list lunches that you have, is that what he has also? If so how does it get prepared/when? Does he have access to a fridge and microwave?

    *****************
    Money Saving Mom here: My husband’s lunches change from week to week. Recently, he’s been eating lots of Ted’s Montana Grill and QT (with the freebie coupons). 🙂 I pack him lunches most days that there is not freebie coupon, unless he has a business lunch. Since he’s self-employed and has a flexible schedule, sometimes he comes home for lunch, too. When I pack him a lunch, it’s usually some combination of: leftovers, sandwiches, muffins (esp. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins or Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins), crackers/cheese, granola bars, protein bars, fruit, veggies, cookies, etc. Just a plethora of whatever we have on hand.

    He used to be terribly particular, but he gave that up when he went through law school and we were on a beans-and-rice budget. We both made a lot of sacrifices in order to stay out of debt and we both learned to just be grateful for whatever food we were able to afford–even if it were really simple fare. So now he’s extremely easy to please. 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    That funny that you mention making cookies. I want to bake some this week. But when I went to the store, they want 3.50 for the little bag and there is no way Im spending that much when I have most of the stuff at home to bake them. I just need a good recipe.

  • april says:

    I recently checked out Make A Mix from the library and although I haven’t fully looked through it, it has several mixes and recipes included as to what to use them in.

  • Debby says:

    Crystal I also like to bake ahead and have found the best way for me to save time on baking day is to have all the dry ingredients measured out and put in marked baggies. Measuring dry ingredients makes such a mess with flour and spilled sugar all over that I’d rather measure out the mess makers ahead of time. Say I want to make four recipes of pumpkin bread. I line up four mixing bowls with gallon ziploc bags placed inside and the tops rolled over the edge of the bowl. Then I go down the row adding first all the flour, the soda and salt and all the spices. Because the sugars for this recipe are incorporated at a different time, I make the same number of smaller ziploc bags containing the sugars. Then I put the smaller bag inside the larger bag and store them on a pantry shelf until I am ready to bake. Then on baking day, it is easy as pie to combine the wet and dry ingredients befor ethe oven is even heated up all the way. Best of all, it is only one clean up!

  • Cassie says:

    Great menu plan! I find that I always struggle with breakfast and lunch ideas and I love some of yours (peanut butter & jelly sandwhiches – which I’m going to make right now, and southwest scramble)! Thank you for posting this so we can all get ideas and learn from others. That way our menus will never be boring!

  • Maggie says:

    We usually do a 2 week menu plan too. It cuts down even more on grocery store runs. If I’m having an “off week” where things just aren’t working and I can’t think that far ahead, I’ll just plan one week.

  • Lynn says:

    Here is my favorite mix to keep on hand and it is a home made brownie mix. I make a bunch of it up in jars and keep it on hand. Great to have when you need a quick dessert.

    http://www.lynnskitchenadventures.com/2008/09/homemade-brownie-mix.html

  • Lynn says:

    Oh and I am glad you liked the banana muffins, I just realized that was my recipe you linked to. Thanks. I tried them with choc chips after you and Life As Mom tweeted about it and my family loves them that way.

  • Planning my menu for two weeks at a time keeps me sane. My children don’t enjoy grocery shopping days, so if I only have to take them there twice a month rather than four times, I find it worth it. Sometimes I will plan a similar menu for two weeks in a row, and double recipes for the freezer. (EX. I generally have pasta night on Mondays. If I am making stuffed shells, I double the recipe, and put it in two different pans. I freeze one for the next Monday.I do just a bit more work and I reap another night off.) Blessings!

  • Jenn says:

    I love using the Amish Friendship Bread starter to make all kinds of breads and desserts. It can get crazy…I ended up with over 30 bags of starter and 20-some loaves of dessert bread one weekend!!! But there was a family wedding in town so almost all the loaves were eaten that weekend. I threw the starters in my freezer and have started pulling them out to make different things. I still like the original recipe best. But it can be made into a bunt cake (or even mini cakes if you have a pan), loaves, all sorts of things. I’ve grabbed a bunch of pudding mixes when they’re on sale and try each one. Just recently I made mini-bunt cakes in the chocolate w/ caramel chips and drizzled chocolate syrup over them. MMMMMM! 🙂 The worst part is you have to plan ahead since it takes 10 days before you can bake. There are hundreds of recipes online–for everything from bread to pancakes and biscuits. Versatile!

  • Krissy says:

    You are inspiring me to do some menu planning. I know it would benefit my family since I do alot of coupon and bulk shopping, but I have put it off until now. Thanks for blogging about this and motivating others.

  • Beth says:

    I think that planning a couple of weeks ahead is a great idea. In fact, at the moment, I actually have 6 weeks planned out- I got excited with some ideas for fall and got a little ahead of myself.

    For me, planning menus a couple weeks ahead was actually the change that it took for me to achieve our grocery saving goal. By doing this, it made me more mindful of what was in the freezer/pantry, and helped me to remember what to keep an eye out for on sale each week. Saving on ALL the ingredients in a recipe, rather than just the primary ingredients really added up. I definitely think that we are less wasteful this way too, because I just roll the leftovers or extra ingredients into later recipes, rather than sticking them in the freezer and forgetting about them.

    Obviously, you can achieve this mindfulness in other ways, but for me it really helped.

    Each week, if there is a meal we don’t eat, I just erase it, and move it to the end of the list, or swap it for another meal.

  • Katherine says:

    Starting Jan 01 of 2009 I made a chart similar to the one your using and I have recorded everything we’ve eaten for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. Much of my meny planning is based on sales and cooking extra for another meal later on in the week. On the side I made note of what type of week it was – busy, daddy out of town, home all week, etc. – and what type of bulk sales there were.

    I put them in a binder and now if I am at a loss for ideas, have a particular schedule for the week, or something is on sale, I already have my week pretty well planned out by selecting a week from the past. I also like doing this because I am sure that my family will like everything on the list. I also write my chart in pencil.

  • Kim Choney says:

    I’d love it if someone could answer this question – when making food ahead, lets say a casserole, or a lasagna or something, do you freeze it assembled but uncooked, and take it out and bake it – or do you bake it first, then thaw and warm up? And either way, do you thaw first or cook from frozen? Thanks ladies!!!!

  • Kristina says:

    Kim, I am glad you asked that question… I was wondering that myself…

  • Abbie says:

    I didn’t know you can freeze the starter from Amish Friendship Bread! Can someone tell me how that works?
    Thanks!

  • Mandi Harris says:

    How do you warm up your waffles that you prepare/freeze? Don’t they become soggy?

  • Org Junkie says:

    Sounds like a delicious two weeks you’ve got planned. I’d like to experiment with some baking mixes too.

    Laura

  • Erika says:

    When cooking to freeze ahead, I’ve done both the assembled but not cooked version and the “cooked and then reheated” versions. If I assemble and THEN cook later I always cook from frozen (thus stopping things from turning to mush) and if I cook it ahead and then reheat it I usually defrost for a little bit on the counter, then in the microwave and then finish it in the oven (if I space thawing it out in the fridge). I find that if you cook and then reheat, thawing stops the food from getting dry as you wait for it to heat up again. Just thought I’d pass along my personal habits.

    I make my own bisquick all the time (so cheap and easy). My recipe (that I got off of a local nutritionalist’s handouts) are here…

    http://alaskanbargainhunter.blogspot.com/2009/08/frugal-freedom-make-your-own-bisquick.html

    It also explains how to make cake and other things out of bisquick (you can also google “Bisquick recipes” and will be truly amazed what you can make with the stuff :-).

  • Karilee says:

    A great book for make ahead baking mixes and other make ahead ideas is Make a Mix Cookery. I have an old copy, but there is a new edition (just called “Make A Mix” of it available on Amazon. Maybe you’ve got a Amazon card courtesy of Swagbucks that’ll score you a free/no out of pocket $ copy?!!
    http://www.amazon.com/Make-Mix-Karine-Eliason/dp/0762426020/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1255983243&sr=8-3

  • Christine says:

    Sounds great — set the table for four more as we are on our way over!

  • Maggie says:

    I love meal planning, I did a lot of it right after we had our son, my husband was working and so was I. The best part was, whoever got home first knew what was for dinner!

  • Alea Wassmuth says:

    I use the same baking mix as Beth – it’s very simple and really just as fast as canned biscuits (and so much cheaper!) I keep it in a ziplock in the freezer and just scoop out a couple cups to mix with milk (and sometimes shredded cheese) for biscuits.

    I also have a muffin mix that I love:
    3 C whole wheat flour
    3C white flour
    1 1/4 C sugar
    3 T baking powder
    1/2 t salt
    Mix together and keep in ziplock.
    When you’re ready to make muffins:
    2 1/2 C dry mix
    1 C milk
    1/3 C oil
    1 large egg, slightly beaten
    Heat oven to 400. Put dry mix in bowl. Mix liquids in measuring cup, add to dry mix, stir until moistened. Add a cup of whatever you’d like: blueberries, chopped apple, mashed banana, etc.
    Put in lined muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes.
    They’re super fast to make once you have the mix done.

  • Mom24inpa says:

    Here is a recipe I have used for about 3 years now and have really enjoyed using it in place of the Bisquick:
    3 c whole wheat flour
    7 c flour (I recently used sprouted spelt and we loved it)
    6 Tbsp. baking powder
    1 1/2 Tbsp. salt (I have decreased this to 1 1/2 tsp)
    1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
    1/4 c sugar
    2 c shortening (I have used butter)
    2 c instant nonfat dry milk

    Mix first 6 ingred. Use pastry cutter to cut in shortening until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal. Gently stir in the dry mild. store in air tight container in cool place or freezer if using butter. Use in any recipe as you would the store mix. Have fun and thank you for all the freebie offers and being an example of using your resources wisely. Have a blessed day.

  • LANA says:

    Thanks for the menu ideas. I often get caught in that food rut where I seem to be making the same foods over over. Lunches and breakfasts are the easiest, but supper just seems to be so tough!

  • Rachel says:

    This is my second month of doing two week menu plans, and I cannot tell you how much it has simplified my life. Before, I was going through all the sales each week, driving and spending time at the grocery and then doing it again the next week. I wanted more simplicity, so I now plan for two weeks at a time based on that week’s sales. This has saved me about 2-3 hours of work since my time spent menu planning and shopping is now consolidated. Not to mention the gas savings too! Definitely the way to go in my opinion.

    Oh, and less trips to the grocery store means less impulse buys which means you save even more money!

  • Rochele says:

    Hey Crystal I was wondering where you get your tortilla shells from since you do a lot of burritos and that southwest chicken wrap, I find them expensive but if you have a secret I would love to know it…THanks Rochele

  • (some how a whole bunch of my post didn’t publish!! Here is the rest of it, for some reason It was saved on my computer!)

    From my recipe blog:

    http://honeydinnersready.blogspot.com/2008/11/breakfast-burrito.html

    — that is a recipe for a breakfast burrito and we LOVE it! The best part about it is the recipe is so flexible, you can add whatever you have on hand or whatever sounds good to you! 🙂 We use to keep them in our freezer all the time (every few weeks make a large batch of them up) but we haven’t in a while – I need to do it again!

    http://honeydinnersready.blogspot.com/2008/05/cinnamon-rolls.html

    — those are my favorite cinnamon rolls. I cooked them and then put them (un-iced) in the freezer, individually wrapped. It worked really well and it was a delicious treat without much work! (And knowing I could freeze them meant that we didn’t have to eat them all right away!)

    http://honeydinnersready.blogspot.com/2008/03/healthy-oatmeal-raisin-cookies.html
    Oatmeal Raisin cookies – with whole wheat flour and honey. Yummy and easily freezable.

    One thing we did last year as gifts for people was make up spice mixes that the recipient would then add to sour cream/mayo to make a dip out of. It was SO inexpensive to make (and yet fairs sell them for about $4/pack). I made up cute labels on my computer and the people who got them raved about them. It’s not a freezer item but it was a mix of sorts 🙂

    Our oven is being installed TOMORROW MORNING!! So I’ll finally be able to start baking again!! 🙂

  • Katharine says:

    I always enjoy reading your blog, so hopefully I can help you out this time!

    This is one of my favorite sites, I’ll direct you right to a page with all her convenience foods. her side-dishes are mostly make-ahead mixes, and there are other mixes listed on that page as well.

    http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/homemadeconveniencefoods.htm

    there is also a ‘make a mix’ cookbook by karine eliason.

  • This is such an awesome idea. Although, I don’t think I could plan do a two week menu. I do good with my weekly menu plan. I should try this at least once to see how I do. Thanks for the post.

  • laura says:

    I like to make a batch of cookie dough, roll it into balls, freeze them on a cookie sheet, and then store them in a ziploc. You can pull out however many you need and they taste fresh.

  • Jonica says:

    I make alot of dough for bread and let it rise once shape and freeze on cookie sheet then put it in baggies. Then take it out and arrange on cookie sheet or baking dish and cover with towel and let unthaw and rise. I do this with all bread. I make some extra for the freezer for that time when I just do not feel like making bread. Also there is a book out that will help called “Artisan bread in five minutes a day” This has really made a difference in our house. Even my husband can take the dough out of the fridge and shape it and let it rise and put it in the oven.

  • Dawn says:

    Crystal, You are a woman after my own heart – cooking from scratch. (smile). I have our family blog at triglife.blogspot.com. In there I have a folders for “Bread Machine Recipes”, “Make Ahead Spices and Sauce Mixes”, and “Premixed Breads”. You are welcome to take a look. Blessings!

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