I have decided I need to start trying to write in here more regularly - I am losing interest; although I still think in terms if blog posts, and take photos for them! It is just lack of time, and the inability to chose my priorities wisely at the moment; and by the time I do sit down - the blog post and photos are so out-of-date that I can't be bothered writing it up!
Anyway - I have been doing a LOT of reading lately; on menu-planning and budgeting; as it is always the food that blows our budget out! It has been something I just haven't been able to really get a handle on, and organise myself enough with; BUT I think I have finally found a system that will work for me!
Here is what I did last week = I menu-planned for two weeks, then wrote all the ingredients down for each meal (at this stage I am keeping it simple, and just doing dinners); I then went through our cupboards and crossed off the ingredients we already had on hand, and with the remaining ingredients I wrote the start of my grocery list (then finished it off with the common staples that we were running out of). This way we only buy what we need each grocery shop (we get paid fortnightly, hence the two-week menu plan); for example - I only included two mince meals in this fortnight, so I only bought 500g of premium mince, rather than the 1-2kgs (depending if it were on special or not) that I would normally purchase - and then have to try and plan my meals around that!
Then to keep within budget - I got the cash out for our groceries for the whole fortnight, and divvied it up; so much for the supermarket, so much for Bin Inn, so much for the butchers and so much for fresh fruit and veggies. That way, when I went to each store, I took a calculator and noted everything I bought and stayed within budget - no surprises, and nothing has run out; I didn't get everything I WANTED, but I did get everything I NEEDED for the fortnight! And I still have $15 left for the final fruit splurge tomorrow... I am stoked, and hubby is beyond thrilled also; as this is the area that has caused the most conflict in the past!
I am now keeping a record of favourite meals as well - this way I can make sure to include a few each fortnight, as well as try new ones on the family! One of the articles I read also suggested asking the family to chose one meal each that they would like to eat, of course this is for families with children a little bit older than ours; but I can still include hubby in the menu planning, and Button is old enough to join in as well (she chose her own birthday meal - sausages, hot chips and veggies)!
So what I thought I would do each Monday night, is to share the current weeks worth of meals with you all, and then go through the previous week and let you know what worked and what didn't - it is a way of staying accountable (and a reason for me to continue planning), together with giving me something to write about regularly. I am hoping it also might inspire some of you out there, and possibly give me new ideas if you chose to share your meal plans with me - whether in comments, or on your blog! IF this works and I can manage to keep this up regularly enough and get enough interest - it might be worth setting up a linky; but that is way down the track, as I don't want to put that much pressure on myself at this early stage!
It is my birthday tomorrow, and I have asked for new recipe books - I am getting the Nadia Lim Good Food Cookbook from my in-laws, and have received the Petite Kitchen Cookbook from my parents! SO excited! I will also have a little bit more money from my brother and his family which will probably go towards another cookbook (which I have yet to decide on - maybe Annabel Langbein or Destitute Gourmet); and my little family will be getting me some more cooking utensils/tins and things I need! Initially I was meant to get a lovely big Kenwood food processor / blender; but things are changing here and I just can't justify that kind of expense, I can't express too much here yet, but will let you in on some of it in another post soon!
So without further ado - here is last weeks menu plan (with links in brackets to recipe if appropriate):
Saturday 31st May: Shepherds Pie with kumara topping (a very basic recipe I made up with basic ingredients on hand).
Conclusion - tasted great, everyone loved it, and will be making it again! Even the two year old ate most of his; a miracle at the moment!
Sunday 1st June: Bacon and Veggie Soup with fresh bread.
Conclusion - same as above; except the two year old just couldn't get his head around soup! And despite the four year having had soup in the past, she couldn't remember it; thus it was like a whole new meal for her! She loved it however, and requested it for lunch a few times this week (I cooked a whole crockpot full and froze a few meals afterwards)!
Monday 2nd June: Fish with tomato and capers (Healthy Food Guide)
Conclusion - we won't be making this again in a hurry; the fish didn't cook properly and it was fairly tasteless. The original recipe called for chilli powder as well, which I didn't use due to the children; so I am sure it would have tasted better had I included this. But overall a big disappointment.
Tuesday 3rd June: Devilled Sausages (Broke and Starving)
Conclusion - a family favourite, so always knew this would go down well; over cooked the rice unfortunately, so a bit mushier than usual! We have found, should you chose to use this recipe, that it is a VERY strong sauce, even for us adults - so we half the ingredients, and that seems to work well for everyone.
Wednesday 4th June: Beef Goulash (Healthy Food Guide)
Conclusion - another tasteless meal, and another disappointment. However, I did cook this in the slow cooker all day, rather than on the stove top, as I wanted soft meat. So I am wondering if that was the reason for the lack of taste... However, I am not going to give up on Beef Goulash, and will just search for another recipe - probably a specific slow-cooker one next time!
Thursday 5th June: Lemon and Honey Chicken (Broke and Starving)
Conclusion - first time I have tried this particular recipe; although very similar to a few other chicken recipes I have tried in the past. Again, 'Broke and Starving' have come up with a hit for my family, and this will definitely be cooked again! I like their recipes - worth checking out if you haven't discovered them yet!
Friday 6th June: Family Pizza and Movie Night
Conclusion - we started a new tradition just this week - Kids in the Kitchen, 'helping' with dinner, followed by a family movie as we eat! So far Button has chosen both the movies, but I think this coming week we will find a movie that 'lil M will enjoy... they loved the pizzas, and they loved the change in routine and more relaxed atmosphere.
We watched The Wiggles the first week, and Lala Loopsy the second week!
So that was our first week, and the only hiccup is that I swapped two meals around as it suited our days better, meal-prep was so much less stressful, as I knew what I was cooking, and I had the opportunity to prep in advance if I needed to (not that I have yet *grin*). Now if hubby rings and asks what is for dinner, I can answer him straight away - as with the kids! It also gives me the chance to try out new recipes with new ingredients, and new flavours on them all; as it is all planned and bought for in advance. I have preplanned right up until Friday this week, and have bought for it all as well; and as this week keeps steadily going - I will be flicking through my new cookbooks and planning for the coming fortnight! This way I am organised in advance, and have my shopping lists at the ready... I hope!
So - here is the menu for the coming week, and when I sit down next Monday; I will share my 'conclusions' on what worked and what didn't, and share the new weeks menu with you all. Of course, you won't get all the rambling with it as you have this week (although I can't really be sure of that *grin*), and hopefully as time moves on - I'll come up with a set up that is quick and easy, for each Monday evening; so even on those busier nights I can still pop in and get one up for you all!
Saturday 7th June - Lemon & Thyme Pasta (one of Meghans Recipes)
Sunday 8th June - Gluten-Free Wraps with mince & salad
Monday 9th June - Old Fashioned Fish Pie (Healthy Food Guide)
Tuesday 10th June - MY BIRTHDAY - Coconut Oil and Butter Baked Roast Chicken (Little House on the Valley)
Wednesday 11th June - Chicken Fried Rice (from the leftovers) (One Good Thing)
Thursday 12th June - Satay Meatballs (another of Meghans Recipes)
Friday 13th June - Family Pizza / Movie Night
Here's hoping for a few more well-planned weeks, and a few more regular blog posts... but as it is now almost 10pm, and I started this back during 'lil M's nap time this afternoon; I'd better head off and get a few other things done before bed!