If you are on the receiving end of that question, then you are probably a home manager. One of the most important jobs a home manager has is providing nutritious meals for the family. This is an area where good planning and organization is the key to success.
A small amount of advanced planning on a consistent basis can save many busy home managers hours of time, a ton of frustration, and a fist full of dollars. Many full time home managers are excellent in the meal-planning department. A few home managers with jobs outside the home handle this task effortlessly also. Most of us fail miserably. Have you ever wondered why we need so many fast food restaurants or why the pizza delivery business is so successful? It’s to bail out the home managers who did not do any advanced planning.
Advanced planning is not planning tonight’s dinner as you drive home from work, which of course requires a stop at the grocery store where you will stand in line with all the other home managers that use this method for meal planning. This method is time consuming, energy draining and expensive. I can preach about this because I have stood in line at five-thirty in the afternoon with the best of you.
Early in my career as a home manager, I carefully examined the grocery ads and wrote out menus for the subsequent fourteen days. I would clip the coupons that I needed and would make a grocery list based on my menu plan. This process took about two hours every two weeks. At that time in my life I had the extra time and it was worth doing because it saved a lot of money. I don’t know very many people today who have two hours to devote to meal planning. That could be the reason for so much lack of planning.
In the mid-eighties, I read a series of home management books written by Pam Young and Peggy Jones. Their first book, Sidetracked Home Executives, was hilarious and packed with great information. Their second book, The Sidetracked Home Executives Catch-up on the Kitchen, changed my method of menu planning forever. Sadly, this book is no longer being printed, but it is available at the public library. In this book, Pam and Peggy give detailed instructions about how to put every menu that you would ever serve on three by five index cards, one menu per card. On the back of the card, you list all the ingredients required to prepare the meal. At meal planning time, you examine the week’s grocery ads and pull the cards that correspond with what’s on sale. To make a grocery list, you flip the cards over and make your list based on what ingredients are required that you do not have in stock. It’s very simple. I currently use my own customized version of their system. I can pull a week’s worth of menus and make a grocery list in about fifteen minutes.
There is also computer software available for planning menus. I have talked with several people who use and love this method. The important thing is for the home manager to get in the habit of using a menu planning system that fits their needs. I must admit that I do get sidetracked sometimes and fail to use my menu cards – usually in times of crisis. During these times I once again find myself planning meals as I drive to the store at dinnertime. When the crisis has passed, I can easily get back on track because I have a system in place. When using my menu system, I have an answer for “What’s for Dinner?”