An Incredibly Creative Way to Menu Plan

I’m taking a few days “off” this week to work on a book. A “real” one that will never get written if I don’t make it a priority. I love this guest post from Sara of Weekend Shakeups showcasing her inCREDibly creative take on menu planning!  (Haven’t I mentioned before how people like us are creative??!!)

“What do you want for dinner?”

 My brain initiates total shutdown. My husband’s eyes glaze over. We lamely fumble through ideas, then eat junk while our fresh food wastes away. The solution advocated by almost every blogger ever, including Nony? Menu planning. Sigh. Menu planning is great; we notice a big difference in our stress levels, budget, and food quality when we make one. But when we sit down to plan, my brain still stops working.

binder (600x450)

I try to get ideas from our recipe box and cookbooks, but there are too many options and not enough structure for me. We plan complicated dishes, then go off-menu when life happens. We make more junk…or we throw in the towel and go out to eat. I love eating out. Big restaurant menus are so pleasant to flip through, and I end up having to narrow down between several choices that all sound great. If only menu planning could be more like ordering at a restaurant.

That thought got my creative juices flowing. I found a bistro menu template and adapted it as my idea took shape. I started with our breakfast foods. For this section, I focused on reminders to add healthy and/or hearty sides to our favorite breakfasts, and I added enough detail that guests could easily figure things out.

Our recipe binder is from Costco. We love using index cards to cook because we can stick them right where we need them, and it made sense to add my menu right in.

 I moved on to some of our favorite dinner foods, changing the layout and categories as I developed my idea. I started each category with the broadest variants and ingredient lists, then added specific dishes we’ve enjoyed several times. I used my best “snooty upscale dining” voice and named each dish. My Indian American husband’s favorite veggie sandwich with ketchup, mustard, and a masala blend became the “Happy Indian.” His aunt’s signature Tex-Mex dish was re-christened “Burritochilada.” Say it out loud, giggle, and then read my description:

Burritochilada – classic burrito with an enchilada-style sauce; large flour tortilla filled with hand-mashed refried kidney bean and shredded four-cheese blend, ladled with an enchilada-style sauce of diced tomato, bell pepper, and onion and topped with a dollop of sour cream

 menu in binder (600x450)

 

Sorry for the terrible lighting. I always get crafty when it’s dark out. Burritochilada is third from the bottom on the left-hand page.

On the last page, I listed our favorite lunch foods, including sandwiches and other basics, simple dishes from other categories, freezer foods, and leftovers that reheat well. I also listed snacks, sides, and beverages that we often keep on hand. I put a copy of the lunch and breakfast pages (which snooty me called “Mid-Day Favorites” and “Day-Starters”) on the fridge as a quick reminder of all the options we have. So far, we’ve been using these pages with success, meaning we often look at it and say, “Oh yeah, I’ll have that!”

menu

I would like it if the columns were more tidy, but I care more about it being functional!

A week after I drafted my menu, I put it to the test with overnight guests. Before their visit, I emailed them a pdf of our menu, and they chose lasagna rolls for dinner and pancakes with fruit for breakfast. There was none of the usual hemming and hawing of them not wanting to ask for specific things or us worrying that they wouldn’t like our food. One of them (who loves all things organization) even called my menu “an exquisite piece of art.”

And…as I have seen Nony do so many times…the commitment of writing about something was enough of a push to actually do the thing (because it takes, like, 2 minutes). After almost 2 weeks of avoiding it, I menu-planned. I flipped around my menu—ok,  first I took time to assemble my menu by sticking the printouts in page protectors in my recipe card binder, then I started flipping—until I found inspiration. And I really did find inspiration! And I got overly ambitious, but I figure that a plan that we’ll stick to for a few days is much better than no plan at all.

menu plan (600x450)

 

What I love most about my restaurant-style menu is its flexibility. We can add new dishes or add-ons like calorie counts and per-serving prices, and we can send the whole thing to guests or copy-and-paste a few options. It’s a level of structure that works well for me: broken into categories, but still compact enough to browse quickly. And I can post the breakfast and lunch pages in pretty photo frames as daily reminders of our many options. Ok, they’re in page protectors on the fridge now, but they could be in pretty frames. (Excuse of the day for not doing a 5 minute frame project: We’re moving in a month and aren’t allowed to hang anything in this apartment.)

If you want to make your own restaurant-style menu, try starting with one category. List the foods your family eats most often, then add a few related meals you’d like to each more of. Choose a theme, then name and describe your dishes in that style. Adjust the level of detail to your needs. Do you want to remind yourself of everything to add to the grocery list or just list your favorite meals in a quick-scan format? Keep the fonts easy-to-read with plenty of white space, and add a few more dishes every time you menu-plan.

If that’s way too much structure for you, then start a running list of dishes each time you plan your week’s meals and snacks. After a few weeks, you might try to divide it into categories, starting simple (breakfast, lunch, dinner main dish, dinner side dish, snacks). Do this for a few weeks each season, and you’ll have a pretty comprehensive list of your meals.

Ultimately, make sure any menu you make is usable. I love having a digital copy, but menu planning is overwhelming for me. I avoided it until I could physically flip the pages back and forth. So even if you only have a section or two finished, print them out or do whatever you need to do to make them work for you.

 

Sara is a recovering slob whose love of organizing was usually buried under clutter. After peeling layers of stuff for over a decade, she decided to ditch the crafts and refocus her creative energy on her home and recreation. She loves low-key travel on a tight budget and shares tips and planning methods at Weekend Shakeups.

--Nony

Nony’s Home Then Vs. Now – A Guest Post from an Insider

Today, I’m sharing a guest post from a writer/actor/should-be-a-comedian friend from college. Just for a little background, I’ve mentioned him and his wife before here and here.  Oh, and I’m adding in some Amazon affiliate links. Because I can.

 

When Dana asked me (pleaded, really) to contribute a post for her site, A Slob Comes Clean, or ASCC as we “insiders” call it, I asked her what angle she would like me to take. She said she didn’t care, and that I could write about anything. However, she quickly added that she would own all rights, royalties, and editorial privileges to the piece.

She did suggest I do an exposé about my most recent visit to her house. I pondered this, but considering that Mrs. White gave me carte blanche, I decided to instead write about what’s been preeminent in my thoughts lately: whether or not to jump on the Duck Dynasty bandwagon.

I mean, what else can I or anyone else say about cleaning a house?

Just kidding about the Duck Dynasty thing. I don’t have cable.

My wife and I have known Mrs. White for many years. I always thought she was a little untidy. (Not her person but her house/apartment/dorm.) She calls herself a slob, but she’s not really a slob. She doesn’t look slobbish at all. She’s really quite pretty and dresses cutely. (I don’t know if cutely is a word, but there it is; I said it.)

Now even though Mrs. White’s person is not untidy, I must confess that in the past I’ve seen areas of her home brimming with lots of stuff: socks, magazines, random papers scattered on the floor; pictures askew on the wall; Elvis costumes hanging from lamp fixtures; theatrical memorabilia taped to and draped across her headboard; unnamable, random items of junk piled up in the corners; and so on.

Basically, certain areas of her dwelling looked as if a small, run-of-the-mill nuclear explosion had occurred.

In the past, I could’ve gone into one of these rooms of hers, picked up an armful of stuff, thrown it across the room, and she would’ve never known it. I could’ve stood on a bed or sofa and taken a swan dive into a pile of stuff and would not have been found for weeks.

But in spite of the stuff piled from here to yon, to her credit, her house is not unsanitary. The bathrooms smell of disinfectant and appear clean. She and her family all wear clean clothes. They all bathe. They’re sanitary. I think they brush and floss. Mrs. White’s husband, Mr. White, wears clean Dallas Cowboys t-shirts and deodorant.

Nowadays, however, the condition of her home is a different story. Maybe a few dishes lay on the countertops, maybe a few pieces of dirty clothing lay on the floor here and there, maybe a picture hangs slightly askew on the wall, but the place is livable. It’s a home. It’s a place a family would want to live in. Except for Mr. and Mrs. White’s bedroom, no room is off limits.

(I have peered into their bedroom before and got my hand slapped by Mrs. White. Mr. White didn’t really care I don’t think.)

Every living space is usable—not piled to high-heaven with who knows what.

Maybe your house is like hers, clean but not “perfect,” lived in but not a museum. Or maybe your house is pristine, uncluttered, and with nothing out of place. Or maybe your house is a pigpen, only navigable via tiny paths between ceiling-high piles of crap. The fact is it’s your house. It’s the place you choose to live in.

If you want to change the condition of your home, learn from the advice and stories in this Web site, and do what it says to do. Some days, you may take baby-steps; some days, you may take giant leaps. Either way, get up and do something consistently and continually. Make it the way you want it. It’s your home, for goodness’ sake!

Jim Craft Guest Writer

Jim Craft lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Amber. He serves as an editor for a nonprofit organization in the Dallas area. When not at work, he and Amber somehow manage to spend all their time serving at their church, going to school, and remodeling—and decluttering—their mid-century home. He also holds the honor of being one the funniest people of Mrs. White’s acquaintance.

 

 

Now for the shameless monetization of this guest post. Did you know you can get Duck Dynasty on Amazon? You can get to the DVDs through that link, OR some can be streamed instantly and FREE for Amazon Prime members. AND you can get a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime right now.  That means you can get free two-day shipping on many items, AND watch lots of movies and shows for free.  Join Amazon Prime – Watch Over 40,000 Movies I’ve had it before and LOVED it. You can cancel before your 30 days are up, and not be charged at all, or decide to keep it for $79/yr. (Oh, and all of these Amazon links are my affiliate links.)

--Nony

Decluttering/Organizing the Kids’ Medicines (Guest Post)

I’m glad to share a decluttering guest post today from Kristi of . . . . IShouldBeMoppingTheFloor.com.
Did you catch that? Her blog is called “I Should Be Mopping the Floor.” I met Kristi at a blogging conference, and immediately knew we’d be friends just from that blog name.  
Organizing kids’ medicines makes it easier when someone isn’t feeling well!
Hi friends! I’m Kristi from ishouldbemoppingthefloor.com. 
So delighted to be guest posting over here at one of my most favorite blogs evahhhhh…A Slob Comes Clean. Thanks bunches to Dana for having me over today.
{We met at Blissdom and she’s so super cool and fun in person, too!}
Today, I’m sharing a quick way to corral your kids’ medicines…so you’re not pulling your hair out in the middle of the night searching for the goods when someone doesn’t feel well. {Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt}.
 

Against my better judgement, I’m showing you the previous state of the medicine shelf in our kitchen cabinet {let’s keep this our little secret, k?}. There’s even the dog’s medicine up there in the top right… niiiiiice. How in the heehaw did I let it get to this? That Lazy Susan hadn’t spun in years…she had no room to move!



I pulled everything out and sorted the kids’ stuff from the adults’. Found some lovelies like in the above photo. I pitched about half of what was in the deep depths of the cabinet.

I found an inexpensive basket at my Goodwill. I like it because it was synthetic, which meant easier clean up if anything ever spills. I found some cheap plastic bowls at the dollar store and used them for smaller items like eye drops and sprays. The other has all of the little cups and syringes {we don’t use those too much anymore, but for some reason, I hang on to them}.

Then I just filled the rest of the basket with the meds. I used an old Crystal Light container to hold our thermometers; it’s double duty in that it also {somewhat} protects them from spills and such.
I also moved the kids’ meds to their bathroom now. They’re getting older, so I don’t really have to keep everything out of reach anymore {and we bid the cabinet locks farewell a few years ago, too…they grow up too fast}. I like their stuff in here so much better. When someone gets sick, chances are, we somehow end up in the bathroom {bleh}. It’s great to have this handy and close by.

 

I also put my dosing chart on the inside of the cabinet door for easy reference {I cut a few corners on cabinet painting…can you tell?!}. BTW, I’m in no way affiliated with Pedia Care, we just seem to have a lot of their stuff.  

The only reason I added this pic is because I cleaned the cabinet for you! :)
 
Would love to know how you keep your kids’ medicines organized?
 
And feel free to stop by my place anytime. 
Here’s a few of my other organizational posts that you may enjoy as well: 
 
      
 
Thank you again for having me, Dana!

 



--Nony

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