When I first announced that I wanted to plan out my menus for an entire year many thought me totally NUTS! My thought was you plan a menu every week, so why not collect all 52 menus and end up with your menus planned for the next year. The benefits of having a meal plan are numerous. These posts are about the menus I planned and how I did them.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


So now that we’ve covered the basic how-to’s let’s do some actual menu planning.  As I said I planned for ground beef for the first week.  We live on a varying schedule here on the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch and therefore most meals are “whenever” only dinner has a set time for those who are home, 5:30 pm whenever possible.  Therefore I merely list what is available for the week for breakfasts and lunches and everyone picks and chooses on those as their taste buds are tempted.  I try to stick with the dinner menu pretty closely, however, because we need the leftovers for lunches and meals later in the week.
I plan on using the following format for each menu post as I go:
I.                   Breakfast opportunities
II.                 Lunch Opportunities
III.              Dinner Menus
IV.              Snack Opportunities
Each one will be expounded on as needed below the listing.
In each one where I have included a recipe on the blog there will be a hyperlink to that recipe.  Each recipe will be categorized with the same terms so you could do a search using the search feature at the left for recipes not only by name, but by what category they fall in.  IE: Master Mix Meatballs would pop up when you searched for ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey, meatballs.  You could also search for the recipe that used the Master Mix Meatballs by name ex: Sweet ‘n Sour Meatballs. 
When a Master Mix is used in a recipe it will also hyperlink back to the Master Mix recipe if you need it.
As I mentioned before the first few weeks will be familiar to some because they were listed on my original blog, which is now dedicated to my stories, travel info and mystery shopping It can be viewed at: Mystery Shopping
Hopefully this new format will be easier to view the menus and recipes with. So let’s get started:
Hot Cereals available:
Cold Cereals available:
         Raisin Bran
Fruit available:
         Dried cherries
         Strawberries, frozen ones after the strawberry dessert is          served
Beverages available:
         Hot Tea
         Orange juice
            I had leftover French bread from the week before so I sliced it all up to make the French toast in one big batch.  What was not eaten the day I cooked it was either refrigerated or frozen to be heated quickly in the microwave, or toaster oven for a grab and go breakfast as needed.
All produce is purchased fresh on the grocery shopping day and I try very hard to only get the amount I am certain will be eaten before it becomes too ripe.  Buying in bulk is not good if the food goes to waste.  If I get a very good deal on the produce I will, however, purchase more than we need and then either can, dry or freeze the rest before it becomes too ripe for our food storage.
The mulberries were from our trees, and therefore a free fruit for the week.
Cereals, both hot and cold are either store brand, purchased in bulk or purchased on sale with a coupon to help keep the costs of them down.  I also am experimenting, with some good success on making my own “instant” versions of the hot cereals and pre-packaging them for fast getaways in the mornings.
Sandwich Ingredients:
            Peanut butter
            American Cheese, either on a sandwich with cold or grilled
Sandwich Toppings
            Miracle Whip
            A variety of mustards
            Italian Dressing
            Pickles, both sweet and dill
            Sliced peppers
            Salt and pepper
Salad Ingredients:
            Jarred Greens
            Home canned beef
            When serving sandwiches change up the breads on a regular basis to keep things from becoming boring.  An American Cheese grilled sandwich on white bread every time is quite frankly boring.  But when you serve it on rye or pumpernickel it suddenly becomes a sandwich shop sandwich and a special treat.  Also change up the cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches.  I particularly like cream cheese on raisin bread for a special treat.
Don’t forget to vary the butter or oil you use to grill the sandwich as well.  We like using garlic butter for a change, but other favorites include adding different herbs or oils to the toasting process.
The Cheddar Toasted sandwiches are a different sandwich all together, see the recipe to see how they are different.
On the subject of bologna sandwiches remember this comes in all different types and each one has its own unique taste.  I like garlic bologna, but the men in the house do not, so I only get it on rare occasions.  There are also beef bologna, classic bologna, and varieties that contain pickles, olives, and cheese.  Vary your bologna and spice up this plain Jane sandwich.
What you top a sandwich with can make all the difference in the world too.  I often use the salad making from jarred greens (simply greens that have been vacuumed sealed in a jar to prolong their freshness) in place of lettuce on a sandwich, after all many of those greens are lettuce and they add a variety of tastes to the sandwich, as will the sprouts.
Tomato soup too can be jazzed up with a variety of herbs or by dropping in croutons, crackers, leftover cooked vegetables or chunks of cheese for a different taste.
JP NOTES: When packing hot sandwiches for lunches place a paper towel in the container for them with the sandwich.  This will absorb the moisture from the heat of cooking and help to keep your sandwich from becoming soggy.
To save money on packed lunches invest in reusable containers such as the Ziploc brand instead of plastic sandwich bags.  A small square Ziploc bowl (2 cup capacity) will hold a sandwich nicely, two if they are thin.
If no microwave or refrigerator is available at work invest in a variety of sizes of thermos containers (often found at garage sales and thrift shops) as well as thermo lunch bags and ice chests for hot foods.  Rinse these containers with hot water prior to filling and they will keep hot foods hot.  Doing the same with a quick fill of ice water prior to filling cold food containers, or storing the containers in your refrigerator will help keep cold foods cold.
To cut expense and mess in a small ice chest for cold foods visit  your local dollar store and pick up blue ice blocks.  Get enough that there will always be one in the freezer while the other is in use.
Now for the biggie:
Mashed Potatoes
Black-eyed Peas
Carrot Cake
Iced Tea
The recipe for the Master Mix Meatballs uses four pounds of ground beef.  This will allow you plenty for this meal, the Sweet ‘n Sour Meatballs later in the week and to preserve the remaining for future weeks either by freezing or by canning.  I can mine because I do not have a free standing freezer.  I can them both plain and in beef broth for future use.  Please handle all food safely and preserve properly.
A triple batch of mashed potatoes is made to be used in the making of the potato salad later in the week, as well as having mashed potatoes again with the meal on day 3. 
The black-eyed peas were home canned from dried peas when I needed to finish filling my canner on a previous day.
This particular carrot cake was made from a grocery store mix that I got for just a few cents by combining a coupon with a good sale on the cake mix and frosting mix to go with it.  At other times I will make a scratch cake if there isn’t such a deal going on.
I made a large batch of the dinner roll mixture, but froze part of the dough in balls to use later in the week to have fresh dinner rolls again.
Pinto beans and ham
Carrot Cake
Milk or iced tea
The pinto beans were cooked as per package directions and I seasoned them with a ham bone that I had froze for future use from the Christmas ham.
I cooked an extra large batch of beans to use in future meals and to home can for quick grab and run meals.
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Baked Apples
Iced Tea
The brown gravy is made from one of the Master Mix recipes.  The mashed potatoes and dinner rolls are leftovers from the mega batch earlier in the week.
Smoked roast
Corn on the cob
French Fries
Black eyed peas
Garlic bread
Carrot Cake
One of the problems one can run into in the beginning is that on the first week you might not have the leftovers I had to incorporate into the meal plan.  In this cake I had smoked roast and French bread both leftover that needed to be used before they ruined.  If you do not have these cruise your fridge, freezer and pantry.  What leftovers could you turn into a good meal on this day?
Egg rolls
Ham Fried Rice
Steamed rice, make a big batch for use in future meals
Almondshortbread cookies with strawberries
The Sweet ‘n Sour Meatballs are made with the Meatball Master Mix from day 1 of this week.  I used frozen cooked rice and home canned ham leftover from the Christmas ham, along with eggs from our chickens to to make the Ham fried rice.  The strawberries are the frozen ones mentioned in the breakfast menus.  This was purchased on sale and kept frozen until I thawed them the day of the meal.  You could also freeze your own strawberries if you have a good source for them.
BBQ smoked sausage
Cole slaw, make double batch for later in the week
Macaroni and cheese, purchased on sale
Iced tea
Lemon Bars
Again we run into first week troubles.  I purchased the smoke sausage in bulk from Sam’s Club and frozen it in meal size portions a couple of weeks prior to setting up this menu.
The bar-b-q sauce was some I made and canned last summer.  
As noted in the menu above make a double batch of the cole slaw because it always improves with age and it will appear again the first of next week.
I confess we LIKE the blue box Mac ‘n Cheese and it will appear a lot over the next year.  I purchase it either in bulk at Sam’s Club or on sale with a coupon whenever possible.
Bean burritos
Mexican Rice
The burritos are made by making refried beans out of leftover pinto beans from earlier in the week.
I basically stir fried some of the leftover rice from earlier in the week with chili seasoning and cumin to taste to make the rice.
   Carrot Cake
            Almond Shortbread cookies
            Lemon Bars
            Fruit Cups
            If someone snacks hard on some of the sweets then you may need to adjust your scheduled desserts for later in the week.
I hope this helps you in your first week of the year, no matter what month you start in.
Jan who is hoping to stick with this plan for a full year in OK


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