Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Menu board revisited and prepping our grocery list

We are over three months in with this menu board of ours and its still in pretty good shape.  There are a few small wrinkles from the tossing around we do with it but all in all, its doing a great job for us. 

A fellow blog reader named Juliet inquired on the last post about the menu board with a few grocery list questions and I'm going to try to do my best to explain our process of "organization" thus far. 

Heres a closer look at the menu board.  The board itself didn't take very long to complete (minus my desire to include little doodles)... but in terms of the recipe cards... well, we'll get into the cards further down below:
As for the little decorative drawings, well that was just for the sake of adding a bit of color and fun.  If you dont have the time, patience nor desire, then skip it altogether.   I've looked at a lot of ideas out in the blogosphere for menu boards and as much as I love the idea of dry erase boards, chalkboards, magnetic boards and even post-it notes, I needed the index cards to write the recipes on the back of.  

Because these were all new-to-us recipes featuring the dishes in the SASS Yourself Slim book, I needed the advantage of the double sides to jot down the ingredients and directions.  Post-its and erasable boards would be great if all you need to write is the name of the dish and slap it on the board.  We needed something I could physically take off the board and reuse constantly...

Heres a sample of what our cards look like:
All of the cards are housed in a little cheapie recipe box I picked up from Michaels.  Since the lunch and dinner recipes are one in the same and interchangeable, we only needed three dividers:  Breakfast - Lunch/Dinner - Snacks.  

You'll note in the book that breakfasts and snacks are also interchangeable but since they are separately written in the book, we separated them too.  If you notice the circled numbers on our cards, our original idea was to number the cards and the book recipes accordingly so we could refer back to them but after thinking about it, the smarter and easier thing to do was to simply write the page number of the book on the card.

As we've been expanding our recipe searches via cookbooks and internet searches, we now also write down which website or cookbook the newer recipes are from.  Just in case we want to refer back to them for any missed details.

And yes, each recipe card was and will continue being handwritten.   I know there are programs out there with templates for recipes but I thought writing each and every one of them would help remind me which foods fall under which categories in terms of the "5-piece puzzle" the book refers to.

It also helped imbed in my brain what a serving size of each food is.  It's not rocket science but my head has a tendency to retain only the things it wants to.  Its a very lazy little head.   That said, it took weeks for us to get the recipes written out because I was only willing to do them little by litte.

Each card had a recipe title on it but not all of them had the recipes written on the back.  Every weekend I would sit and write out a few more cards at a time until finally they were all complete. An overwhelming task indeed but one that Im grateful for doing.

Lastly, you might also note that we have "star" ratings on the cards.  That was more for our the benefit of future references. We wanted to mark each recipe that we tried somehow so we could keep each week fresh and new.  We also knew it was going to be hard to keep mental track of which recipes we liked and which we didnt.   Each dish we tried was given a rating from 1-4 stars and if I may say, there are only a select few that have less than 3 star ratings from us. Yay for delicious food!

As much as I thought this menu board was going to be a temporary solution for just the 30 days, we are now over 3 months in and its still as valuable to us today as it was on Day 1.   I like it so much that I'm planning on giving it a facelift soon to make it look a little "neater" and a little more artsy fartsy.

The routine is still the same. Weekends we choose our meals and then Sunday, we generally make out our list and shop for whatever we may need.  Seeing as how I've never in my life been an "organized" type of person this weekend task was daunting and dreadful at first, but these days its becoming a little more second nature.  Not taking as much time as it used to.

After our menu plan for each and every day has been set, we simply flip over the cards and check what items we need.  Generally speaking the majority is always fruits and vegetables that need replenishing as well as some of our basic items like eggs and milk.

As we go down the list I input the key ingredients I know we will definitely need into the ColorNote app on my phone:
If I have any doubts on any of the items, I will generally leave a question mark behind it to double check the pantry in case we already have it in stock.    I will admit that I haven't done much research in terms of how other people do their grocery lists and planning so there may be better apps available  out there but this one seems to be just fine and dandy for us at the moment.

Simply, input your items and as you shop, cross them out with the touch of a finger.

One thing I should also mention is that if you already know you won't be doing all of your shopping in one place, it helps to break the list down into separate markets/stores.

We have a couple of Aldi stores closeby which helps our costs immensely with their low prices but as many people know, they are limited in certain departments so we always find ourselves going to Meijer afterwards to pick up any of the remaining items on our list.  We get a lot of "basics" from Aldi, but for the items that are a little more specialty, we usually find ourselves at Meijer or Kroger to complete our list.  
Depending on how well you know your supermarket, it is also recommended that you rearrange the list according to the aisles and departments you may find each item in.  Its a step that seems tedious but one that you will be thankful for taking once your in the store making smooth aisle transitions rather than running back and forth because of a scattered list.

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't mind perusing the grocery store but since we do our shopping on weekends, I would rather drive myself a little crazy with this organization than deal with the masses of people shopping for very long!

Also worth mentioning (that I had almost forgotten) is the chalkboard we keep alongside the wall where our refrigerator stands:

As we run out of items in the fridge, we make note of it on the board to save time from second guessing and double checking our pantry and fridge.  If anything, this is definitely a great place to have a board of some sort to write these things down on.

Had you told me at this time last year that I was going to be this "organized" in the near future, I probably would have had quite a great laugh at your silly prediction.  "Who the heck do I look like? Martha Frickin Stewart?! PSSshhhshhh"

Well no, I don't look anything like martha frickin stewart but I'll be damned.. I am sitting here typing up an entry on how I organize my food plans and grocery list.

Next thing you know, I'll be telling you how I save time by cooking in large batches and making the freezer my new bestie.

It's going to happen my friends... mark my words.  It's going to happen.  Thats still a work in progress but I can't tell you just how great it is to save so much more time.  

I hope I haven't sent any readers to snoozeville with this post but I figured if it can help even one person give this whole organized thing a shot, then I will be doing a happy dance.  Without the menu board I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have followed the SASS book much longer than the initial 30 days!

If you guys have any ideas and shortcuts of your own that you use, by all means, share and share alike.  I ,and other readers I'm sure,  would greatly appreciate them!