New Menu Approach

Menu planning is vital around here.  We’ve experienced overwhelming benefits from following the Feingold Program [essentially an elimination of artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and offending salicylates].  My children have unpleasant reactions to typical “convenience foods” because they contain nasty additives.  We’ve discovered some natural packaged foods, but most of our meals are homemade now.  Homemade is yummier and healthier yet requires considerable planning.

From last October through April of this year, I regularly participated in Menu Plan Mondays [hosted by].  My most recent menu was posted here.  I was quite pleased with the chart format of my last several menu posts, but desired a menu-plan change for several reasons.

  • When the internet connection was down, I couldn’t access my bloggy menu 😦


And this is how we feel when the internet is inaccessible.
  • As our schedule changed, altering the blog post chart was cumbersome.  And I’ve found that I perform better when I view an accurate plan for each day.  [On a side note:  Many people prepare a list of possible meals for the week, and then daily choose from that list.  My more flexible friend, Kristine, uses that type of plan.  When I tried that, I found that I’d avoid the meals that require more time / preparation.  Argh.  A similar thing happened when DH would surprise us with dining out for an evening.  My brain became scrambled–more than usual–and I couldn’t cook properly for the rest of the week!]
  • If the grocery store was out of stock of a particular item I needed for a recipe.  Again, my whole menu was {imagine dramatic voice} destroyed.
  • Some weeks I was NOT in the mood for meal planning.  What then?  My dear family still expected to eat 7 days a week 🙂
  • I was becoming neurotic with concern for what others thought of my menu.  Ridiculous, huh!  No one [outside of my family] is required to eat what I prepare!

Anyway, for a few weeks, I prepared the menu blogpost, and then copied & pasted the individual meal info into my Outlook schedule.  I liked the integration of my menu plans with my daily schedule, but the duplication of effort was wasteful.  And I was still too worried about the likability of my published menu–LOL!

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?'”

Matthew 6:31

Another bloggy friend, Lisa, developed a 5-week menu plan for her family.  Because I like to plan our menu around local grocery store sales, that exact approach won’t work for me.  But, implementing some ideas from Lisa’s plan has worked for us.

menu mastery.1

I’ve been sorting my established supper menus according to theme.

  • Homestyle on Sunday
    • traditional American fare such as meat and potatoes
  • Mexican on Monday
  • Asian on Tuesday
    • usually something with rice
  • Breakfasty stuff on Wednesday
    • such as cornbread, eggs, and bacon
  • Italian on Thursday
    • often pasta


  • Homestyle on Friday
    • yes, again
  • Sale Surprise on Saturday
    • anything else on sale that didn’t fit our other categories

I’ve marked my Outlook calendar with recurring “appointments” for those daily categories.  I’ve been inserting our favorite recipes into this framework.  When I stumble across new recipes, I stick it into its next open theme day.  Make sense?


When the weekly store ads arrive, I juggle recipes around to maximize our use of sale items.  For example, when pork tenderloin was on sale this week, I made a Pork Stir-Fry on Asian night and used the other half of the tenderloin to make Baked Tenderloin on homestyle night.  Since boneless, skinless chicken breasts were also on sale, I’ll make a chicken thing in the crock pot on Italian night and Chicken Cheese Quesadillas on Mexican night.  I also incorporate veggies that are in season or on sale, such as this week’s Grilled Asparagus.


Of course, I’ll adjust when Terry wants to take me out to eat!  Adjusting meals is easy in my Outlook calendar.  Another benefit is that I can alter the start times to reflect faster or longer meal prep.  Crock pot meals will require preparation earlier in the day, but most other meals can be started around 4 pm.

There are additional benefits of storing our menu in my Outlook calendar.  I can insert links to recipes found online.  (I can otherwise note cookbook title and page number, of course.)  I’ve found a way to separate my food calendar from my regular appointment calendar, but I can overlay the food calendar if I want.  And I can take my menu anywhere in my purse–using my hand-me-down palm pilot.

Oh–for breakfast, we often eat homemade toast or inexpensive cereal.  If I’m ambitious enough to bake muffins or something notable for breakfast, I add that to my Outlook calendar.  For lunch we either have leftovers or some type of easy sandwich or wrap thing. I often schedule in specific snacks, as well, so that I don’t forget those carrots or whatnot in the produce drawer.

This post dragged on much longer than I had intended.  If you’ve read through all this, congratulations!  If my rambling seems confusing, please ask a question and I’ll try to clarify.

Happy menuing!


13 thoughts on “New Menu Approach

  1. Jodi says:

    Enjoyed this infomative post.

  2. Kristine says:

    Wow, great post! I was wishing for a “Like” button just like Facebook. 🙂

    1. I really *do* have a planned night for each of my dinners, but they get mixed up often enough that I kind of pretend there is no order, lol.

    2. It would terribly mess me up if my internet were down, because I’ve switched my regular recipes to my blog. It’s happened before that I’ve had to call my mom in
    Washington state to tell me my recipe so I could make it anyway. I LOVE your “sad” pic about the down internet!

    3. I think your theme night is very cool, and I like your “Saturday Surprise” name!

    4. Oh, you are KILLING me with the QDoba sign! I don’t know where one is anywhere around here–well, they aren’t around here, but I don’t know where any are even within a two hour drive! I’m looking forward to heading to Charlottesville for Trevor’s dr. appt., or Raleigh to pick up Holly and her friend from the airport, and we can get QDoba or Chipotle. Yippee! For now, it’s giant burritos at home, lol.

  3. Heather says:

    Thanks, girls!

    Kristine, your #2 is sooooooo funny! My mom and I live around the corner from each other, and use the same internet company, so I couldn’t do that. Good save on your part, though–LOL!

    Our Qdoba restaurant is probably 20 minutes away. I’m grateful to have one this close. I think my family is tired of Qdoba food, but I’m not:) I’d not before heard of a Chipotle restaurant. I’ve since Googled it, of course… Do you find Chipotle to be similar in freshness to Qdoba, Kristine? It appears that there are only 3 in MI–in the big cities. I’ll keep that chain in mind for field trips.

  4. Lisa says:

    I love how your system works! I too, use sales to determine what goes into each meal. If we’re having taco night, I use whatever meat was on sale. It makes it have a better variety so that we don’t get tired of seeing it each week during the rotation. It really is pretty flexable but also makes sure that we have something to eat at all times during the day.LOL



  5. Cynthia says:

    Sadly, I still don’t have a menu. I guess it’s not such a big deal for me because I always have beef meat in the freezer since I buy that in bulk. So, the only things I really buy are fresh things so each week I buy lettuce, milk, veggies, fruit, etc. I always have on hand anything to make our normal recipes and whenever I use it up I replace it so I have it the next time we decide to make it. I tried, really I did, to do a menu and I just didn’t have the time to carve it out. I have, however, tried Spark People for some charting of exercise, water consumption, etc., and they have a great menu planning tool that I will most likely try to use sometime in the future since they have very healthy recipes and I can then track our exact nutrition.

  6. Cynthia says:

    And some days that would be a scary place to reside! One day when I was feeling like a particular failure in this area of planning, I was so encouraged by the note you left on my blog (or maybe it was here?) that you hadn’t seen any pics of my kids starving! It’s true. We do manage to cook up something fairly healthy everyday regardless of whether or not we planned to fix it a week ahead or not.

  7. De'Etta says:

    Great post, Heather. I saved it until I was settled and ready to think about menu planning again. LOL

    I’m not sure I get the whole Outlook thing – but I’d love to understand…you put the RECIPES in outlook under an appointment???? I understand the appointment so that it reminds you of the night of the week….

    I’m still thinking of something flexible and yet I found like you that if I have a list of meals for the week, I do the easy ones first and all the hard ones are left at the end of the week.

    I can’t run out to cheap restaurants here….and the commissary (cheapest place to buy ingredients I recognize )is 20 minutes away. I am blessed to have several farmer’s markets close by. I’ve kept yen on hand to run out for produce…..

    BUT realized this week I need to do a menu as my week is getting so full that without a plan we are eating cookie dough and waffles far to many nights of the week. LOL

  8. Heather says:


    I imagine it’ll take some time to adjust to regular meal planning again after being without your own home for 5 months! I’m curious if the commissary has American ingredients or if it has mostly Japanese products? You’ve quite a menu challenge either way, I’m sure!

    I’ll try to explain my Outlook usage better. Today, for example, I scheduled a supper appointment from 4-6 pm. I should start preparing this meal at 4pm. The appointment subject was “orange chicken / steamed rice & veggies.” My appointment location was “fg2 (ketchup).” [I’ve recently begun tracking Feingold phase 1 or 2 that way.] The appointment notes included the recipe (cut and pasted from the internet), as well as the hyperlink to the original recipe. Sometimes I add my own notes if I’ve altered the recipe to suit our family. Since orange chicken is one of our favorite meals, I can copy this appointment and paste it on Asian night every 6 weeks or so 🙂

    When I plan to prepare a recipe from a cookbook I own, I type the cookbook name and page number in the appointment notes. I also discovered that pdf files can be dropped into the appointment notes. I’ve been scanning library cookbook recipes to use in this manner.

    BTW, cookie dough and waffles sound like excellent menu choices to me!

  9. Kimberly says:

    Heather, I would LOVE to hear more about this Feingold Program…..I checked out their website or at least this website: and I think I am getting it…..your eliminating certain dyes and such from your everyday diet??? How did this work for you when you went to Disney? Noah has of course many issues and we actually found that he was allergic to Red Dye and removing it from his diet helped with one issue, have you found this program beneficial? I would love to hear more!!!!!

    • Heather says:

      That’s the right website, Kim. Following Feingold has been terrific for our family. I’m working on a big blogpost with more information. Hope to post that soon.

      Disney IS possible on Feingold. I’ll look back at my vacation notes and get back to you on the specific places we ate. Are you traveling soon?

  10. Kimberly says:

    We will be going to Disney the 9th of October for a week. Noah has PDD-Nos, ADHD, Speech Apraxia, etc. I will really be looking into the Feingold information.

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