Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Works for Me Wednesday: Menu Cards

In an effort to get my butt in gear actually writing this blog, I am going to be participating in a meme today – Works for Me Wednesday, hosted over at We Are THAT Family. Don’t expect this to be a regular feature – if things actually worked for me, I wouldn’t be in the state I’m in. And I can’t offer any tips along today’s theme, “Tips on Starting a Blog,” since I’m a total newbie. (Though I will be reading avidly.)

However, I do have one thing that works for me: my menu cards.

These are not to be confused with recipe cards; these are about what to make for dinner, not how to make it. In addition to helping with menu planning, they’re a lot of help in making a grocery list.

You don’t get to be 300 lbs without liking food. And I like a lot of variety in mine. I am definitely not a “chicken on Monday, beef on Tuesday, pasta on Wednesday” sort of person. Easy to plan, yes. Mind- (and tastebud-) numbingly boring, also yes. What if Wednesday comes around, and I don’t feel like pasta?

What it is

Like most folks, I have a repertoire of recipes I generally cook. I use an index card for each meal I commonly serve. On one side, I have the name of the main dish (and sometimes sides), along with where I have the recipe (typically, the cookbook and page number). Now that I’m doing Weight Watchers, that’s also where I list the point count, with a note as to whether that’s for the entree or the complete meal. On the other side, I list the ingredients, arranged in grocery-store order.

How it works

• When I’m doing my menu/grocery planning, I sort through the cards to see what looks good. I make sure I have enough slow-cooker meals in the plan for hockey nights, enough meatless meals for Fridays, enough low-points meals to compensate for the times I’ve swung too far the other way, etc.

• Once I’ve pulled those cards, I use the information on the back to make my grocery list.

• I have two snack-sized Ziploc bags tacked to the inside of one of my kitchen cabinets: I put the ones I’m going to use in one and the rest in the other.

• When it comes time to decide what’s for dinner each day, I look at the cards and decide what looks good, given the constraints of the day. If I’m having trouble deciding, I might go to the fridge and see what needs using up – say I’ve got a green pepper that looks like it’s starting to go; I can flip the cards over and see which recipe or recipes use green pepper. Or I can narrow down my choices and hand two or three cards over for Mr. Sane to decide, if he’s home. (I never bother giving the girls the choice – they will inevitably choose different things.)

• Our pantry and storage freezer are downstairs, so I can take the card down with me, so I know which ingredients to grab. And if the recipe’s one I make frequently, or if it’s a throw-everything-in-the-crock kind of thing, I can often make it just from the information on the menu card.

• Once dinner’s done, I tuck the card in the “don’t use” bag until I’m pulling menus for my next shopping trip.

It did take a fair bit of initial set-up time, looking up the recipes I use frequently and transferring the ingredients to the cards, but, for me, it’s been worth it with the time I’ve saved planning menus and grocery lists and avoiding multiple trips up and down to the pantry. In retrospect, if I had the time and inclination, I might highlight the index cards in different colors for different categories. (I suppose colored index cards would do, but then you get into cross-category items: meatless slow-cooker meals and such.)

Anyhow, it may seem to you like something only a Crazy Lady would think up, but, as the meme says, it Works for Me.


  1. I just read a blog about finding your voice, and I instantly thought of that when I read this post. I think you have a great blogging voice. Even for a newbie. Thanks for letting me smile.
    I have just discovered the ziploc baggies taped to the inside othe cabinet trick myself. I use it to sort box tops and labels.
    I am having Give Aways for the whole month of February. Come check it out at