Monday, December 31, 2012

Menu Planning - for a month or a year

For Orthodox Christians, like those of many other Faiths,
Religion and Menu are inseparably intertwined.
Happy St. Basil's Day! Happy New Year!

Here are a few links that might be helpful for celebrating this day:
My Vegan Vasilopita Recipe
About St. Basil & the Vasilopita Tradition

Another Vegan Vasilopita Recipe
Vegan Vasilopita for the Bread Machine

And, some thoughts on planning your menu for the coming year:

A few years ago, I heard a great story of a woman who planned her family's menu for an entire year.

I was inspired! The woman's diet was diametrically opposed to mine, but her idea was great : ) I decided to give it a try, and for the last three years, I have done yearly menu planning to some degree or another. I enjoy it, and it takes a lot of stress out of everyday menu planning - and it can be quite a money saver if done correctly. Usually I spend a few days early in the year with menu planning as my hobby - taking up my spare moments.

For Orthodox Christians, meat is permitted on some days and other days are "Fasting days" when veganism is encouraged. While I am vegetarian myself, I have more than just myself to think of when planning a menu. So, I create a menu with shaded days that let me know which type of menu is needed each day. 

I've learned a few things along the way:

1. Flexibility is good! A word document lets you cut and paste planned menus from the day you scheduled them -  to the day you actually eat them. (Or, in my case, I print the plan, then hand-write the actuality). Truth is, life intervenes - maybe you go out to dinner spontaneously, or friends invite you over, or you suddenly want a fancier meal than you had planned because guests are coming. This method allows for a plan, and also for real life.

2. Most people rotate through the same 9 to 12 menu plans over and over. I couldn't do that (and Omnivores think WE have a lack of variety?!) - but it is true that menus are good for more than just one time. BTW - I've seen this "9 to 12" statistic about meal planning quoted all over the place, but I've never seen a source for the research - for all I know it could be an urban legend. BUT, when I read online menu plans from other people, they do seem to be very repetitive - which makes the figure believable.

3. In light of #2, Plans are re-usable. But, you may not want to eat the same thing in July that looked good in January - so a repeating winter month or summer month or Lenten menu can be a good method.

4. How to be super-lazy   efficient!  THIS January keep a written record of every day's meal. NEXT January's menu is done - without any real effort at all : ) Alternately, you might record 40  menus and toss out the bottom 5 or 10 (you know,  that night that all you had in the house was Rye and Bok Choy and were so hungry you decided that would be a good meal - plain, unseasoned, out of the fridge ; ) This way you can have a good, repeating, one month plan.

5. Menu planning lends itself to a great bulk-cooking method. Look at the next week or two's menu, and stock the freezer with those meals. Then, it doesn't really matter which night you eat which meal - they're all planned, and they're all ready to go. If that's your method, you might plan each week's menu to mesh with a bulk cooking plan. For instance, when I do this method, I plan two Slow Cooker meals (since I have two Slow Cookers), two meals prepared in my two stock pots, two prepared in skillets, and one quick fix meal. That way, on bulk cooking day, I can fill all my cooking pots and prepare 6 meals at once - then just have one night that week that I haven't cooked for and I can plan to get a quick meal onto the table.

6. Planning ahead can save money - no more stocking the vegetable crisper with a bunch of produce that becomes a science project - you just buy what you actually have planned to eat. Likewise, you can plan Eggplant dishes for Eggplant Season if you wish. And, with cut-and-paste, if you find a nice deal on eggplant unexpectedly, you can just move that menu to this week!

7. Planning is more efficient - you can cook all the legumes & grains for the week at once, or prepare all the seasonings or sauces and be ready to go on busy nights - since you already know what you're having the next few nights.

8. Planning ahead prevents ruts. Have you ever had a week of enchiladas, then tacos, then burritos . . . ? Or a week where every menu had hummus in it? No more. You can see at a glance that there's one Chinese meal this week (not five) or one meal that features Blackeye peas or one meal that is some-kind-of-beans over rice, or one meal of soup. This way you can vary textures, types of food, ethnic varieties, etc, so that you have more variety.

9. Meal planning saves time & frustration. You're likely to spend a lot less time running to the store for one necessary ingredient, or discovering that all your menu ideas for today would have required starting the slow cooker 3 hours ago.

10. Do what works for you right now (which may be different from last year!) In addition to yearly meal planning, I also have a one-month plan that can be repeated, and several one-week menus that can be rotated through one after another (each with a bulk cooking plan for that week). So, yes, you CAN do this without necessarily doing a 365-day plan. I haven't even decided which style of planning to use for the coming year yet!

So - if you want to give it a try, the new year is the perfect time to start a new menu planning routine!

You can make your own calendar on this website. If you want to design your own meal planning calendar, or plan for additional months, it's a great site.

Be sure you type in your family's birthdays, namedays and anniversaries when scheduling : )

For specifics for each day from the Greek Orthodox Church, go to this site.

This is being shared on Feeding Big and Encouraging Hearts & Homes


  1. Happy New Year Anna. Thanks for passing from my blog. That's a wonderful thing you are dong. I don't think I could plan even a week's meal.

  2. Kali Chronia, Ivy! I LOVE your blog! I subscribed, and I put a link to it here on my links page - and encourage other readers to check it out for Cypriot & Greek recipes - both the fasting & feasting kind : )

  3. A week I can manage, but a Year? Wow! It can be hard to get started with meal planning but I found this useful resource

    1. You can do it, Alison! : )

      Try method #4 - makes it very do-able.

      I enjoyed your post - it's good to see that you have a giveaway on this topic, too.

      You have a very nice blog.

  4. I have just started to do menu planning to help us with our budget and time management. You explained how to do this for a year with great details. It makes me think that I could take it on for next year. I have a Tuesday Greens linky for green living if you would ever like to link up on I also have a 31 Days of Resolutions linky going, so please stop by if you can.

  5. Thank you for the kind words! Glad you could stop by & invite me to post : )

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I'm totally mystified as to why the above comment was removed - I didn't do it. Sorry, Dina-Marie - I was unaware it had happened till I spotted it today.

  7. I love meal planning and have been busy writing a series about it. I don't think I am good enough to plan for a year!! Thanks for linking to the Living Big on Less Money link party! I am pinning this great year long plan!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, and for pinning! I'm sure you CAN plan for a year - if you want to! : )

  8. This was an interesting read - I have been struggling to get my monthly plan up and running this past year. Your suggestions and tips for yearly planning are helpful.
    I find that having a general theme for certain days (like Mexican Monday, Italian Tuesday, Pizza Friday) helps me flesh out my menu plans.
    Glad you shared this on our Encouraging Hearts & Home blog hop this week!


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