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Create Your Own Menu (Part 1): Assess Your Needs

Yesterday I introduced a new seriesCreate Your Own Menu” to help all of you understand the menu creation process and potentially do it on your own if you so desire. I hope that you will enjoy this series and find it most helpful. Let’s get started.

Assessing Needs

1. How much do you need?

The first thing that you need to do is determine how much you and your family will consume over any given month. Do you eat breakfasts or just cold cereal? Do you need lunch items or are you okay eating leftovers? How many dinners are enough?

When I set out to create Once A Month Mom menus I decided on 3-4 breakfasts items that would be doubled giving us 6-10 breakfasts. I chose 4 lunch items that would end up giving us 8-10 lunches. And 8 dinners that would produce up to 16 total dinners. All of this for a family of 4.

Now I am not a family of 4, I am actually a family of 2 (now one toddler and a newborn). However, I was building a blog for readers and decided that my average reader would likely have approximately 4 eating family members. You may have more you my have less.

In our case, I plan on giving several of the meals away that are made because I know that the quantity made is much more than we will eat in a given month. And we also eat much of the leftover dinners for lunches which often give us lunch items that can be given away as well.

In general, we don’t eat a hearty breakfast but I also took into consideration what I was reading on the blogosphere and realized that many families DO consume pre-made breakfast items. Thus, the breakfast menu.

If your family doesn’t eat homemade breakfast items than you likely aren’t going to want to breakfast on your menu. Take these things into consideration when building your menu.

2. How many are in your family?

As I mentioned above, my menus here are all based on a 4 person household. If you have 6 people you may need to make larger quantities. If you have less people you will want to make more.

3. Consult Your Calendar?

Photo used with permission Flickr Creative Commons by Joe Lanman

Photo used with permission Flickr Creative Commons by Joe Lanman

Your monthly calendar is a great tool for assessing your families needs. Even though there are only 16 dinners each month we often have leftovers, frozen pizza *gasp*, an occasional dinner with friends, a church dinner once a week and the occasional dining out experience. Which is why there is more than enough for us. Our meals last us about 1.5 months if we make and eat them all on our own. As I mentioned above we donate some. What are the trends in your family? Take a look at your calendar to see.

4. Time in kitchen?

The last thing that you want to consider is how much time you want to ultimately spend in the kitchen. If you do the math above you will find that the Once A Month Mom menus makes 15 recipes total. This will produce 8-12 hours in the kitchen, depending on your work speed. If you don’t want to spend that much time in the kitchen or you want to start out slower, you will want to pear down how many total meals you are making for the month. If you are considering more than 15 recipes than you need to realize you will be spending more time in the kitchen.

Overview Questions – Assessing Needs

1. How much do you need?

  • Breakfasts = #?______
  • Lunches = #?______
  • Dinners = #?______

2. How many are in your family? _____

3. Consult your calendar:

  • How many meals a week do you dine out (or would like to limit yourself to)? _____
  • How many meals do you have dinner at friends/families/church? _____
  • How many meals a week do you count for leftovers? _____
  • How many meals a week do you eat convenience foods (or want to limit yourself to)? _____
  • What else? _____

4. Time in kitchen – how many hours are you willing to spend? _____

Please feel free to direct questions in the comment section below. However, keep in mind that this is a multi-part series. Please review upcoming topics to see if your question will be answered shortly. Thank you.

Future “Create Your Own Menu” Posts:

15 Responses to “Create Your Own Menu (Part 1): Assess Your Needs”

  1. supreme says:

    I am really looking forward to this series! one of my goals for 2010 is to do a better job of menu planning and having freezers meal ready.

    We also have a toddler and an infant so I am hoping that this will help give me more time to spend with them doing fun mommy stuff rather than slaving over a hot stove everyday.

    Thanks for putting this together!

  2. Kathleen says:

    I’m excited about this. I don’t have kids (yet) but I still have to meal plan due to our tight budget and our hectic schedules. I got so excited when I found this blog! I can’t wait to see the rest of the series!

  3. Just wanted to let you know I am very excited about this series. I plan to study it carefully and then attempt my first ever full-on OAMC experience!

  4. Rana says:

    I am also looking to put more meals in the feezer. This is a great help. Thank you for putting this series together.

  5. PrutsPrinses says:

    Teehee, I love the “Create Your Own Men” typo :)
    Thank you for this post, I’m looking forward to the rest of your series!

  6. Joy says:

    I’m so thankful for your website and now this new series, my hubby and I have been trying to motivate ourselves to create & commit to even a weekly menu. You’ve inspired me to get the ball rolling and now we have our first month mapped out all the way down to instructions! Of course part of the reason for such organization was to help us save money and I feel that I’ve already spent double and we’re only one week into the menu! Hopefully in a few months I will have learned enough from your great tips and our grocery bill will be significantly lower. I’m looking forward to reading the next parts of your great series!

  7. sherry says:

    I ahve been looking for a site like yours. this is wonderful.I can’t wait till you update it.I need all the help i can get.Thank-you very much.

  8. Ashley says:

    We’ve been using your menus for a couple of months now and have loved them. I’m a homeschooling, WAHM mom of 3 who works 20-30 hours/week and I really don’t have much spare time. It’s great to have these menus so I can just pop them in the oven and have dinner reader without having to spend a lot of time in the evenings. I love that you’re doing this series now so I can make my own menus if I want to. I really appreciate all the hard work you so obviously put into this.

  9. […] items resulting in enough leftovers to feed the family throughout the entire month.   She has 11 tips for successfully planning once a […]

  10. Meg says:

    This is a lifesaver. I have a toddler with severe allergies to eggs, peanuts, and dairy, and recently found out that I will have to stop eating “The Big Eight” foods (those that cause the most common allergies) during my next pregnancy and until that baby is weaned — there is no way I would be able to manage it without freezing meals, and I am SO THANKFUL for this site and especially this series…now I can use “safe” recipes to plan out our meals. Thank you so, so much.

  11. Andrea says:

    I am confused. if your recipes are for a family of 4, your grocery list says to indicate the number of people to cook for. should i assume that 1 is equal to 1 recipe for 4 people and if i want to double then i change that qty?
    Thanks, this is the first time i am trying this and i want to get my head around how much i am buying.
    Thanks!

    • Tricia says:

      If you are doing a May 2011-current menu (not a 5 day mini though) then you should assume that the recipe will yield 2 portions for every 1 person you enter. If you click on the “printable recipe cards” of a menu you are interested in you will see detailed directions to that effect.

  12. Ashley says:

    I am actually a college student that does OAMM. I love this. I have about 15 food allergies so I just pick and choose items from this website but don’t use one menu each month. I am excited for this series thank you for posting!!! Also for this website you have completely turned my eat life around!

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