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Create Your Own Recipe (Part 5): Selecting Recipes

On January 22, 2010 by Robin Z

Used with permission Flickr Creative Commons, photo by Muffet

Used with permission Flickr Creative Commons, photo by Muffet

After you have found a slew of recipes that you want to use, you then have to make a final selection. After all, you may find 6 breakfast recipes that fit the criteria and look good but you only have time for 3, how do you choose?

Selecting Recipes

1. Organize

When I am weeding through recipes to determine which ones to choose, I keep the answers to my previous overview questions at hand and divide recipes among those categories. If you are using recipe cards you could scatter them into categories on the floor. If you are using the internet and cookbooks this is a little more challenging. Here is the sample outline that I use for a Once A Month Mom menu:



















2. Label

As I find recipes that I want to include I write them in PENCIL under the correct category. If they are baked I put a B in front of the number, if they are in the Slow Cooker I put a SC in front. I also indicate with an appropriate abbreviation the type of meat that is utilized if that is appropriate (ck, bf, pk, saus). If it is a “dump” recipe I put two ** next to it so I know it doesn’t require cooking on our cooking day. These abbreviations help me to determine if I am too heavy on certain types of menu items or if I have reached my capacity for an appliance (ie, baking, slow cookers).

Now, I also have to keep in mind not to have too many B’s, SC’s, or ** on my menu. If I have selected too many B recipes, I will simply decide which one to eliminate (or save for another menu) and erase! Hence, using a pencil. There are times that I do just add, let’s say 6 lunches to a menu and then when I am all done I know I have to go back and eliminate two.

3. Eliminate

Needing to eliminate recipes is a sometimes difficult task. The easiest way to determine what you need to eliminate is to decide if you are too heavy on an ingredient, too heavy on an appliance, or too heavy on a task.

Used with permission Flickr Creative Commons, photo by jules:stonesoup (great food website - The Stone Soup)

Used with permission Flickr Creative Commons, photo by jules:stonesoup (great food website – The Stone Soup)

Too heavy on an ingredient:

Chicken is a great meat but you don’t want it to be your whole menu. You also don’t want all of your chicken recipes to be precooked chicken. So are there recipes that can be eliminated to assist with that?

Too heavy on an appliance:

You only have so much time or the oven or so many slow cookers so do you need to consider eliminating a recipe based on this factor?

Too heavy on a task:

If I already have a lot of fresh vegetables to chop for a particular month and I am considering a soup that uses a lot of canned products versus a soup that uses all fresh cut vegetables, I will likely opt for the soup with the canned ingredients. I love fresh vegetables but I only have so much time and I don’t want to spend too much time in any given month on chopping.

Like ingredients:

Another factor I look at is “like” ingredients. If I am trying to determine which of two dinner recipes that I want to eliminate, I will look at the ingredients of those recipes in comparison to recipes I have already chosen. When I have recipes with “like” ingredients it helps me to be able to choose the best recipe for my overall budget and shortens my grocery list. This is a simple criteria to use when you are having a hard time deciding.

Overview Questions – Selecting Recipes

1. Organize your recipes into categories

2. Label your recipes with the following symbols and/or ones that you have created for your own use:

  • ck = chicken
  • bf = beef
  • pk = pork
  • saus = sausage
  • sc = slow cooker
  • b = baked
  • ** = no cooking required

3. Eliminate recipes if you have too many

  • Are my recipes heavy on one ingredient?
  • Are my recipes heavy on a certain appliance(s)? Which one(s)?
  • Are my recipes heavy on a task? Which one(s)?
  • Which recipes share “like” ingredients?

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

Previous “Create Your Own Menu” Posts:

Future “Create Your Own Menu” Posts:

  • Part 6 – Evaluating Quantity
  • Part 7 – Creating a Grocery List
  • Part 8 – Creating Instructions
  • Part 9 – Substitutions & Equivalents
  • Part 10 – Creating Labels
  • Part 11 – Bringing It All Together


Join the discussion
  1. Thank you for writing this series! Because of my family’s many diet restrictions, I frequently cannot use any of the preplanned menus that are published. I’ve often tried to workup my own menus, but this series you are writing gives me an outline to work from that speeds up the process immediately.
    Thanks again, Tricia!
    God bless you!

  2. Thank you for this. You definitely do things that I have not thought of. I am going to incorporate this into my planning and it should make it a lot easier!

  3. So how do you decide what constitutes lunch vs dinner in a recipe? I noticed previous menus tend to have soups as a about half of the lunch items, but I didn’t know if there was a reason for it or not.

    1. That is an EXCELLENT question! In my mind lunches are items that simply need reheated, no cooking involved (maybe just some microwaving). In many cases that does translate to an already cooked soup. It also can be pre-cooked or wrapped sandwiches. It really can be anything and could qualify as a dinner. BUT the general rule of thumb is easy to reheat for working or busy parents and kids.

  4. I agree Tricia… lunch for me is simply re-heat dinner from the night before and but the portion in half to have with a fruit or yogourt or a light rice, soup, sandwich or salad recipe.

  5. i am brand new and am probably asking a question asked, but cannot find the answer. I want to do a few of the Jan 2012 Traditional Menu to start out. I am afraid if I try all at one time, i will be overwhelmed and quit. How do i tell the recipe and shopping list to exclude certain recipes so that once i set the number of servings, the spredsheets for chopping and shopping exclude and include the right ingrediants?

  6. Hey Tricia, thanks so much for doing this series! I can’t wait to make my first menu. I have one question: how do you decide how many dinners to have on each menu? I noticed that there is some variation among the various menus, I think anywhere from 5 to 8. Is there a system for deciding? Thanks so much!!

    1. Most of our full menus have 8, the whole foods one has less because it is labor intensive. When I first decided on our formatting so many moons ago I decided that we ate at home about 16-20 times during a month. And thus, 8×2. I would suggest figuring out how many times you eat (or would like to eat) dinner at home.

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