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 Menu Ideas & Planning
Menu Ideas & Planning

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Step #3: Applying Menu Planning Ideas

When is the best time to shop to save money?

A. On Weekends
B. In the evening
C. In the morning
D. Whenever there is a sale item available

Answer C

Although there may be sales at certain times of the day, the best way to save money is to get in and out of the grocery store quickly. The early morning hours when the stores are least crowded are the best time to accomplish this.

A menu is a list of dishes we plan to serve. To your family, it is a list of dishes from which they�ll eat during the week. To the cook, it is a list of dishes you plan to prepare. It is also a management tool for your household. It is fair to say that it is the simple most important household document. Purchasing, cooking and food costs are all based on the menu. You can see why it is essential to pay careful attention to the writing of the menu and why so many factors are considered. In this chapter, you discuss these factors from the point of view of kitchen production. How does one construct a menu that offers the best choices to your family and that promotes efficiency and productivity?

Menu Forms and Functions

You must plan the menus for the people eating the food. This sounds like a simple rule, but you frequently forgotten it. You must never forget that the family is the main reason you�re cooking.

This rule means that, in most homes, the taste and preference of the cook are of little importance when planning the menu. True here are some homes that are primarily a showcase for the cook�s artistry, but they are rare. Instead, the taste and preference of the family we must give it top priority if our meal planning is going to succeed.

Family Preferences

You must produce food that is appealing to our family and in sufficient variety to keep them from getting bored with the same old thing. Grumbling about the food is a favorite sport among families, but at least we can keep it to a minimum.

Kind of meals


For the most part, breakfast menus are standard. You try to have on hand fruits, juices, eggs, cereals, pancakes, waffles, breakfast meats, plus regional specialties like Southern grits, because it is what our family wants and expects. The breakfast menu must be foods that can be prepared quickly and you can be eat in a hurry.


The following factors are important to consider when planning lunch menus.

1) Speed. Like breakfast, the family is usually in a hurry. They must be prepared quickly and be easy to serve and eat. Sandwiches, soups, and salads are important items on many lunch menus.

2) Simplicity. Menu selections are fewer, and we serve fewer courses. In many cases, it is only one course such as soup and a sandwich or omelet and salad. This satisfies the need for simplicity and speed.

3) Variety. In spite of the simplicity of the menu, we must have variety.


Dinner is usually the main meal and we eat in a more leisurely fashion than either breakfast or lunch. Of course, some families are in the hurry too, but in general people come home to relax over a substantial meal.

Building the Menu

A course is a food or group of foods served at one time or you intend to eat at the same time. Most of the time, you put the courses on the table at once � appetizer, salad, main dish and side dishes, and desserts, for example � but will eat them in a particular order.

Modern menus: courses and arrangement

The main dish is the centerpiece of the modern meal. If the meal consists of only one dish, it is considered the main course, even if it a salad or a bowl of soup. You may serve one or more dishes before the main dish. These are usually light in character, so that you are not full before the main course.

You may serve the salads either before or after the main course (but not both). In more traditional meals, they are served after the main course to refresh the appetite before dessert. Servings the salad before the main course is a comparatively recent development.

Variety and balance

Balancing a menu means providing enough variety and contrast so that the meal holds interest from the first course to the last. To balance a menu, you must develop a feeling for which foods complement each other or provide pleasing contrast. And you must avoid repeating flavors and textures as much as possible.

1) Flavors: Don�t repeat flavors with the same or similar tastes. This applies to any predominate flavors, whether of the main ingredients, of the spices, of the sauce, and so on. For example:

  • a) Don�t serve broiled tomato halves with the main dish if the appetizer has a tomato sauce.

  • b) Don�t serve a spicy, garlicky appetizer and a spicy, garlicky main dish. On the other hand, don�t make everything too bland.

  •  c) Acid or tart foods are often served as accompaniments to fatty foods, because they help cut the fatty taste. This is why applesauce and port, mint sauce and lamb, or orange sauce and duckling are such classic combinations.

2) Textures: Texture applies to the softness or firmness of foods, their feel in the mouth, whether or not they are served with sauces, and so on. Don�t repeat foods with the same or similar texture. For example:

  • a) Prepare a clear soup instead of a thick soup if you serve the main course with a cream sauce. On the other hand, a cream soup goes well before a simple saut�ed or broiled item.

  • b) Don�t serve too many mashed or pureed foods, unless you are serving babies.

  • c) Don�t serve too many heavy, starchy items.

3) Appearance: Serve foods with a variety of colors and shapes. Colorful vegetables are especially valuable for livening up the appearance of meats, poultry, fish, and starches, which tend to be mostly white or brown.

There are so many possible combinations of foods that it is impossible to give rules that will cover all of them. Besides, creative home cooks are continually experimenting with new combination, breaking old rules, and coming up with exciting menus.

Availability of Foods

Use fresh foods in season. Foods out of season are more expensive, often lower in quality, and their supply is undependable. Don�t put asparagus on the menu if you can�t get good asparagus.

Use foods locally available. Fresh seafood is the most obvious example of a food that is hard to get in some parts of the country, unless you are willing to pay premium prices.

Complete Utilization of Foods

You can�t afford to throw food away, any more than you can afford to throw money away. You must plan total utilization of foods into the menus. Whether or not this is done can make or break a household budget.

1) Use all edible trim.

Unless you use only portion control meats, poultry, and fish and only frozen and canned vegetables, you will have edible trim. You can either throw it away or call it a loss. You can use it and same money.

Plan recipes that utilize these trimmings and use them. For example:

  • a) Use small meat scrapes for soups, chopped meat, pates, creamed dishes, and croquettes.

  • b) Use larger meat trimmings for soups, stews, and braised items.

  • c) Use bones for stocks and soups.

  • d) Use vegetable trimmings for purees, soups, stews, stocks, filling for omelets and crepes.

  • e) Use day-old breads for stuffing�s, breading, French toast, croutons, and meat extender.

2) Plan to avoid leftovers.

The best way to use up leftovers is not to create them in the first place. Handling food twice � once as a fresh item and one as a leftover � is more expensive and time consuming than handling it once, and it almost always results in loss of quality.

3) Plan for use of leftovers.

Careful planning of cooking can keep leftovers to a minimum. But some leftovers are almost inevitable, and it�s better for your costs to use them than to throw them out. You should have a recipe ready that will use it.

For example, if you serve roast chicken for dinner one day, you might plan on chicken � la king or chicken salad later that week. Remember to handle all leftovers according to proper sanitary procedures.

4) Avoid �minimum-use� perishable ingredients.

�Minimum-use� ingredients are those that you only use in one or two items. For example, you used fresh mushrooms for chicken breast served with mushrooms but not in any other item that week. When the ingredient is perishable, the result is a high percentage of spoilage or waste.

Nutritional Considerations

When planning your menu, you must have a basic understanding of nutrition. Because your bodies need varieties of foods in order to function and to be healthy. You want to proved a nutritious food and well-balanced menus. You must make our food that will please our family and guests. You want to present attractive, flavorful foods as well as foods that are nutritious. In addition, with a concern for fitness and health, you want to make your menus nutritiously balance.


Nutrients are certain chemical compounds that are present in foods and that fulfill one or more of the following functions:

  • a. Supply energy for body functions

  • b. Build and replace cells that make up body tissues

  • c. Regulate body processes

There re six categories of nutrients

  • a. Carbohydrates

  • b. Fats

  • c. Proteins

  • d. Vitamins

  • e. Minerals

  • f. Water

Fiber (Strictly it is not a nutrients, but it is necessary for healthful body functioning)


A calorie is a unit of measurement used to measure energy. (It�s defined as the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1� C.) You use calorie to measure how much energy certain foods will supply. Today, many feel that it is something to avoid. However, without sufficient food energy you could not live.

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fat can be used by the body to supply energy.

  • 1 gram of carbohydrate supplies 4 calories.

  • 1 gram of protein supplies 4 calories.

  • 1 gram of fat supplies 9 calories.

Kinds of Nutrients and their importance


Carbohydrates are the most important source of food energy. Starches are complex carbohydrates. You find them in such foods as grains, bread, peas, and beans, and many vegetables and fruits. Sugars are simple carbohydrates. You will find them in sweets, and to a lesser extent, in fruits and vegetables.

Most authorities believe that complex carbohydrates are better for you than simple carbohydrates. This is partly because starchy foods also have many other nutrients, while sweets have few other nutrients. Also, there is some evidence that a lot of sugar in the diet may contribute to heart and circularly dieses.

The term fiber refers to a group of carbohydrates that cannot be used by the body. Therefore, fiber supplies no food energy. However, it is important for the proper functioning of the intestinal tract and the elimination of body waste. In addition, there is evidence that sufficient dietary fiber helps prevent some kinds of cancers. Fruits and vegetables, especially if raw, and whole grains supply dietary fiber.


Fats supply energy to the body in highly concentrated form. Also, some fatty acids are necessary for regulating certain body functions. Third, fats act as carriers of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K).

Fats may be classified as saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. These terms reflect chemical difference in the composition of these fats. Cooks do not need to know the chemical structure of fats, but they should understand their nutritional characteristic and the foods in which they are found. Many foods contain a combination of these three types but with one type predominating.

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Animal products � meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products � and solid shortening are the major source of saturated fats. Tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil are also rich in saturated fats. Health authorities believe that these fats contribute significantly to heart disease and other health problems.

Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Although too much of any kind of fat is bad forth e health, these fats are considered to be more healthful that saturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oil such as corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and cottonseed oil. High levels of monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil and canola oil. Both kinds of unsaturated fats are also found in other plant products as well, including whole grains, nuts, and some fruits and vegetables.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that has been closely linked with heart disease, because it collects on the walls of arteries and blocks the flow of blood to the heart and other vital organs. It is found only in animal products and is especially high in egg yolks, butter fat, and organ meats such as liver and brains. In addition, the human body can manufacture its own cholesterol, so not all the cholesterol in the blood is necessarily form foods. Nevertheless, experts generally agree that it is best to keep the cholesterol in the diet as low as possible.

Recent research has suggested that monounsaturated fat may actually lower the levels o the most harmful kinds of cholesterol in the body. This may explain the relatively low incidence of heart disease in Mediterranean regions where olive oil is the most widely used fat. This research has helped to popularize the use of olive oil in other parts of the world, especially in North America.

Remember, however, that too much fat of any kind is bad for the health. Do not make the mistake of thinking that monounsaturated fats are �good for you� and can be used in excess.


Proteins are known as the building blocks of the body. They are essential for growth, for building body tissues, and for basic body functions. The can also be used for energy if the diet does not contain enough carbohydrates and fats.

They consist of substances called amino acids. The body is able to manufacture many of t them, but there are eight amino acids that it cannot manufacture and must get from foods. A food protein that contains all eight essential amino acids is called a complete protein. Meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products contain complete proteins.

Proteins that lack one or more off these essential amino acids are called incomplete proteins. Foods high in incomplete proteins include nuts, grains, and dried beans and other legumes. Foods that, if eaten together, supply all the amino acids are called complementary proteins. For example, cornmeal tortillas topped with chili beans supply complete protein, because the corn supplies the amino acids lacking in the beans. Bean and rice are another example of complementary proteins.


Vitamins are present in foods in extremely small quantities, but they are essential for regulating body functions. Unlike proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, they supply no energy, but some of them must be present in order for energy to be utilized in the body. Also, lack of certain vitamins caused deficiency diseases.

Vitamins are classified as water soluble and fat-soluble. The water-soluble vitamins (the B vitamins and vitamin C) are not store in the body and must be eaten every day. Foods containing these vitamins should be handled so that vitamins are not dissolved into the cooking water and lost.

Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can be store in the body, so they do not need to be eaten every day, as long as the total amount eaten over a period of time is sufficient.


Minerals, like vitamins, are also consumed in very small quantities and are essential for regulating certain body processes. The most important minerals in the diet are calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, iodine, sodium, and potassium.

Sodium, a component of table salt, is somewhat of a health problem, not because we don�t get enough of it, but because many people get too much. Too much sodium is thought to contribute to high blood pressure. Health authorities are trying to convince people to reduce the sodium in their diets, primarily by salting foods less.

The Balanced Diet

In order to stay healthy, you must consume a varied diet that contains all the essential nutrients. In addition, you must limit our intake of foods that can be harmful in large quantities. Although researchers still have much to learn about nutrition and your knowledge is constantly changing, there is some strong evidence about what good eating patterns are. According to federal health agencies, the following guidelines are suggested for maintaining a healthful diet. It should be noted that these are only general recommendations for people who are already healthy and want to stay that way. They are not necessarily for those who need special diets because of disease or other abnormal conditions.

1. Eat a variety of foods to get the energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need for good health.

2. Balance the food you eat with physical activity - maintain or improve your weight to reduce you chances of having high blood pressure, heart disease, a stroke, certain cancers, and the most common kind of diabetes.

3. Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits which provide needed vitamins, minerals, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, and can help you lower your intake of fat.

4. Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to reduce your risk of heart attack and certain types of cancer and to help you maintain a healthy weight.

5. Choose a diet moderate in sugars. A diet with lots of sugars has too many calories and too few nutrients for most people and can contribute to tooth decay.

6. Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium to help reduce your risk of high blood pressure.

7. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. Alcoholic beverages supply calories, but little or no nutrients. Drinking alcohol is also the cause of many health problems and accidents and can lead to addiction.

A Closer Look at Fat and Added Sugars

As you can see, fat and sugars are concentrated in foods from the Pyramid tip - fats, oils, and sweets. These foods supply calories, with little or no vitamins and minerals. By using these foods sparingly, you can have a diet that supplies needed vitamins and minerals without excess calories.

Some fat or sugar symbols are shown in the food groups. That's to remind you that some food choices in these food groups can also be high in fat or added sugars. When choosing foods for a healthful diet, consider that fat and added sugars in your choices from the food groups, as well as the fats, oils, and sweets from the Pyramid tip.


In general, foods that come from animals (milk and meat groups) are naturally higher in fat than foods that come from plants. But there are many low fat dairy and lean meat choices available, and these foods can be prepared in ways that lower fat.

Fruits, vegetables, and grain products are naturally low in fat. But many popular items are prepared with fat, like french-fried potatoes, or croissants, making them higher fat choices.

Fruits, vegetables, and grain products are naturally low in fat. But many popular items are prepared with fat, like french-fried potatoes, or croissants, making them higher fat choices.

Added Sugars

These symbols represent sugars added to foods in processing or at the table, not the sugars found naturally in fruits and milk. It's the added sugars that provide calories with few vitamins and minerals.

Most of the added sugars in the typical American diet come from foods in the Pyramid tip - soft drinks, candy, jams, jellies, syrups, and table sugar we add to foods like coffee or cereal.

Added sugars in the food groups come from foods such as ice cream, sweetened yogurt, chocolate milk, canned or frozen fruit with heavy syrup, an sweetened bakery products like cakes and cookies. The chart on page 16 shows you the amounts of added sugars in some popular foods. You may be surprised!

Fat and Sugar Tips:

Choose lower fat foods from the food groups most often.

Go easy on fats and sugars added to foods in cooking or at the table - butter, margarine, gravy, salad dressing, sugar, and jelly.

Choose fewer foods that are high in sugars - candy, sweet desserts, and soft drinks.

I�ve scratched the surface on nutrition. Don�t jump on the band wagon of each new nutrition theory. For the most part, stay with the old tried and true theories. What is good or bad comes and goes like the west wind. The best example is cholesterol. At first, all cholesterol was bad. Then a few years later, experts claim, now you have the good and the bad cholesterol. Or, simply, eggs were good, then eggs became bad, then maybe we were wrong, well because it contains good cholesterol its OK to eat eggs in moderation.

I�ve gone over what to look for in a menu plan. The next step is to make a weekly planner that includes important information, that when we sit down and plan we have all the important information to make your planner simple and easy.

Go to Step 4.  Next Step

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