menu imageThe wet season is fast approaching and the seasonal rains at this time of year can cause many problems for remote communities. Flooding can cut off road access and storms can cause the delay of barge deliveries to island communities. Not to mention the devastating damage caused by the cyclones that so often plague the northern areas of Australia. All of these things can contribute to the serious problem of lack of supplies – especially much needed food for the frail aged.

Menu planning is one way of  helping an aged care program to be prepared, not just for the turmoil of the wet season, but for the everyday smooth running of the kitchen.

Benefits include:

  • Saving time – you'll know what to cook the day before and can pull out frozen ingredients or prepare vegetables or fruits ready for the following day;
  • Easier ordering – knowing what ingredients your recipes have in them and the number of clients that you cook for will help you create a standard order form, often the same form can be used each time you order with a small amount of tweaking. Don't forget the time saved in this as well;
  • Saving on costs and reducing wastage – you won’t order ingredients that you don’t need and that would otherwise end up being thrown away. Don't forget to do a stocktake of ingredients in your storerooms first though;
  • Ensuring a better variety of meals – with a clear menu plan, meals won’t be repeated too often by accident and balanced diet can be achieved, no one likes to eat stew every single day, give your clients some variety;
  • Planning for special dietary requirements and allergies – most of your meals will cater for the common problems of high blood pressure and diabetes found on communities, however there may be other special dietary needs such as renal diets that may require a bit more planning and of course you will always know which recipes are suitable for gluten-free cakes or nut-free desserts if these are an issue;
  • Contingency planning for bad weather – making sure that you have ordered everything you need for a one or two month period will help prevent a lack of supplies, just in case that cyclone or storm decides to head your way;
  • Less stress on busy days – if you know a particularly busy day is coming up or your staff don't turn up for work, a menu plan will keep stress levels low. You will still know exactly what to cook and how much of it.
  • Assists in staff task planning – it is easier to assign tasks to staff if you know what needs to be done that day. Kitchen staff like to know what they need to do next and if you have a clear idea less time is likely to be wasted, you'll know that that bag of potatoes needs to be peeled and can direct accordingly.

For an idea of what a successful menu plan looks like, download the example below. There is also a free template that you are welcome to download and use. If you’re still a bit fuzzy on the details, be sure to check out next week’s post: Tips on Creating a Menu Plan.

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Chef Duncan

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