Tuesday, September 17, 2013

let's talk about menu planning

menu planning menu planning

I've been tweaking my menu planning strategy over the last few months. I've talked about menu planning on the blog before, and my goal has always been to simplify things.  Lately, I've simplified even more.

Now, I know it may look like we never actually eat in! We do, honest. Here is our weekly plan:

Sunday--cook a nice meal at home

Monday--cook at home

Tuesday--pick up pizza from a local place

Wednesday--cook at home

Thursday--eat in: leftovers or something "found" at home--eggs, macaroni, etc.

 Friday--pick up Mexican food from a local place

Saturday--ostensibly our date night. My parents usually watch the kids (and my mom cooks for them) and Ken and I go out.  My parents aren't always available so maybe we'll eat out with the kids or stay in and cook something simple.

What's new in my menu planning routine is that I'm mapping out a month at a time, and I'm cooking more simply than ever before.  It feels amazing to just cook simple things.  In the past, I made more "recipe" type dishes.  Now I may still use recipes but only for super simple dishes.  I don't ever want to buy ingredients for just one dish and have random ingredients just sitting around.  That doesn't appeal to me at all any more.

Some examples of what we've been eating this month--
:: steak with salad and rice pilaf
:: roasted chicken quarters with carrots
:: spatchcocked chicken with roasted chickpeas
:: Moroccan chicken stew
:: carne asada tacos
:: fish tacos
:: salmon with vegetables
:: swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce + rice
:: pinto beans + cornbread
:: bean bowls (beans layered with rice, cheese, lettuce and condiments)
:: summer zucchini pasta

For most of these things, I typically make a salad or a vegetable and serve fruit with the meal. 

I love eating this way.  So simple and straightforward and no difficult shopping.  Making the meal plan a month at a time also is really freeing.  Once I have the month-long plan, I post it on the refrigerator and just consult it on Thursdays when I make the grocery list.  And on Fridays I stop by Trader Joe's on my way home and do the shopping.  Easy.


Jennie said...

This is a very timely post for me! I've been trying to simplify meal planning as well. I normally only do one week at a time and that flies by! Looking into an online planner, but I do love my pen and paper....
Thanks for sharing your ideas!

Shannan Martin said...

I just did my first month-long menu plan this month and I'm loving it! Something about just knowing every day what I'm up to. :)

Unknown said...

So organized! I love it!

Madame Melville said...

Love the idea of the month long plan. Do you ever plan some weekend time around bulk cooking - like chili to freeze or pasta sauce? I feel like I would like to work that into my plan a bit more with winter coming and busier schedules. I am really enjoying all your "organizing" style posts lately...it's a great time of year for it.

Andrea said...

Oh, this is such a good idea. I never have been able to get my head around meal planning, more than an hour before dinner, anyway, and once sports seasons come around (soccer and baseball in our house)--forget it. But this seems like a good way to stave off the frantic/depressing daily "What will we have for dinner tonight?" dilemma. Thanks for the suggestion!

Faith said...

Your blog is making me so hungry!

Gabi said...

Great inspiration! I have to agree with a comment above: This is a great time of the year to get organised...

Denise said...

I've really been enjoying your blog Mary Beth - thanks for writing it!

Sunshine Alternative Mama said...

I love to plan a month at a time! I find it easy because I have a weekly template that I go from as well. So when I plan meals, Tuesdays are homemade pizza night, and all I have to put down for each Tuesday of the month is what kind of pizza I might want to make (pesto, kalamata olive based, etc.). Or Thursdays are always pinto beans and I decide what veggies to sauté and whether to make tortillas or cornbread. It actually looks like this: Sundays are a bean/grain/vegetable night (choose what kind of beans, which grain, which veggies, serve simple or make a casserole), Mondays are potato night (could be big baked potatoes, or Indian style potatoes, or a potato-vegetable gratin, etc., Tuesdays are pizza, Wednesdays are based on pasta (simple with sauce, or switch up the sauces, or make a baked pasta, or even pasta salad when it's hot), Thursdays are based on freshly cooked pinto beans, Fridays are pinto bean leftovers (tacos, burritos, tostadas, casseroles, etc.), and Saturdays are homemade soup and bread (choose the soups and breads). The weekly template changes with our activities and the seasons, and currently reflects a return to veganism, but I have used the same method when we ate animal products.

Mary Beth said...

Thanks for all the great comments, you guys!

Wool Fairy--I was planning to do some meals for the freezer before the start of school, but I didn't get around to it. Dinner a Love Story just did a great post on freezing meals for one. Totally good inspiration for freezing larger batches too.

Andrea--you must try meal planning! I love love love having a plan. I can just be on auto pilot then.

Sunshine--love the nightly themes. So easy!