I can’t say enough about menu planning. It is something that has made my life as a wife/mother/homemaker so much easier. It has taken quite a bit of stress out of my life that used to be there. At one point I had 15 weeks of menus planned. That’s right…15 weeks. I didn’t repeat a meal ONCE in that whole 15 week period. I was loving life, because I didn’t even have to THINK about what would be for dinner. It was all there in my cooking software, ready to be printed out, shopped for, and then carried out…
Then last night….I got this hair brained idea to rework my menus, rename some cookbooks in my cooking software, and move some recipes around so it all would be easier to access. In doing that, I wiped out those 15 weeks of menus. I didn’t realize that if I changed the name of the cookbook the menu took a recipe from, it wouldn’t know where to find it. :( 15 weeks of menus GONE.
At first I was REALLY upset. That was A LOT of work to put those all together. But when I looked back over some menus that I had printed out, I realized that I had planned them ALL based on our school year schedule. We have a very different schedule in the summer. I really needed to rework many of my menus anyway.
I’ve been reading a few blogs lately where my friends have talked about their own menu planning. The underlying point in all of the blogs was that you need to plan your menus in such a way that fits your family’s schedule/routine. I thought it would be much better if I just planned my menus 2 weeks at a time (since we shop every two weeks), and did it based on what we would be doing during those two weeks. That way I would not purchase ingredients for a meal that we would not be home to prepare/eat. I also decided to go back to planning my breakfast and lunch menus as well. Having the whole day of meals planned means I don’t have to figure out anything as far as food for the day goes. It’s all posted on my fridge, and I just have to make it happen. All of the ingredients are in my fridge or pantry. This GREATLY reduces the temptation to pile my littles in the car and drive somewhere for carry-out which adds up after a while.
Last night I sat down with my cooking software. I reworked all of my cookbooks and recipes so that they are better organized, easier to access, and will make my menu planning a quick, stress-free, enjoyable task for me to do. I will do it the night before we shop for groceries. Menus will be posted on the fridge each week with the recipes for each meal attached, so that it is all easy for me to find when I need it. If something is frozen and needs to be thawed for the next day’s meal, we will do that as soon as dinner dishes are washed the night before.
One thing I plan to implement is bringing our favorites around more often. It just was not realistic to not repeat a meal for 15 weeks. We tried a lot of new stuff, and we still will, but we’ll also bring out the things we enjoy more often. Parker and Morgan are each going to help me plan a menu from time to time. When they do, it will include all of their favorites for that week. They will also be required to help me cook one of those meals that week. They will also get to pick a dessert to make for that week. I think it will be fun, and will allow my kids to be in the kitchen more. I’m looking forward to it.
My usual format is to pick one chicken dish, one beef dish, one Mexican dish, one pasta dish, and one breakfast entree dish per week. I don’t plan meals for the weekends, because we just eat leftovers or soup/sandwiches. Sometimes I double up on the chicken dishes and exclude a breakfast entree. It depends on what is going on in our week.
So yes, I lost a LOT of work, but it helped me do some things to make our meal preparation easier, and a better fit for our family. I can’t say enough about the cooking software I got for Christmas, or what a stress reliever meal planning has been for me. I am happy to help anyone get started on it, or to share more of my ideas here, or even share some of my menus/recipes. I never used to enjoy cooking, but I think it was because I didn’t have a system in place that removed the stressful part of it for me. I have done that, and now I enjoy making good, nutritious meals for my family.
I am diabetic, so most of my recipes have to be tweaked or even some rewritten. I will post the recipes exactly as I got them from different cookbooks, blogs, websites, etc. You can feel free to tweak them to fit your family as I have had to do (subbing fat-free for whole fat items, sugar-free for sugar-filled, etc. :). I hope the meal preparation part of your life as a wife/mother is as enjoyable to you as mine is to me. :)