Do you plan your meals for the week? The month? The day?
I try to plan out dinner for the week when I sit down to review the week’s schedule on Sunday afternoon. I would say this happens 60% of the time, but, particularly during CSA time, I don’t get any further than Tuesday, the day we get our box. And on top of that, life puts up a lot of roadblocks by any given dinner time.
Though we had big ideas of eating as a family, Randy and I still don’t eat until after Malorie goes to bed. Assuming Randy is the one doing the bedtime routine, that means I’m downstairs getting everything together. That’s all well and good, but by 7:30 on a particularly busy night, the last thing even I, self-proclaimed food obsessor, wants to do is spend more time in the kitchen. Because of this, we end up getting takeout, making PBJ sandwiches, or eating leftovers designated for lunch as our evening meal. The further we get into the week, the worse I am. Nine times out of ten, I vote takeout for Friday’s dinner, no matter what grand ideas I had earlier in the week.
Enter this blog post from Emily at Jones Design Company where she suggests creating a month of meals ahead of time. Even more mind-blowing is that she then repeats the month for the other months in the same season (i.e. October’s schedule goes into November and December, too.) Whoa.
On the one hand, gosh, this would make things so much easier. Give me one really fun day at the start of the month when I collect recipes and make big plans. On the other, how do you know what you’ll really be in the mood for on any particular day? And for those of us with a CSA, how can we plan that far ahead?
(In case you are wondering, a CSA is the community supported agriculture program where you get vegetables (and some fruit and eggs), every week or two. You don’t know exactly what you are getting, but you’ll know it will be in season.)
In all honesty, when I first read Emily’s post, I thought she was suggesting you make one week’s worth of meal ideas and then repeat that for the month. That seems so boring, but who among us didn’t have taco Tuesday, spaghetti (out of a box) Wednesday, and hamburger Thursday? That’s totally what we grew up with!
(Update – I’m not going crazy! Emily has two posts on the topic and the first one was the same five recipes for each week for a month. Now that might be too restrictive for me!)
For the sake of this post, I just drew up a calendar to see how much I could do for the month.
Turns out, it’s not that hard after all! I do have a few holes, but I’ll use the excuse of my cooking class and say this is just one more place the shiny objects catch my attention. If I stumble upon a new recipe, I want to make it ASAP. That said, I am going to set up two goals for this month.
1. I will start a pinterest board to capture recipes I want to try in November. This might help my Pinterest addiction, too. I have too many recipe boards and forget what I have when I’m looking for something to make. This month, I’ll dump all the fall-sounding ideas into one board, making it easier for me to try and write out the whole month of November at one time.
2. To help create a meal plan for the whole month of October, I narrowed down each day of the week to a theme. Even if I do stray away from my original plan or find myself with a heap of a particular ingredient to use, having theme nights will make it easier to focus.
I usually end up at the grocery store no less than two times per week plus the trip to pick up our CSA. I’m hoping this concept at least knocks down the time wasted on those trips and the amount of money we spend eating out when I can’t think of anything interesting.
Sundays – Meat & Potatoes
We don’t eat much meat at home, but Sunday is the one day I definitely have the time and interest in doing it right. Think roast chicken, homemade lasagna, BBQ ribs, etc.
Mondays – Brunch for Dinner
We rarely make time for fun breakfast even on the weekends, so who’s to say we can’t have it for dinner? (P.S. I love being a grown-up! Next month – dessert for dinner!!) I’ll use these nights for omelets, pancakes and fruit salad. I’ll also consider this the night for soup and sandwich, a popular lunch option and something we have often around these parts.
Tuesdays – Tomato-Based
Pizzas, pastas, soups – anything you can throw a tomato (or a can of tomato paste) at is popular in this house, particularly on the night we run errands or do tiny house projects. I’ll use my Flatzzas to make homemade pizza or throw all our leftover vegetables into the pot with some spaghetti sauce and noodles for the ultimate healthy, comfort food.
Wednesdays – Leftovers
What can I say? I have class during our prime eating hours and this is normally the night Randy is in Ohio, so it’s every man for himself. If I bring home class experiments and/or ice cream that jumped into the car, all the better.
Thursdays – Slow Food
For this month, I teach from 6 – 8 pm on Thursday nights, meaning the meal needs to be prepped ahead of time and popped into the oven by Randy on his way to put Eggroll down. I’ll use the crockpot or casserole dishes to make filling meals for these nights.
Friday/Saturday – Wild Card
At least one of these days, mama ain’t cooking. For the other night, we might also go out or have friends over. Or we may be busy all day and I relax by stirring a pot of risotto and listening to podcasts. I can’t plan for everything!
How do you manage to keep everyone happy at the dinner table without going insane or using your whole budget within the first week? I’d love to hear your ideas!