I’m not a planner. Tommy and I actually butt heads about this sometimes (not as often as we did as a newly married couple…man you couldn’t pay me money to be newly married again). Tommy is a very orderly person. He can only sleep in a completely made bed. He has a rotation system for his clothing so that he wears it all an even number of times. He schedules out most of his day, wake up 4:30, shower, get dressed in the clothes he picked out the night before, brew his coffee, read and check Facebook, eat breakfast, wake the household up, run bath water for the kids, make lunches, feed Leo, go to work. This is what he does. Every. Single. Day.
I’m one of those spur of the moment people. I could not tell you the order that I do things every day. It depends on who is awake, whose hair is more tangled, whether I showered in the evening or can’t remember the last time I showered.
Anyway, despite my lack of planning bone…we do have to plan our meals or else chaos ensues. We used to try to do all of our meal planning on Sundays to be ready right before the week started up again. BUT, I was getting really annoyed every time that we would do that.
Finally I realized why. It was more than just hating to plan. I felt like we were losing the rest of our weekend every time we planned our meals on Sundays and did the shopping. I covet our weekends. In fact, I’m likely to not respond to texts or phone calls on the weekend, because I’m too much in the family reverie mode. Anyway, my first tip for having a workable dinner menu for the week is find a non-stressful time to plan your menu. For us, Sunday night is already stressful with making sure that everyone has what they need for school and work in the morning. So I tend to try to plan menus on Fridays when I’m happy and excited about the weekend. And if I can’t actually get to it, Tommy and I will do it together on Saturday morning.
If you’re not a planner (like I’m not) then this is the part that will give you hives. It’s okay. Just do it anyway. You have to look at your calendar. There’s nothing worse than watching your produce die a slow miserable uncooked death because you didn’t check your calendar and realize that you had no time to make enchiladas with homemade salsa and guacamole from scratch. You forgot that you had parent teacher conferences Wednesday. Oh wait, there’s also gymnastics class on Monday, Math night at the school Tuesday, and Thursday you’ll be exhausted (trust me), and Friday everyone wants homemade pizzas.
So…what are you going to actually eat? If you’re having a hard time answering this question, then you need a cheat sheet.
Five or so years ago, Tommy and I made a list of about 20 very easy meals that we regularly eat. They all fall into 5-6 different ethnic food categories (well, mostly). Anyway, we put an ethnic category on a night and then we choose one of the meals in that category (that also goes with how easy the meal needs to be). I wonder if all vegetarians live on ethnic foods. I suspect the answer is….yes for most of them.
Our categories go as follows with a couple examples of meals for each (I don’t usually need list inspiration for fancy hard to make meals…I need the cheat sheet for something fast and easy and go-to) **Bonus, we can buy the ingredients for these meals at our local Hy-vee….we don’t have to go to a fancy store for them.**
American: Avocado sandwiches with tomatoes and cheese,
Mac & cheese with steamed veggies
Italian: Spaghetti and salad
fajita veggies and quesadillas
Indian: Lentils with rice
Black garbanzos and rice
Asian (not from India): Stir fry with tofu
Organic ramen with steamed veggies and tofu
We also have a soup category that we add in during the winter time. Most of those recipes are either for the crock pot or pressure cooker. The categories aren’t really a rule or anything. It’s just a way of coming up with ideas when we’re stuck. I need a good variety of different things to eat to keep me from getting bored with our at home menu.
I hope this is helpful. Like I said, I’m not a planning queen, but we do only order take out on average once a week or once every two weeks…so it must be going at least pretty good.
Anyone else have tricks and tips on how to create a menu that you can stick to?