Menu planning

Since I wrote a couple of days ago about creating structure in your days, I thought it might be helpful to share what I do about meals. Since mealtimes come around with almost frightening regularity, being prepared for them makes all the difference between relaxed family meals and a tense mom rushing around trying to find something to fill everyone up at the last minute. (I’ve been on both sides of dinner time, and really strongly advocate being ready!)

I make three meals a day, and almost everything is cooked from scratch. I don’t do anything too fancy, but just knowing ahead of time what is planned makes cooking from scratch much easier. For eg, I can soak and sprout the beans a day before I need to cook them (which maximizes the nutritional value as well as making them more digestible), without needing to spend extra time on it because I see it coming up on the menu. If I’m making turkey pot pie, I will whip up a double recipe of biscuit dough and use half for a breakfast, and the other half to top the pot pie.

As each week progresses, I often make some changes to my written menu, depending on what leftovers I have, maybe to take advantage of a great sale on something this week, etc. But I still have the basic structure there, I don’t have to plan every meal an hour before dinner. Like this, we have a nice variety, we have meals everyone usually enjoys, and I don’t have the pressure of trying to think about it more than once every three weeks.

It’s really nice to all sit down together for a cooked meal. It’s just a totally different feeling than everyone scrounging for something of their own. I try to sit down as a family for all three meals every day, though lunch tends to be the weakest – sometimes only half the family is there at a time and others are busy playing outside, or something like that, but I’m okay with it. Soups, casseroles, and one pot dishes are great in terms of ease and limited time.

Here’s what this week’s menu looks like (many that look vegetarian actually have meat stock or gravy added for flavoring and nutritional value):

Sunday – b: pancakes (made of freshly ground millet, buckwheat, and rice); l – can’t remember, leftovers, I think; d – chili with cornbread
Monday – b: farmers casserole (shredded potatoes with eggs, ricotta cheese, and yogurt); l – freshly baked Cuban bread, split pea soup; d – buckwheat with ground beef and veggies
Tuesday: b – baked oatmeal; l – fresh bread, chickpeas, fried potatoes (my kids asked if they could make this today so I agreed and changed the original plan); d- baked beans and hot dogs
Wednesday: b- cranberry muffins; l – turkey pot pie; d – pizza
Thursday: b – pumpkin bread; l – baked potatoes w/ leftover stew ; d – spaghetti squash with meat sauce

Having meals planned out ahead of time also helps keep the food budget in check, something I will write more about in the future since there seems to be more interest in this aspect of things than I initially expected!


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