From the time I was a little girl, I loved spending time with Dad in the kitchen, learning from the master. When my sisters and I were old enough to fully participate in the meal preparation, Dad held a weekly menu planning meeting. Each of us picked a night and planned the family dinner – main course, sides, whatever else. Mom and Dad took the remaining four nights.
From our planned menu, my parents created a shopping list and bought supplies accordingly. When I left home, this habit of planning and shopping accordingly continued. Sure, when something like chicken or fish or what have you goes on sale, I take advantage and stock up. Stocking up helps formulate the following week’s menu.
My menu is printed out and posted to the refrigerator door for two reasons. First, I know at a glance the night before what needs to be moved from the freezer to the fridge for the next night’s dinner. Secondly, I don’t get those questions of “what’s for dinner?”
When planning, I make notes on particular days BEFORE putting together the menu. If we are attending a birthday party, I won’t plan a big meal or dessert – no one wants a big meal after filling up on slices of pizza and birthday cake. If we have an obligation that would prevent me from cooking that night, I might simply note “Fast Food” or “Chinese Take Out” or whatever else works best. Thursday’s plan usually say “Left Over Night – Everyone For Themselves.” Thursdays are a good night to rid the fridge of any lingering left overs before stocking up again on Saturday mornings.
Fridays are simple to plan. I have an entire collection of recipes marked “Catholic Fridays” and I’m adding to it all the time. Sundays I try to stick to the more traditional “chicken” dinners without repeating the same thing over and over again.
If I know in advance that my guys are going to be working a late night, I’ll plan something simple for that particular night. Crock pots work well – supper can be dished up whenever they are ready.
Menus were especially helpful when Kiddo was a teenager. It was then that I went back to work and Kiddo was in charge of all the cooking during the week. Not only did I have each night’s supper planned out, but I had a cheat-sheet of recipes for him to follow, with little details such as “4:00 PM – Chop Vegetables for Stir-Fry” or other details that would help Kiddo have dinner ready when we walked through the door. (Most nights he started dinner, and I finished it).
Don’t get me wrong – having a plan doesn’t mean dinner is carved in stone. At the bottom of the weekly planner it clearly states “Above is subject to change without notice”. While I added that to the planner as a joke, it’s also my “out” when I simply don’t feel like cooking or when life has other plans.
So often I hear people say “I don’t know what to do for dinner tonight.” Either that or they talk about standing in front of the fridge, peering inside and scratching their heads. What I find most baffling about the lack of meal planning is that people can shop without a plan or a list. How is that? Sure, sometimes when Hubby and I are wandering up and down the grocery aisles with list in hand, we’ll grab things that aren’t on the list but strike our fancy at the moment.
This brings about a question – do non-planners shop on the way home each night or do they do a weekly “grab” of whatever and take it from there? While I might make Wednesday’s planned dinner on Monday because it works out better as the day unfolds, I have a plan and all the ingredients on-hand. I cannot imagine winging it every night. Nor can I imagine the waste and added expense in the food budget to live each day without a clue. Grocery stores are set up for non-planners. You’ll walk by all the “grab” items to get to the real food. Don’t believe me? Run into the grocery store for a carton of milk or a loaf of bread. You’ll walk out $40.00 later with all sorts of cookies and chips and other things you might not have bought otherwise.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts on the subject, for what they are worth. I am a planner by nature . . . are you?