Two years ago I started on the idea of menu planning. I was going to school part time, painting full time, and at the end of the day I was fresh out of ideas or energy for dinner. Most nights we would end up getting burritos and hungrily devouring more than half our share of daily calories while watching TCM on the sofa.
I have always loved cooking, but I hate to be rushed about it. If I haven’t started dinner by about 4:30 each day, it usually won’t happen. The hungrier I get the more difficult it is to decide what to make. I stare into the fridge, stomach rumbling, with no clear idea of what will satisfy my growing cravings. The solution to this problem; the menu plan.
I dropped the menu planning around the time I got pregnant because I quit going to school and had more time to sit and think about what I would make that evening for dinner. It didn’t really occur to me until last week that I would make my life a whole lot easier if I started meal planning again.
Basically I just write on a piece of paper the days of the week, then next to each day the proposed dinner idea. Lots of times I wander from this list because I feel like having something different, but I try to stick with using the same ingredients in order to use things up from the fridge in a timely manner.
This time when I start my menu planning I am going to start taking our budget into consideration. I am terrible at saving money, and with a baby and a broken camera in the picture it is more important than ever to save for the future (and a camera!). Wednesdays each week I am going to plan our weekly menu. That is the day we pick up our CSA box, as well as the day that the flyer for the market I shop at comes in the mail.
My only issue with meal planning is that following a weekly schedule makes me feel like I lose my creativity in the kitchen. I tend to get myself in a bit of a food rut, scheduling the same things over and over again. Being spontaneous is part of the fun of cooking to me, which is hard to do when you’ve made a meal plan and have tonight’s dinner already in your head.
Does anyone else out there menu plan for their family? If so, what is your process? How do you keep your meals fresh and so you don’t get bored of cooking, and of the food you are preparing?