Y’all. I think mother nature and my children are working together to have me committed. This whole polar vortex thing is INSANE. I am desperately seeking order, organization, and some small form of control.
So, can I ask you a personal question?
Who cooks in your house?
Or, rather how do you plan what you cook in your house?
Do you work a week ahead? The morning of? Do you shop the sales? Make it your mission to clean out your freezer before adding to it? Only grocery shop once a week? Manage to buy everything on your list?
Please. Teach me.
I’m in a bad way, friends. I’m in the rarely remember to defrost plan around 5pm for a 6 o’clock dinner make the same 3 meals every week kind of a situation. I’m not sure how I got here. For darn sure, winter is partly to blame. Also, I’m lazy. Also, thinking about meal-planning kind of completely overwhelms me. Sitting down every week? When? I REPEAT: WHEN?
But I was reading Miss Jessica’s post about her cousin’s plan and I thought- now HERE. Here is something maybe I can do. None of this once a week heart-to-heart with the newspaper or a menu template printable in the Curlz font. No. Her idea is simply to grab all of your basic meals and make 5 weeks of meals ready for rotation.
I wondered how many meals I actually had in my back pocket. Could I fill a whole calendar?
This is what I came up with:
- chicken or pork schnitzel
- pork chops
- pork tenderloin
- stew (winter) / brats (summer)
- fajitas (sirloin)
- tai peanut stir fry
- roast beef
- fried chicken
- spaghetti with meatballs
- pizza / calzones
- tai green or red curry with chicken
- tortilla soup
- chicken soup with dumplings
- macaroni and cheese
- green or red enchiladas
- ravioli / tortellini
- angel chicken
- fresh salmon
- fish tacos
- polish sausage
- white chicken chili
- chicken gyros (souvlaki)
- ham & potato soup
- baked ham
- chicken pot pie
- shepherd’s pie
- chicken nuggets
- honey mustard chicken
- french onion soup
- ham & potato gratin casserole
- tacos / nachos (ground beef)
- shredded bbq beef
- pancakes and bacon
- pork ragu
- baked potato bar
- beef stroganoff
- chicken fried steak
That’s pretty much what we eat. And that’s 6 weeks of food without repeating! And we repeat. A LOT. My mission now is to organize this into a schedule of some sort and see if it makes my life easier for a month. Is it possible I could actually be prepared to defrost ahead of time? I need to sort out winter meals and find summer replacements. I need to get all the recipes in one place so I’m not looking things up every night at the exact time my children are hanging from the rafters. But, the more I look at this, the more I think that it’s totally doable for me. These are meals that can always be traded out for a new surprise or a seasonal fix, and they’re meals that have plenty of variation possibilities on their own.
So, I don’t know. I’m going to mess with it this weekend and see what I come up with.
Related: where in the world are all the good fish recipes? Do you have any that will change my life?
Now- talk to me.
January 30th, 2014 at 7:15 am
Quick Cod. Thaw and pat dry thick cod fillets. Rub sugar on skin side. Add 1 tbs olive in non stick oven safe skillet. . Add fillets to hot skillet sugar side down. Cook 1 minute. Bake in preheated 425 oven for 10 minutes. These are quick and delicious.
January 30th, 2014 at 7:51 am
I have nothing for you fish-wise because I despise fish. I admire your tenacity, sister. Meal planning and cooking is my kryptonite.
I’ve tried official plans and such, and the only thing that works for me is this:
– I plan and shop on Monday for meals through Thurs.
– On Thurs I plan for meals through Sun.
I’ve figured out for me that shopping once a week isn’t enough — I always need more produce or whathaveyou…and it’s also too stressful to plan for the entire week. So instead I go twice a week only, and it’s just two mini-trips. Much more manageable and seems to really work for me right now.
But I love your plan of listing all the meals, so I might try that too!
January 30th, 2014 at 8:13 am
I was never any good at planning a menu – the quiet rebel in me never felt like making what was on for that day. So I decided instead to simply decide what protein the meal would be based around instead. So we had Meaty Monday, Legume Tuesday, Eggy Wednesday etc etc. It worked. A couple of weeks ago I got brave and actually wrote a fortnightly menu based on this plan. So the imagination had only to stretch as far as two eggy meals, two lentil dishes etc. So far so good. I figure to swap out the meals at the beginning of each school term, just to keep life exciting 😉
January 30th, 2014 at 8:15 am
Will be interested to read the responses on this – so interesting to find out how people manage this.
I’m a once-a-week planner and shopper – usually on the weekend, since we aren’t activity-heavy on the weekends yet. I have a notebook that I assign one page a week too that includes grocery list, meal list (I try to plan for 5 meals), our calendar of events, and chores I need to get done. Sometimes, I sit down with cookbooks and plan 5 full meals, sometimes I shop first and buy what’s on sale or what looks good, and make a meal plan around that. And sometimes, I get no meals planned at all, or I might jot down something like “cauliflower” for a meal, because I know I have a head I need to use. I cook lots of new things – the experimenting keeps me interested in cooking and if I haven’t planned a meal, most days I find it a creative challenge to come up with something off the cuff (please don’t roll your eyes back in your head – I don’t get a lot of creative challenges during the day ;-)).
Having said all of that, knowing that our world is about to be turned upside down again in about a month, I’m trying to be more disciplined about the meal-planning. Cooking off the cuff won’t be so fun with a newborn screaming during the witching hour.
January 30th, 2014 at 8:22 am
And I just plan 5 meals – I don’t assign them to days, so that way I still have some leeway to suit my mood.
January 30th, 2014 at 8:39 am
Post it when you get it down!
There are 5 active cooks here so the kitchen is always a-buzz and messy, but definitely short on order.
I have heard of a seasonal rotation of recipes with each day of the week being a particular category. For example, Meatless Mondays or Italian Wednesdays with 6 recipes for each category per season. This allows for local, seasonal buying, adds variety, and gives focus to your daily dinner choice, which is a good place to be when the 3 o’clock panic sets in. You can still take advantage of store loss leaders as sides or to stack the pantry.
January 30th, 2014 at 9:18 am
Amy B and I are kindred spirits–that’s exactly how we operate around here. Grocery shop on Monday, have 5 or 6 meals in the hopper, and work from there. I usually write down my 5 meals on the chalkboard in our kitchen, mostly to remind myself, but also to let Matt know what’s coming up. If I’m feeling really generous I’ll let him pick before he leaves for work.
Having only 5 allows for those surprise “I just CAN’T” evenings when we go out or get pizza or everyone gets grilled cheese and will like it because I said so.
Anyway, thats our ideal scenario, but some weeks are screwy or I fall of the planning wagon. But honestly, planning is so necessary for me, otherwise I end up at the grocery store every day for some random ingredients and that us disastrous for both my sanity and bank account.
January 30th, 2014 at 11:24 am
Great list, Katie!! Thanks for taking the time to make that. I think I am going to use your list, then make some changes of my own, then stick to it. The worst thing for me to do is come up with the idea, dig through endless recipes, actually make a decision. I love to try new things but sometimes that’s just all too much work every week.
I would come up with one new thing a month, no more no less, BUT KEEP it organized on your list.
Thanks for the challenge.
January 30th, 2014 at 12:26 pm
Meal planning was VERY intimidating to me when I first started staying at home, because basically I had never done it before. I usually plan a whole week at a time. I have a spiral notebook that I keep in my kitchen and do one sheet a week. Then if I ever get stuck I can just look back at previous weeks to get ideas. Just recently I felt like it was just taking me way too long, so I came up with a system where each night of the week we have a theme, and then I have note cards, each with that theme and several recipes for each theme. Then I don’t really have to think that much when I make the menu and also, I can look to see if certain things are on sale or seasonal and pick those recipes for that night. For example, Monday – home-aid pizza night Tues. – vegetarian or fish Wed. soup & home-aid bread Thurs. beans and rice or beans and tortillas. Friday – meat and potatoes or grain Saturday – pasta Sunday – casserole. Then I usually have everything in the house for the week (if grocery shop on Monday morning) and I can always switch around — so if I know that Monday I have to be gone from 3p-5p I will do soup in the crock pot and then do pizza on the soup night. Hope that all make sense. I has saved me so much time and stress (and probably money so we don’t order out pizza all the time 🙂 )
We just make a fish recipe that everyone really liked. It is salmon on wild rice with a mango salsa. http://www.yoursouthernpeach.com/2012/02/chili-salmon-tropical-salsa.html
January 30th, 2014 at 3:07 pm
I would simplify it more than that if I were you. Maybe four weeks with a “extra” day a week to have other things. That way you know on the 28th you ALWAYS eat chili type of things. 6 week rotation just seems like a lot to me. I know a mom that does a two week rotation. That would be a bit much for me but three or four would be great.
January 30th, 2014 at 3:10 pm
And I will say as a mom of four ages 7, 4, 4, and 4….one having Autism I do do once a week. About once a month I go through my freezers come up with a list a meals based on what we have. Then, once a week I take that list and decide what and when for the week. On Sundays I “meal prep”. I make everything or thaw everything I can for the week. It makes life so much simpler for me! And it’s what works for our family. We get random food sometimes (as foster parents)…..so we have to get creative. I also have certain days as certain items….ie Thursday is soup day, Friday is pizza day.
January 30th, 2014 at 4:18 pm
I get this. I hate to cook, shop for food, plan for food, all of it! If I could choose ONE domestic helper, it would be a cook, without hesitation. I do loosely plan our meals, simply so I know I at least have food in the house and I have a general idea of what my options are.
One thing have I found to be helpful (and predictable because there’s not much this Type AAAA person needs more than predictability) is the following:
Monday: Italian meal
Tuesday: Mexican meal
Thursday: meat (pork, beef, burgers, chicken)
Friday: breakfast for dinner
Saturday: pizza night
This helps me have a general idea of what to plan for. I also do cook ahead a bit. For example, I buy a big bag of chicken breasts and cook them all one Saturday morning, cut them up, and freeze them in two cup portions. That way, when I decide at 4 p.m. to make a chicken casserole, the chicken is all set. I just have to defrost it and throw together a casserole. I also buy ground beef in large packages and then divide it up and freeze it in one-pound packages. Sometimes I cook it first and then divide it up; it just depends.
Hint: get to know your crock pot. Makes life SOOO much easier when dinner is started by 12 noon! 🙂
Good luck! And try not to stress too much. I guarantee no one will starve. My mother is perhaps the world’s worst cook and we all managed to thrive and turn into responsible, respectable adults! 🙂
January 30th, 2014 at 4:33 pm
I’m of this bizarre minority; We live on a boarding school campus and have dinners in the dining hall as a part of our job benefits, therefore we in no way make enough money to actually be able to afford groceries for the four of us on a regular basis, which for many is like a dream-come-true, but I actually am jealous of you moms who get to do this every week. I have decided that my dream job would literally be as a family’s personal cook. I would love to spend all day planning, shopping for, and cooking meals, and yet I actually can’t! Isn’t that ironic? Maybe it’s the grass is greener syndrome.
Anyhoo- Since I still love to pretend I have weeks of meals to plan (and I get to in the summer, though on a very tight budget), I LOVE watching this show by Rachael Ray called “Week in a Day” which you can find on Amazon (it USED to be free on prime and now it doesn’t seem to be. boo). She plans out a week of meals based on using fewer ingredients and ones that play off of each other from day to day. It’s so much fun and so insightful, I think. She also has several cookbooks that are like that- “365 Meals, No Repeats” for one.
January 30th, 2014 at 9:57 pm
2T butter or oil
6 gr onions, chopped 2T flour
1 stalk celery, chopped 1 16oz can diced tomatoes
2 carrots, chopped 1 can coconut milk
1 lg potato, diced 1 can water – more if desired
1/2t thyme-heaping 1 fillet of salmon (or lg can of albacore tuna if you like)
1/4t dill weed-heaping 2T chopped parsley
1 1/2t salt
Brush salmon filet with olive oil, salt, pepper to taste. Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil, broil 7-10 min about 4 inches from flame until thickest part of fish no longer looks wet and flakes with fork (better to under-do a bit it will cook the rest of the way in the chowder). Sit to let cool.
Gently saute’ onions, celery, carrots, & potatoes in oil (butter) until tender, stirring occasionally – about 10 min. Add herbs, seasonings & flour, stirring for a minute. Stir in tomatoes, simmer another min or two. Add coconut milk, parsley, and broiled broken up fish (make sure to look for bones)
My parents bring us a lot of salmon when they come back from Alaska. This is a favorite way for our family to enjoy it. The coconut milk is not that strong a flavor. It balances the acidity of the tomatoes and is a terrific blend with the spices. Pretty to look at too!! You can always thaw frozen salmon in the package in the sink with some luke warm water pretty quickly. I like to dice everything pretty small, kids eat it better that way. Totally crockpot worthy just mix it all up in the a.m. and let it simmer. Grab a box of Ritz and you’re ready to go.
January 30th, 2014 at 10:03 pm
Shoot, it cut off 1/2 my ingredients:
1 16 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
1 can water – more if desired
1 fillet salmon (or lg can Albacore Tuna if you like)
2T chopped parsley
January 31st, 2014 at 3:06 pm
I may be of a different spirit than you. I am a planner. Love to organize my life and with work, kids, and some activities during the week, I find sanity in planning my week.
Like a few others, I too keep a notebook on my kitchen counter at all times. I list out the 4 nights and the meal we are having along with the bath schedule, and nights that I have a meeting or spin class. I also write out the supper help for the week too. Everyone has a job for the week, dishwasher clearer, table setter and table clearer. If my meals are planned I don’t have to guess or figure this out and it’s one less task.
Tuesdays have to be easy since I go to spin and time is short and my children love to make a meal last! So those nights we will may subs, ham and cheese crescents (kid friendly and easy), spaghetti (which I have already made) or some other quick to heat and eat meal. Wednesdays are my breakfast for supper night. Every week. This started when Devin was in school and had classes on Wednesday, I needed a meal that everyone liked and could eat quickly. This has continued and no one has complained yet! Plus the pancakes or french toast that are left over last for weekend breakfast. Friday is our frozen pizza night – I am ready for a cooking break and use my easy out card for this day.
By the way – I did not see BBQ meatballs on your list. Those are a huge hit here. How about a stromboli? That was a new edition last week and quite a success.
I do prep cooking on Saturdays or Sundays. I buy chicken in bulk and split the chicken up with a few great marinades that I freeze with the chicken in a bag and take out the night before to thaw in the fridge (again since it’s on my list – I just have to follow my own orders).
Since I have numerous recipes that are from the internet or magazines, I began using a 3 ring notebook many years back to collect these. I tape the recipes to plan paper and then place these in clear plastic sheets. I organize the recipes according to type and then note what it is on the top of the paper to make finding the recipes easier. I also bought a couple recipe books last year and have enjoyed using these for ideas. You may want to look into this one “Don’t Panic, Quick, Easy, and Delicious Meals for Your Family.” I have used several from this book and it saved me from my boredom with cooking the same thing every week!
Also, have you heard of Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach? She has a blog (under the same name), the book has recipes as well as her writing about food, planning, and kids etc. You may enjoy
Well that’s it for my novel. I would love to talk food, or planning anytime!
February 1st, 2014 at 4:03 pm
Girl, I am not a planner. I love flying by the seat of my pants. PINTEREST is what motivates me and inspires me BIG TIME. Ever make Hobos? Prolly not. Big sheet of foil, football shaped burger patty, carrots, potatoes cut up, maybe onion, salt & pepper, a little water. (or anything else you want to throw in) Fold up tight and cook an hour @ 350. Custom made dinner, no clean up. It makes a fun night! xo
February 3rd, 2014 at 8:58 am
I use tastebook.com for recipes – both looking them up (multiple ways to search), saving them, and Writing in my Own with pictures! at a later date you’re able to then have a cookbook printed with your own entries and notes on recipes from epicurious (or whatever)
February 5th, 2014 at 10:24 am
I’m usually one day ahead or day of – keep lots of “basic” ingredients around so I can go with whatever I have a yen for. Today, for instance, I’m making Chinese – which I never, ever do but Elizabeth asked for (and is going to help make) egg drop soup – and all I need to pick up is hoisin sauce, which is only one quick stop down the road. (If I had been a little more than a day ahead I could’ve picked it up when I shopped yesterday.) If I hadn’t figured out what I was going to make the day before, I usually know by 9:00 am – later than that and I’ll never figure it out.
February 5th, 2014 at 10:55 pm
We’re not doing super hot around here either. The most I’ve ever planned ahead is a week. But I’ll plan for a few weeks in a row and get burned out, so I quit and wing it for a couple months. I NEVER remember to defrost any kind of meat. So. I’m up a creek for dinner lots of nights. Right now, we’re focusing on eating everything in the fridge before it goes bad, and then just buying small amounts of food at a time. Our main problem is that there are only 3 of us so we have a hard time with leftovers. Nobody wants to eat the same thing for 3 nights in a row. So. Any ideas on that would be great. I’m thinking maybe cook 3 nights in a row and then have various leftovers for 3 nights, then go out or have Ramen or cereal for day 7. Thoughts?