Do you know what I'm SO excited about this week? The MONTHLY Menu Plan that I worked on while I was pretending to scrapbook last weekend. I have sporadically used weekly menu plans in the past and I LOVE them, but somehow Friday always rolls around and I'm not prepared for either the weekend or the following week. So I thought a plan covering a longer period of time might be a better option.
Here's what I did…
I went through all of my Pinterest recipes and all of our "family favorites" and made a list of 30 different dinners that my family either already loves or that I've wanted to try. Surprisingly it wasn't that hard to come up with 30.
Then I made a MASTER LIST of all the groceries needed to make ALL of those recipes.
And then when I got home I transferred all those recipes onto a giant desk calendar that now lives on our fridge instead of on my desk.
Craig prefers dinners with meat in them, so I made sure to plan all of our pasta favorites and meatless dinners on the nights when he's traveling. I scheduled mostly crock pot dinners or quick dinners on Wednesday nights because of the small window between Cub Scouts and YM/YW activities. And easy, prep ahead meals for Sundays.
After a week of this menu in place here's the reality of it...I've only stuck with the plan for three out of five days…and the weekend will look slightly different than it does on that calendar, too. I try to have all of our events scheduled on the calendar, but variable things like Savannah's work schedule, and missionaries popping over, and camp outs that I forget about, make flexibility a good thing. Wednesday night's dinner wasn't a hit, so I ended up with tons of leftover chicken. So for dinner last night, instead of quiche, I just got rid of the yucky stuffing part of Wednesday's dinner that no one liked, diced up the chicken breasts and made a double batch of chicken pot pie for the missionaries' impromptu visit. I had everything already on hand for that and all of those quiche ingredients will be fine until I decide to rotate that back into the schedule. (I also whipped up a yummy Dr. Pepper cake, because really, where is that stuff not delicious??) The menu isn't exact by any means, but I do have a rough idea of what meals will look like around here through mid-February which is awesome. And…the best part is that I have all of the pantry ingredients for all 30 of those recipes! The only thing I might occasionally have to do is fill in with the fresh produce.
I thoroughly enjoy my job in this house as chief meal planner and executive chef. It is extremely fulfilling to make food for my family and the other people who come through my kitchen on a regular basis. And to know that all of the planning is already done for the month is such a huge help. Having a plan makes the schedule stay together, it makes people feel comfortable, and it keeps all of us sane (ok, mostly it keeps me sane.) It's such a relief to be able to consult the calendar in the morning and know what the evening will look like. That way, when those unexpected trips to the doctor's office for strep tests, and changes in rehearsal schedules, and frigid winter weather no one wants to leave the house in, threaten to disrupt the week, no one has to panic. The pantry is full. There is a plan for dinner. And if necessary, we can shift to tomorrow's plan.
I feel strongly that there is great value in having meals together around the table at a regularly scheduled time. We connect in a different way at the table for breakfast and dinner than we do anywhere else. I love to have that time with my kids in the morning before they leave the house and again in the evening when they come home. They spend so much time away from us that it's nice to have those end caps to our days when we can listen to them, instruct them, hear their funny stories, and rejoice together in their accomplishments. The kids feel it when we get casual about meals. We all do.
I'm grateful to have the opportunity to stay at home and I feel the weight of the responsibility to be doing meaningful, purposeful things with that time. Dinners are meaningful and purposeful. Food equals love.
"What your kids really want for dinner is you." - Dallin H. Oaks, Good, Better, Best