I reached breaking point one night when Awesome scraped most of his dinner into the bin. Again.
"Any chance we could have some time to plan decent meals for a change?" He asked. I wasn't offended. It was an honest question, and he was right, we had been eating a lot of toast, and throwing out a lot of perfectly good food that I hadn't taken time to cook. But that night, I knew I needed to make some changes to save us from eating over/under cooked creations of who-knows-what mixed together and called Dinner.
Someone should coin a saying about that.
Anyway, I google searched "menu planner printable" and there are a LOT to choose from. There are some very creative people out there with expensive publishing software. I graciously allowed them to do the hard work for me. I searched until I found something that met our needs exactly.
Here are our exact needs;
- One week at a time. Monthly planning scares me. And I already tried it and it just didn't work for me.
- No amount of colour-coding, or fancy scrapbooked tags that you stick up with blutac, is going to make me try harder in the kitchen. At the end of a long day at work, I need two things, a clear picture of what I want to achieve, and everything already in the fridge. I hate to shop on the way home from work (I'm allergic to people), so I have to have everything already in the house. Or we eat toast. I picked a simple planner that just covered the basics.
- Dinners only. Awesome gets his own food during the day, as do I, so I only wanted a dinner planner. I have a problem with empty boxes and lines. Its an Type A personality thing. Deal with it.
- We are not home every night, and frequently only one of us is home, and it can change, so a pen and paper list was not going to work for us, and I really didn't want to have to print a new one each week.
I picked a list that could be printed A5 and stuck it in a frame with glass - I use a whiteboard marker to write out the menu and make any last minute changes by rubbing it out with my finger. Classy.
Here's what I do;
1. We shop on sundays on our way to church. I'm not sure why. It's habit.
2. Because Awesome sleeps in on Sunday mornings, after quiet time in the morning, I grab my diary and menu planner and plan for the week. I work out what nights we are out and how many dinners need to be made at home. I also update the Google calendar (which IS colour-coded - see not totally slack) for Awesome so that he knows what is happening during the week.
3. I plan out what meals we are having, and then adjust my weekly vege and fruit box order online (it gets delivered to my work on Tuesdays so I plan around that and can tailor the order down to the last carrot, which is helpful for minimising waste.
4. I write out the meals and a quick shopping list for later reference, so that I know what to pick up and so that we don't spend one zillion dollars at the supermarket. It works well - I rarely spend over $80-$100 a week at the supermarket. Keep in mind that that is mainly dinners, lunch fixings and some minor breakfast foods - we do eat out of the house 1-3 times a week out of necessity, so that's where the balance of our grocery budget goes.
5. I then put it all away and move on with my day and don't have to think about planning a meal for the rest of the week.
Working full time in a job that has variable hours, and with a number of outside committments, I can safely say that I could care less most days about cooking when I get home. But I have been using this system now for three months, and most of the weeks have been so easy. Some times things come up, sometimes I'm just too exhausted to cook and we eat toast, or order-in. That's life and we are ok with that. But I can understand the kajillion women on the internet who post their meal plans each Monday. It actually does make sense.
Because I'm sure that you care (!) here is this week's menu for us.
Monday: Polenta chicken homemade 'nuggets' and salad (the link is to Alana Chernila's website Eating From the Ground Up - but her recipe is in her book The Homemade Pantry - which I purchased recently and I am in LOVE with).
Tuesday: Baked zucchini and sweet potato chips with steak
Wednesday: Greek Turkey Meatballs with tzatziki and vegetable sticks
Thursday: Slowcooker Minestrone
Friday: Leftover night
Saturday: (store bought) Veal ravioli and napoletana sauce
Sunday: Cold wraps
We are actually home most nights this week, so this is a very 'fancy' week for us. Usually you would see a steak and salad, a chicken dish, a beef dish, pies made in the pie maker and toasted wraps. That's a standard week for us. This week I am also moving back towards a low GI diet and so I am including more low GI meals.
Can you see how much I love food? How crazy long is this post????
Sadly I can't locate the exact printable I am using, but its best to find something you love any way, so get googling!