Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Menu Planning

I have always wished I could be one of "those moms."  You know - the ones who can toss together a meal that the family gets excited about.  The ones who know a favorite and special meal for each member of the family.  The ones who plan a menu for the week and schedule time to make it all happen.

I am so not one of those moms.

I enjoy cooking but tend to find it somewhat thankless.  And with limited time each evening, I feel like I'm stuck with pretty basic food like spaghetti (to fancy it up, we cook up ground beef to add to the sauce or we get really wild and have garlic bread) or chicken nachos (layer of chips on foil lined baking sheet, bits of chicken, shredded cheese - bake at 350 until cheese is melted).

I look at recipes and, honestly, I feel overwhelmed.  I've even tried signing up for menu planning websites but I always get scared of the things they send and the effort involved.

And with a family that can sometimes get a bit complain-y and picky... I often just don't feel like I have the energy to deal.

I did have some success with a Wildtree frozen meal party I attended a few months ago.  We made up about 10 meats/proteins that would then be frozen and would just need to that, be cooked, and served with sides.  The foods that I prepared from that party... my family was perfectly happy with.  And I should have been pleased with the ease of having things basically planned in my freezer.  But in my head?  It wasn't much different than just having all that meat in my freezer and pulling it out to make something with it.  I did come away with some delicious spices and grapeseed oils and when I use them, I know my family is getting healthier stuff.

But it isn't the solution to my problem.

I need to look ahead to the coming week on Saturday so we can shop on Saturday and Sunday.  I need to evaluate what I hav ein my freezer and what meals I want to make and plan approproiately for the meals we can eat at home.

But somehow I never make it work.

I'm asking for your help!  

I would love to do a recipe share.  Dishes that are super easy and that families love.  Or maybe mostly easy and families like.  Or meals I can plan to make and that picky families will tolerate.

If you have a blog post with some favorite recipes - share it in the linky-doo thing down below.

If you want to email me some favorite recipes, I will add them to this blog post.

You can leave a comment with your recipe.

Or maybe you aren't much of a recipe person?  Me neither!  So leave me a comment or email me or link up to share your PLAN.  Share some menu plans - Monday is pork chops with peas and apple sauce, Tuesday is lasagna, etc.  If I have a good plan, I can work with all the awesome Wildtree products in my cabinet!!

sig jan 2014 photo owlsig.jpg


Eternal Lizdom said...

From my friend Tracy:
Crockpot is your best friend! Toss some frozen chicken breast in there in the am and you have a great start for dinner when you get home. I add taco seasoning, shred when I get home and bam! We have chicken tacos in less than 5 minutes. Same with pork or beef roast. Casseroles too. You can cut and prep veggies, add meat (raw) and seasoning them freeze. Just pop it in the crockpot and your meal is ready when you get home.

Tracy said...

I always meal plan and it is only two of us now. Saturday/Sunday are for meals that take time, weeknights are quick meals or leftovers from the freezer. I got a cookbook called 5 in 5 for Christmas and it has all sorts of fast healthy meals in it that only use 5 main ingredients.

Angie @ Just Like The Number said...

Liz, I'm one of "those moms!" I was forced to commit to a meal plan out of necessity when we started doing Financial Peace. It was the only way to get our eating out and grocery budgets in check. It's taken me awhile to find my groove, but now that I have a system in place I can't imagine going back to winging it and/or eating out all the time anymore. Here are a few things that helped me get going:

1. Plan for a week's worth of meals, but stick to a basic template and be realistic. When I plan for the week, I look at our calendar. If I'm working that day or we have an evening activity I know I need to fill in with something quick and easy. Planning a meal that takes 60 minutes to get on the table is a recipe for disaster and frustration. My basic categories are soup night, pizza night, pasta night, and meat dish. That leaves one night to eat out, one night for leftovers, and an extra day. I find that when I consistently plan for 4 meals, we often have enough leftovers or stuff to stash in the freezer that we can fill up that open day with whatever sounds good.

2. Whenever possible, cook a big batch of something and put the extra in the freezer for another meal. I have a handful of meals that are just as much work to double or triple as it is to make one batch: taco meat, meatloaf, chicken strips, and pasta sauce.

3. Keep a list of meals you enjoy preparing and your family enjoys eating. I organize mine by my meal planning categories and just rotate through them as I plan the week.

4. Ask for input from kids and your spouse. I get a lot of complaints, too, and it made me SO mad. To put so much work into planning and cooking just to have someone pick it apart! So each week I ask if there's anything anyone is craving or really wants me to make. For a long time they just blew me off, but when someone would pipe up and complain I'd remind them that they had a chance to have a say in what we were eating this week and chose not to participate. We talked a lot about how a family doesn't always have the same tastes and how it's not fair for one person to dictate what everyone else eats. We eat a variety of meals so that everyone can enjoy their favorite meal regularly, but complaining when it's not *your* favorite isn't an option (but going hungry is!).

5. I use Pinterest both for inspiration and organizing. I have boards for meals I might want to try, as well as a board for meals I make regularly that go over well with the entire family. I call it my "Meal Plan All-Stars Board:" http://www.pinterest.com/angie_six/meal-plan-all-stars/

That was ridiculously long, but I hope it helped. We're close enough that if you ever wanted to get together and chat more specifically about it, I'd be happy to do so. I feel your pain - my family can be really picky, which makes conventional meal planning frustrating. I hope it gets better for you!

Unknown said...

I've been doing weekly meal planning since the start of January. While the planning and shopping is a hassle on Saturday or Sunday, the low-hassle no-thinking-required for the rest of the week makes it TOTALLY worth it! How can I help?

Eternal Lizdom said...

Share a sample meal plan!

Unknown said...

Done! I wrote a blog post and linked it up. I will be sharing more recipes. Jeff and I discussed our favorites from last month, so I will begin posting a recipe a week (hopefully).

Garret said...

As you know, it's just Jim and I so with smaller portions, that means a larger meal can go a long way. I mass produce meatloaf into mini-loaves and freeze them. I make small lasagnas, etc. I definitely agree with cooking ahead/bulk when possible.

The crockpot is your friend as someone said. Jim and I look for easy recipes that don't require extra browning, sauteing, etc. A lot of the recipes are easy and delish.

We have a wipe-erase board on the fridge with a grocery list and a menu for the week. We then buy for the meals, defrost what we need, and have a clue on Thursday instead of asking each other "what do you want for dinner?" only to have the other say "I don't know".