I swear, like 90% of my life is dealing with food: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, meal planning, making grocery lists, grocery shopping, putting away the groceries, feeding the baby, cleaning up the kitchen.
And that's not taking into account the Stress Treats I sneak in the pantry when the kids are crazy.
I actually do enjoy cooking but dang, it's CONSTANT: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every. Single. Day.
They just keep on coming.
I guess it's job security?
Menu Planning, while not the most exciting task, has been a total lifesaver for me. It forces me to plan ahead, meaning that I won't have to run to the store to grab an essential item for the meal I just decided we're having, meaning that I drop $50 because I see lots of other shiny things there.
It also means I'm not super angry (well, any more than normal) when 4:00 hits and I suddenly realize that not only is food not going to magically hit the table but I have no freaking idea what said food is going to be.
Also, we have like a basketball team of people that live here, so ordering out isn't really an option for us. But I'm real jealous of those of you who have that Dream Life.
I don't know if you've noticed, but I tend to overthink every aspect of life. And not in a good way.
I used to spend H.O.U.R.S. menu planning every week. I'm not quite sure how that's possible, but it's true. I would stalk my favorite cooking blogs and WAY overcomplicate life. My main problem is the whole variety thing.
For better or for worse, we like variety around these parts. While that's fun when going to a restaurant, it's a bit brutal when you're the cook.
So in desperation one day I compiled a list of our favorite dinners that I can easily flip through to get ideas planning for the week. I'm not sure why it took me so long to do this, but hello. It is amazing.
Apparently this has been pretty well loved...
Also, I sorted this list by meat. If I have frozen diced rotisserie chicken, I want to use it, dang it.
This all doesn't mean I don't ever make anything new, but new is now the exception, not the rule. Can I get an Amen?
Oh, and we like tacos and pizza around here so I decided to embrace that. Tuesdays are mostly Tacos and Fridays are Pizza Night. There are tons of variations to both of those meals but having a theme for the night completely simplifies things.
Write 'er Down
My memory stinks. Today I actually texted my husband for our address as I was filling out a form at the doctor. For reals. We've lived here almost a year. So when I say I have a horrible memory, I'm not kidding.
I write our menu with a whiteboard marker on a picture frame on the counter. Totally solves the memory issue. Plus, let's be honest here: writing on glass is so satisfying. And so's wiping it off.
I start menu planning by looking through our week on my calendar and then writing down on the far left of the menu board any activity that would impact dinner prep or dinner time. Then as I'm popping in my plan I already know if I need to plan something super simple that night or if the kids are having frozen pizza while Matt and I go out to dinner. (insert Dinner-Out Dance here)
I keep my phone handy and while I'm writing out the plan, I quickly add any ingredients I need to pick up at the store. I always have my phone with me so I never forget the list at home. Not that I've done that before...
Here's the brilliant trick I came up with: See that little dash to the left? That's where the new menu starts for the week. So maybe I'm writing up the plan on a Tuesday, then that's where the line goes and I know it starts over there.
This isn't to say that we always follow the plan. Lots of times we don't. I'll frequently swap around meals but the point is that I have a plan with all the ingredients to make it. Takes a TON of stress off.
The Magic Step
Here's the part that I still struggle with, but the part that actually makes the magic happen: the night before, think through the meal. I quickly write my breakfast and dinner idea in my planner so I'm actually thinking about it. That way I realize that the frozen chicken needs to be thawed or that I will need to dice 30 lbs of whatnot and I plan accordingly. It helps me avoid that 4pm Angry Trap.
This is what's working for my chaotic brain. You have any great Menu Planning Tips for me? Ones that don't involve Uber, I mean.