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Menu planning ( Insert bloodcurdling scream!), some mommas love it; some mommas hate it. I think we can all agree, that we need it! I happen to be one of the odd ones that love menu planning ( yes, I know….. what is wrong with this chick!?), but hear me out! Honestly, to me, there is nothing more satisfying than putting together a menu specifically for our family, meeting the needs of your very own family schedule and collecting all the ingredients. My goal is a beautifully planned week full of yummy meals to fill the bellies, hearts, and memories of our specific family.
Isn’t that what we all want? To serve our family with love, to cultivate a home worth remembering? To honor God by taking care of the gifts, he gave us under our very own roof. ( Or feeding the neighbors, friends, and family that drop by) Being able to do this all starts with planning, intentionally planning to serve so that you can make the most of your meal ministry.
Because cooking is not just cooking, , it’s pouring love and nurturing into how you prepare for who you invite to your table, the music you play, the scented candles you light, the prayers with hands held around the table before dinner. This surely is more than just cooking. It’s a form of worship. Planning and serving others so that they can see Jesus through you. Feeding all the neighborhood kids, serving a sad friend a cup of coffee, a pastry, and a listening ear. In all these simple but tremendously important moments, you have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This can all be accomplished more efficiently if you put in the time to meal plan.
But how do we get from point A ( planning) to point B ( filling bellies, hearts, and memories)?
I am going to outline my menu planning routine and then let you get a look at my meal plan for the week. Hopefully, this can help someone that might be lost in the menu planning department or give some fresh inspiration to the experienced domestic diva or what I call myself a “domestic dork.” But before you get started I have a few confessions to make,
1. I am not super awesome at grocery budgeting, and I try, I do! But I am not the girl to ask about this. Sorry, I am a work in progress, and I am learning with the rest of you. Frankly, I suck at it. Yep, I said it.
2. I LOVE to cook and bake for and with my kids and hubby, but you don’t have to. Please make your meal plans fit your unique God-given personality. If you are not a cook, and you hate it, just plan your meals as a person that “Hates to cook.” Don’t let that stop you from making a meal plan! Your family will still be blessed with a content momma serving up something simple than a stressed momma scrambling for a dinner plan.
3. I love lists and structure, but I hate HAVING to follow structure, Only if it’s on my terms. Hence why I do not assign my menu items to certain days ( And probably part of the reason homeschool!). It is just too much of a commitment! If you feel like assigning days, more power to ya momma, whatever works for YOUR family!
Let’s Get prepped
First things first, get yourself a drink, my poison is ” Fake Coffee” aka Dunkin decaf( ugg please don’t judge, I have been off caffeine for almost a year, and I am grieving), now grab the items below.
- A pencil
- A notebook
- Your chosen grocery store flyer.
- Any cookbooks that have your tried and true recipes in them.
- Your computer or phone if you need a Pinterest recipe.
Deciding your style, breaking down your menu planning.
Don’t look at the neighbor and compare yourself to what she is making, look at your very own schedule, sweet darlings and husband. Decide what will make your mealtime memorable but at the same time make your schedule flow.
Making an elaborate meal on a day that you have after work/school activities or church clubs will might not be not in the best interest of your family. This usually breeds stress and rushing. A simple sandwich and soup will be just as much of a meal ministry to them if you serve it with love! It’s the atmosphere and the love that goes into the planning and executing, not how elaborate the dish.
I love reading how other women plan their meals and run their households. Some thrive on a computer printout, some like to use a premade meal websites, yet others (Me!) like a good old fashioned pencil ( With a super sharp tip, did I mention I have an office supplies problem?)and paper. I have been menu planning for going on 14 years and feel like I just hit my stride.
A few menu planning styles you will see floating around are:
- Once a month freezer cooking.
- Once a week meal prep.
- A 20-day meal plan rotation.
- Assigning days of the week to a theme: Meatless Monday, Taco Tues.
- The 5 o’clock freak out method aka you don’t have a plan at all and just wing it! Girl, I know! Been there done that!
My personal menu planning style is this; I like simple, the old-fashioned pencil and paper. I like to write down
- 7 to 9 meals ( I usually run on a Friday through next Sunday rotation. ( 10 meal days)
- Seven breakfast ideas
- One thing to bake
- A little fancy snack for our weekly poetry teatime.
I do use my planner to get a general idea of our week and try to plan accordingly. Simple dinners on nights we have to leave the house, easy lunches for after church on Sunday and bigger meals that take more time when we have an evening at home. I then break down all the meals that I have and list the ingredients on the bottom of my paper. I do this once a week, usually on a Thursday. If I wait much longer, I end up overspending with no plan or even worse, buying too much budget busting takeout.
But where do you find recipes?
I have a little recipe keeper that my sister in law gave me when I got married at the ripe old age of 20. It has blessed me so much over the years and is a staple in all my kitchen adventures. My mother, grandma, and aunts all left me wonderful recipes that weave my family history through the meals they have prepared, and now that I prepare. I have a little stack of recipe cards tucked in the back splattered and stained, passed down from the many wonderful cooks in my family, I am continually adding to my collection when I find a recipe that is a “keeper.” I also have boards on Pinterest and usually try at least one new recipe or baking project a week.
So, that is how I cultivate my recipes. I am looking forward to sharing tons of my family recipes that have been a joy to serve over and over again in my future meal plan and recipe posts.
Now you have to decide, how you will find yours? Scour Pinterest, ask your family and friends to give you some of their favorite recipes, sit down and talk with your little family and write down as many meals as possible and then pull from their favorites.
I have my list, now what!?
Go shopping of course! Or in my case, I decide how busy my week is and figure out if this is going to be a “Drive to the store and shop week” or a Peapod week! I have been using Peapod for nearly a year now and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! Peapod has been my best friend through my 4th c section and a super bad sprain.
If you are wondering what Peapod is, it is a grocery delivery service for Giant food stores. You just take your menu, order your ingredients, pick your delivery window ( delivery fee applies, but it is SUPER affordable.), and a friendly driver pulls up to your home, brings your groceries into your kitchen and badda bing, badda boom, grocery shopping is DONE! I just adore it because it leaves me more time to enjoy cooking and my family. I have had NO problems whatsoever, except an occasional “out of stock item” and one time they forgot a roast, but promptly had one sent to my home the next day. Check it out and try it if it is in your area!
Filling bellies, hearts, and memories
Now that I gave you the basic framework for how I set up my menu for the week, I hope that you find the right rhythm for planning your families meal routines. Envision 5 o’clock rolling around, you already know what’s for dinner, and that old stress is melting away! Your family will be looking forward to the meal that you have planned just for them. Be content in the knowledge that you are giving them security and love through the simple structure of making a plan, buying your groceries and cooking a meal. Shaping hearts by filling bellies. No more,” Scramble to the store and figure out what we need stress!” When I have a stocked pantry and a plan I can’t help but feel all is right with the world.
Below is this weeks menu plan
I go with the flow according to what the day feels like. I also take into consideration what my hubby is hungry for or what the schedule looks like. I try to have my meal picked out by early morning so that I can know what needs thawed or prepped in the crock. Hey, some days you might have spaghetti planned but its cold and blustery and a steamy cup of soup with crusty bread is what your family craves . Since, my days are not assigned it gives me breathing room to just plug in a chilly day pot of soup!
- Grilled Cheese and tom. soup
- Roast beef over French fries with gravy
- BBQ chicken, my Uncle Benny’s famous mac n cheese, salad
- Fiesta Chicken Burritos ( A new fave at our home, so. freaking. good.)
- Broccoli and cheddar soup ( This is a new one, a Pinterest find that I hope works out!)
- Pork and sauerkraut with knepp and mashed potatoes.
- Pizza and movie night
- Yogurt parfaits
- Eggs/Turkey bacon/Fruit
- English muffin pizzas
To bake: Apple Pie Cupcakes ( Another new Pinterest recipe we will try)
Poetry Teatime snack: Mini Cherry cheesecakes
What is your meal plan system? What are you having for dinner this week? I would love to hear! Leave me your plan below in the comments!