It's 6 pm. Hubster and I have both just barely arrived home. The nanny has left. The boys are hungry.
Typically, this time of day results in Hubster and I staring at each other across the top of the refrigerator door, asking each other in near frantic whispers what we should have for dinner that night. There may or may not be actual food in the fridge. We've had conversations such as:
"Well, we have some baby carrots..."
"Oh, that's good. Children need vegetables. And if we serve it with cottage cheese, that's dairy and protein..."
"Yeah, and we'll throw in some fruit snacks. The box says they have vitamin C, which is good, because we wouldn't want the boys to get scurvy."
And that's when all parenting pride goes out the window, the moment I realize I've served my family baby carrots, fruit snacks, and cottage cheese for dinner. With a pack of Twizzlers I bought when I was on call.
In reality, this only happened once...ish.
For the most part, we make fairly healthy dinners. But dinner making was always so stressful. I never knew what to make. We'd end up eating the same things over and over. If we ever wanted to make anything different, we never had the ingredients around.
Last month, I had finally had enough of the pre-dinner stress. I decided to tackle one of my Project 52 goals and make a monthly menu.
I couldn't believe how hard it was. I was tempted to just have a three day cycle: spaghetti, tacos, pizza. But I fought against that temptation, printed out a blank month calender, and went to work.
At first, I was overwhelmed. How could I come up with enough meal ideas for 30 days? The easiest way for me to do this was to break it down in to categories: Monday would be for grilling (at least while the weather is still nice), Tuesdays would be for pasta, Wednesday would be for crockpot meals, etc. This made it so much easier. All I had to do was think of meals to fit each category.
I hunted recipe websites (this one and this one are my favorites). I went through my cookbooks and folder of saved recipes. And slowly, tediously, I came up with a menu for the month. (Although Bug insists that since I'm not giving him any options, that I shouldn't be allowed to call it a menu. More like just a plan.)
And that's what this is, really. Just a plan. It's still flexible enough that if I forgot to set out the crockpot, we just switch around the days. And if, come Friday, I'm too tired to even think about cooking, the plan is flexible enough to allow for a pizza night.
We don't eat a lot of meat, which is probably evident from our menu (er, plan). Foods like spaghetti, lasagna, and even tacos and burritos are usually made meat free. This meant that I haven't been able to take a lot of ideas from other meal planning sites, because wow, people eat a lot of meat.
I tried to arrange meals so that left overs from one day could be used for the next day's meal. The other thing I tried hard to do was to take into account what we would be able to buy at the farmer's market. I love being able to use locally grown, in season food as much as possible. Which means we are eating a lot of corn, zucchini, and tomatoes right now.
It had made shopping so much easier. Each Saturday, I look at the meals for the week ahead, scan through the recipes to make sure I have all the ingredients, and make our shopping list from there. This has nearly eliminated middle of the week grocery store runs.
It has also nearly eliminated Hubster and I staring at each other over the refrigerator door, wondering what's for dinner.