If your kids are anything like mine, you hear this question more than once a day. All the things that go with feeding a family can take a bite out of your day. There’s the planning, the purchasing, the preparation, and if you have any energy left, the presentation. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some of my habits in those areas. Maybe there’s something there for you. I would love for you to also share what has worked for you. I’m always in the market for handy tips in this area!
This week let’s talk about planning.
As in other areas of motherhood, in the area of meal-planning I have run the gamut between winging it to making a months worth of meal lists. And as with many of those areas, I have found a comfy spot somewhere in the middle.
Here are a few things that are working for me right now (subject to change with the seasons) :
I make a two-week menu. This may seem daunting at first, but it’s just long enough for me not to blink and feel like it’s time to make another menu. I’ve heard some mom’s who make a month of menus and then reuse the same menu over and over for a few months, making minor changes now and then. I started to make one of those, but that’s as far as I got. I got this free menu template from motivated mom’s.
To make planning the menu easier, I have a couple of things I do:
Before I do anything, on the menu-planner, I jot down our schedule. Just a word or two is plenty, such as small group, mom’s meeting, baseball, etc. That helps me to plan accordingly.
I take suggestions. What does my family have a hankering for? Within reason, of course! This helps fill in at least half the menu. They also remember things that I’ve long forgotten about. Some will also try to offer the same suggestion every week. “How about hot dogs, mom?”
What’s on sale? I check the sale flyers to see if there are any great buys that week. That often determines some of my dishes, especially if I have coupons for those items, too. We’ll talk more about that next week.
I have a theme night where I just tweak it from week to week: for example, Friday night is pizza night and we just make different styles each week. We’ve done deep-dish, taco, potato, blt (three favorites from Stevi B’s) , and of course the standard pepperoni and cheese. We even throw in a stromboli now and then – a great suggestion from my friend, Kim. (If you’re not up to making your dough from scratch, but want that fresh baked taste, Publix has yummy dough you can get for a couple of dollars!) This is a great time for all the kids to help with spreading sauce and sprinkling toppings.
Sous chef night – didn’t know that I have a sous chef, did you? Actually I have six of them. I even have my own ‘cook show’, too, which is narrated by the 11-year-old. There is one sous chef that will be on her own way sooner than I’m willing to think about, so I ‘let’ her have a night to practice. I often coordinate this with date night when we are able to grab a bite out. If it’s not in the budget, hubby and I get enjoy her cookin’ with the family and go out after that.
Sundays are for crockpots and any other day that we are on the run for field trips, grocery shopping, or if I have tons to do that day and don’t want to take as long making dinner. They are wonderful tools! I use it almost every Sunday, because we try to make that a true day of rest after we enjoy worship, ministry and fellowship at church. Not to mention, I am usually wiped out after getting everyone to and from church and the whirlwind we encounter there. We eat shortly after we come home, then I am done for the day. We have a light supper later on, which everyone pitches it to make. It’s usually something like sandwiches or left-overs. I enjoy having the evening off and it allows me to use that time to look ahead to the coming week, helping me to feel a little more prepared.
Then I post the menu for all to see.
This is something I just recently started being consistent about. It accomplishes two things: It keeps me accountable to sticking with it (most the time) and it cuts down on how many times I have to answer “What’s for dinner, mom?” on any given day!
This all may seem daunting at first, but with a little patience and practice, it quickly becomes a habit that saves lots of time and frustration. If I can do it – anyone can!
Next week: Now that you have your menu, it’s time to purchase everything at the grocery store! It doesn’t have to be something you dread – it can actually be something you look forward to. I know that may comes as shock!
You can also see my top three favorite cookbooks as well as my top three favorite recipe websites that help me in my planning on my personal blog, Sonflower later this week. Right now, I need to go plan a menu!
All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
This is almost exactly how I do it, minus the handy menu on the wall 🙂 It works out so much better when I use the calendar as the jump-off point for the menu. I’ve just recently started trying to incorporate a kids cooking night too – maybe one sous chef in the kitchen per week would make it a little less chaotic 🙂
Thanks for the great ideas and inspiration!
Yes, one at a time works best. That way you get more teaching time and less of a free-for-all! Pizza night is usually the one night where several help at once. We definitely get some interesting pizzas.
And I love it that you follow almost the same routine. Makes me feel like I’m on the right track 🙂
And in case anyone is wondering what is actually for dinner – tonight will be a rare take-out night because dad is away and two kids are at youth group, making it a much more affordable option! We also have to do the shopping today, so there is nothing left to put in the crockpot 🙂
Kerri your model recently spurred me on towards accountability. I started posting my meal plans and recipes in a section of my hodgepodge site. It has made all the difference in the world! I can pull it right up and follow a recipe – and don’t have to search. Now, what was it we were going to have tonight? The two week plan is best because that follows pay checks in our house 🙂
I am also a gold member of the crock pot club. Like you, I use it on Sundays – but then probably 3-4 other days too. My favorite recipes! This next week is a “use up what’s in the pantry” challenge for us.
I love the sous chef idea! (once again with food… you knew I’d be talking a bunch) I’m so looking forward to your future posts.
Yes, that is the primary reason we do two-weeks, too. I am still trying to figure out how to get myself to the store on the same day each time. Seems like pay day always falls on days when we have too many things going on to get to the store and hardly a crumb left in the house!
And we call it pay day potluck – whatever’s left right before pay day goes in the pot, so good luck!
I especially enjoy your “I’m Writing My Own Cookbook” spot. So many yummy things there!
Wow!!!!!!!!!!!! I am tired just thinking about all that =) This is something I need to do but this is usually how it goes….It’s 5pm and I am trying to figure out what’s for dinner. =( I REALLY need to work on this, so thanks for writing this, I look forward to what you share with us in the future!!! In HIM, Angie
I know it seems like a lot at first. It was a process for me to get to this point and as long as I am consistent with it, it actually saves me much more time (and stress) than I spend planning.
I encourage you to try adding one thing at a time and tweak it to fit you.
And trust me – there are still nights when things go awry and I am trying to regroup at 5pm!
Don’t feel too bad Angie, that’s exactly how I do things in my house! That or Phil says “What’s on the menu?” and I reply, “I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it!”
I really would like to get into meal planning, but just haven’t 🙁
Kerri, I love the idea about using the crock pot on Sunday. It seems my hubby is always starving after church, so I think he would appreciate having a hot meal ready when we get home. I enjoyed this article. Thanks for the inspiration!
Thanks Ginger! All of mine are starving when we get back! I can pop in some bread and whip up a side in the time it takes for them to change and put their things away. And it is so nice not to have to worry about dinner later 🙂
Thanks for the encouragement! I really need to start planning our menus, it would make my life so much easier!
It really does, Heidi! Especially when you have all really young ones like you do. It’s one less thing to think about each day.