Thursday, February 19, 2015

Real Life Menu Planning

I made this dry-erase menu board a million and six years ago.

If you've been around my blog over the years, you've seen it in several different kitchens now. It's simply a piece of burlap sandwiched between the frame and glass of a picture frame. The tags and stickers are squished under the glass too, then I write on it with permanent marker (a Sharpie) which erases with window cleaner (or just white vinegar on a paper towel). Dry-erase markers work too, but they don't show up as well with the darker burlap behind.

So I'll write this menu on there and we'll mostly eat the things it says one week, and there it sits. Never updated. This one is from last fall.

This year I'm trying this.

I've heard so many good things about menu planning. It's the only way to stick to your grocery budget. You never buy extra. You have so much mind freedom because you know what's for dinner. It'll make you rich and thin and an amazing wife and mother.

So there I sit while I work with one of my boys on his schoolwork. He works, Mommy works. I troll Pinterest and get ideas and write up a list of what we'll eat and what we need. I take my list to the store and several items aren't there or are really expensive this week and I end up getting asparagus instead of green beans, or not making an additional stop to get the Greek yogurt, or the sweet potatoes look awful and I refuse to buy them...

Or my sweet husband goes and makes breakfast early one morning and uses one of my ingredients for a meal later in the week. I'm not going to complain about him making breakfast (one of my least favorite chores--I'm so not a morning person), so things get switched up and crossed out and I'm STILL scratching my head at 4 o'clock, wondering what I'm going to come up with for supper.

Does that ever happen to you? Do you menu plan? Does it work? Maybe it's me, but I feel on the weeks I really plan out the menu I end up spending MORE at the store instead of being creative with pantry items. Maybe that's part of the learning curve with menu planning.

Paleo breakfast cake + berries sweetened with Truvia (a stevia blend you can use like sugar).

This week I literally planned my menu after I went grocery shopping. It was a lot easier! I guess I shop for staples and if I see a great deal on something or an unusual item falls into my cart, I plan for that to be a meal later that week. I like the flexibility of deciding any particular day what we will eat that night.

So I guess I'm not much of a menu planner. Some days soup just doesn't sound good. Other days I don't feel like cooking. And some days I do! Or I see something on Pinterest that I want to make right away!

Tossed salad with tomato bruschetta and grilled chicken.

Here's my tip, or at least what works for me. I keep my cupboards stocked with staples. I try to keep our favorite condiments on hand, from BBQ sauce (we all put it on our eggs), to Greek yogurt to peanut butter. I try to keep everything on hand to make basics: a pasta meal, some variation of rice and beans, tacos, soup + bread. Yes, there's a little headache each day, but to me it's easier than planning a whole week at a time.

How do you plan meals? Do your meal planning attempts help? What tricks do you have?

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