Until recently I was a big fan of meal planning. I had been doing it for several years. Each month I would fill out our meal planning grid, listing every meal for the entire month on it. I loved that it took away the decision about what to make, and that I knew I had all the ingredients on hand. It used to reduce the amount of money we spent, and gave us a more interesting and varied diet.
Lately though we have found that the way we were menu planning doesn’t work for us anymore.
Previously I would menu plan for the entire month and we would then grocery shop for that menu. This worked fine when the majority of our food came from the shops. These days however, more and more of our food comes from the garden. So much so that we really only need to do a big grocery shop every five or six weeks (I pick up extra bread and milk from the shop in the little town where I work).
Also, it is often hard to predict what food we will have from the garden a month in advance. For example, when the corn is ripe and ready to pick, it needs to be eaten quickly before it looses it’s sweetness and juiciness. We often had to change our meal plan at the last moment to accommodate the produce available, meaning that there are ingredients that don’t get used, and we end up spending more money on food than we need to.
So towards the end of last year we slowly abandoned the meal plan. It wasn’t a decision that we made; it sort of just happened.
The downside of not meal planning is that many of our meals are getting lazy or repetitive. Lots of pasta with whatever vegetables are ripe. Lots of pork chops and vegetables, and lots of lazy omelette dinners, when we realise we have no idea what to make.
I miss the variety of menu planning, and with the colder weather on it’s way, I’m thinking of trying a new way to plan our meals.
What I am thinking of is assigning a theme to each night eg Monday = pasta. Tuesday = slow cooked etc. Then under each heading I’m going to write a big list of recipe ideas for each category that use lots of different ingredients that we usually have on hand. We can just look at the night and choose a recipe from the list (or another that comes to mind in the theme) and make it.
My hope is that this will give us all the benefits of menu planning such as increasing the variety of foods we eat, while at the same time giving us the flexibility we need to use what ever produce is ready
Do you meal plan? How do you build in flexibility to your plan? Have you tried something similar?