Monday, September 22, 2008

Dare to Discipline: Menu Planning

Recently I decided that I needed a little more order, a little more structure, and a little more organization in my life. These things do NOT come naturally to me, and in general we do just fine without them; however, with another little baby on the way, joining a very active and energetic big sister, I felt that we would all do better starting out ahead of the chaos. This will require a LOT of discipline on my part - I am really really no good at organization. I am terrible at planning. I shrink away from schedules with a plague-like aversion. ( Which remains the #1 mental roadblock to the idea of homeschooling, but at least I have a few years before I have to stress about that.)

Well, we've undertaken several projects lately that are gradually leading to a simpler, more organized lifestyle for all of us. With all the extra time and energy I have lately (note extreme sarcasm) I'm taking baby steps in planning and minimizing. I realize that this is not at all earth-shattering for most normal people, but... I am not normal. This is a huge pill for me to swallow. But once again I rely on determination, if not downright obstinance, to accomplish tiny glimmers of order in our life.

Step 1: Menu Planning. I wrote out a dinner menu last week and only revised 1 day! It's not actually the revisions that matter to me, it's mainly seeing that by planning something out we are covered for the week without me having to think last minute! I am very flexible, so any night that something better comes up I am happy to drop the plan. However, it gives me an outline, and even helps me prepare while Bella is napping. (When I don't decide to blog, instead.)

This Week
Monday: Vodka Pasta - an absolute favorite! In fact, it's SO EASY and SO DARN GOOD that I'd be happy to post the recipe for anyone interested. With only 20 minutes to prep and cook, it's also a great last-minute fix. Yum Yum Yum. Besides, I am up to my ears in fresh tomatoes from my garden-jungle, so I'm working in several recipes that will benefit from fresh ingredients.
Tuesday: Blackened-Chicken Jambalaya - just have to remember to defrost the chicken in some marinade in the morning, then hit the grill when Patrick gets home if it's good weather again.
Wednesday: Pasta with Fresh Pesto - another amazingly good and easy dish! My basil plants are invading the peppers anyways, so time to harvest a decent amount and make some fresh pesto, which both Patrick and Isabella love. (me too!) Again, this is such a simple dish, taking just a few minutes of prep and a good relationship with your blender or small food processor.
Thursday: Stir-Fry - we buy large bags of cut and prepared veggies from Costco, not expensive and a worthwhile time-saving measure! I found some random stir-fry sauce recipe online (I think it was one of the first Google results) and have simply adjusted it to meet our tastes. It's so easy to throw chicken or frozen shrimp or even beans into this for added protein.
Friday: Pizza Night - an *almost* weekly tradition. We've had bought pizza a few times in the past few weeks, so I might have to revise this one for one more week; I'm not sure yet. This is such a fun event that I've blogged about it before, and I'll end up writing about it again I'm sure.

Breakfasts and lunches are pretty run-of-the-mill around here, so I don't bother to plan them out. Rather if there are specific options that should/need to be eaten then I write them on the smear board to alert foragers.

So, wish me luck, I'll need it! We often eat at my parents' once a week, so that night will be cancelled or moved, and of course some days the best-laid plans aren't worth a mite. It really comes down to having a general outline that allows me a default of brain power if and when I need it. Anyone else have great menu-planning tactics? How do you lay out your food for the week?

*edited already: Monday night found me not feeling so great (read: not cooking) so we ordered Papa John's thanks to the Redskins! Also, I realized after publishing that Friday is Patrick's birthday, so I will be rearranging the menu to ensure that Friday's dinner is something special for him. Don't ask me what.


Angela said...

Way to take the plunge! Day 1 down, and already time for the first revision...we loved ordering pizza last night!! You should check out to participate and/or steal ideas from "Menu Plan Monday." I used to do it sometimes. I am the ultimate planner/rules-girl, and if not for my lack of follow-thru, we would be eating like kings every night!

Kathy said...

Last fall I sat down and wrote down a list of all of our favorite meals. It was about 20 or so. Then I just printed out a free monthly calender on line and layed out the meals. That way I have each week planed, I only have to sit down and do it once a month and we only end up duplicating a couple of meals in a month. ( I do have to juggle days around too everynow and then.) Plus it means I don't have to think really hard about groccery shopping either. I just pull out my calender and see what is on the calender for the week.