Friday, November 30, 2007

Monthly Menus

My friend Crystal recently bemoaned on her blog that, although she enjoys cooking, she can never think of what to make for dinner.

I have a double whammy. I don't enjoy cooking all that much and I never know what to make for dinner. Yikes!

I enjoy baking, for the most part, although I get sick of that pretty quick, too...and I do like to cook some things some of the time. Mostly though I like to eat things that other people make.

In order to make my life a little less hectic, I've tried to eliminate my "there's only 10 minutes before Andrew gets home" routine. That used to involve scurrying around the kitchen, opening the fridge, freezer, and every single cupboard, trying to figure out what to make for dinner.

And then there were the shopping trips. Disaster! "Ummm...I think we might eat this in the next two weeks...maybe."

Well, now I make monthly calendars of what we're planning for dinner. It's partially an effort to make sure that I eat lots but mostly it's just to eliminate the stress of not knowing what to make.

Planning a whole month may sound daunting, but I have a method.

First, I plan the meals going down instead of across. This is a tip I got from one of my friend's moms. I tend to think in categories, so if I write down "tacos" I'll probably write down "enchiladas" and then I'll probably write down "fajitas" and then I'll write down something else within that same genre of food. If I were writing down these ideas in a MTWThF fasion, my family would be pretty sick of Mexican food by the end of the week. Instead, I chose a day of the week and wrote down all the Mexican dishes that I knew how to make. So, Monday is our Mexican day.

A few more things you need to know before I show you November and December's menus:

MYOLO--this is one of our family's words. One day we will have to write our own dictionary because we make up words all the time. This particular word is an acronym for Make Your Own/Left Overs. It's the night that I'm not making dinner for anyone, so fend for yourself. The microwave is above the oven.

Friday is pizza night. End of story. That might sound boring, but there are so many varieties of pizza that your options are limitless. Individual, stuffed crust, potato...just go to Italy. You will see that, at least if you travel with my husband, you can eat pizza for every meal.

That takes of two days of every week. Now we only have to plan 5 days per week.

Anyway, here's what we ate (for the most part) in November:

Sundays (Sunday Dinner Day, obviously)
4: Breakfast for dinner
11: Mashed potatoes with gravy
18: Scalloped potatoes
25: Meatloaf, potatoes

Mondays (Mexican night)
5: Fajitas
12: Enchiladas
19: Taco soup
26: Spanish Rice

Tuesdays (MYOLO)
Done and done.

Wednesdays (Rice stuff)
7: Sweet and sour
14: Teriyaki
21: Hawaiian haystacks
28: Kosheri

Thursday (Pasta night)
Andrew gets home early this day and all he knows how to make is pasta...and that's why today is pasta day. Because he is home to make it. He's home in time to help on Fridays, too...explaining why that is pizza day.

1: Stroganaff
8: Soup (which isn't really a pasta...but oh, well. We wanted soup)
15: Pasta salad
22: Thanksgiving
28: Sloppy Joes

Friday (Pizza night)
Done and done

Saturday (Experimental/Lazy)
3: Twice baked potatoes
10: Mac 'n' cheese
17: Sub sandwiches
24: Pineapple chili

Okay, so I said that I'd give you December's calendar as well, but I'm tired so I'm going to bed after telling you a little more about my method.

We shop for two week's worth of food. I look at the calendar and jot down what I need to make the meals. Then I know that I have all the ingredients for everything I want to (read: have to) make for the next two weeks.

My calendar isn't set in stone, either. If our parents invite us over for dinner, I will gladly postpone making a meal. And if I really don't feel like making something, I won't. For example, yesterday I didn't feel like making kosheri because that takes quite a bit of work. I made sloppy joes instead and planned to make kosheri today. I still didn't want to make kosheri today until Andrew reminded me that I had frozen pre-cooked lentils in the freezer...then kosheri looked like a lot less work, so I made it. Otherwise we would have had soup-from-a-can or something equally difficult to make.


Naomi said...

Hey Nancy, it looks like you're doing great! I made a menu recently to keep me cooking. It includes basically everything we cook, but the dates are not assigned. I circle what we have made so we don't have to repeat as much and I can get ideas from what we haven't had yet. It has worked really well.
You can also go to my new website to see some recipes I've put up.

Krystal said...

I honestly did almost this exact same things last night! before I read your blog! I just planned two weeks of meals, (starting from one pay day, and going to the next) and then shopping for those meals. I also threw in a pizza/go out night (only once a month though) and like your fend for yourself night, I put a leftovers/pasta night. Pasta is our catch-all. I don't want to cook? don't feel good? I'm boiling a pot of pasta and find your own sauce in the fridge.
We should do a recipe swap. We eat the same things over and over!

Bonnie Parks said...

This is great. I usually try to plan about a week in advance. At the same time I make my grocery list. It would be hard to actually make myself plan a whole month, but I think it would be a good idea. Then the planning would be out of the way again for awhile. That actually sounds like a good idea for right now as I am feeling too lazy to get up and do anything, but I still want to be productive. Thanks for the idea!

Nancy said...

The nice thing is that you can recycle the menus later :)

And we totally should swap recipes!

Ooh! And Naomi! You totally planned side dishes, too! I'm not quite on top of things yet, I can see! I think I'll be stealing some of your ideas for January!