Menu Planning Challenges

meal planning

Searching “menu planning” gives endless posts on why menu planning is such a great idea; how much menu planning will help with a smooth evening; how it saves money; how it’s the best thing ever of all time.

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a tad on that last one, but not by much.

And I get it, I do. Menu planning is so helpful that I include it on my monthly goals. My problem generally isn’t with making the plan – assuming I can get to my cookbooks and recipe binder (and don’t have small children trying to assist me, or needing attention).

I struggle with:

  1. Getting to the store to buy the ingredients to make the plan.
  2. Having a husband decide that he’s not interested in eating what was planned for that evening.
  3. Having children cooperate when it comes time to prepare the food

And honestly, #2 there is the biggest struggle.

I’ve looked at a lot of online menu-planning sites and resources, and while they often look easy and would save some time, they don’t solve my biggest problems. And they don’t help me work through the backlog of recipes in my “to try someday” binder.

I’m trying to remind myself that I always have more trouble with it in the summer, and by the end of the summer I’m feeling especially burned out. Once the weather is cool enough to go back to the soups and stews that I love things always seem easier.

If you menu plan, how do you manage all the rest of it – nights when you don’t want what was planned, nights when life gets in the way? What do you eat in the summer when it’s too hot for soup?

Photo credit: LizMarie_AK

One Bite at a Time: Project Five {Start Menu Planning}

Last week I described my evening routine as Project 4. This week it’s all about menu planning!

I love food and trying new recipes. I have an absurd number of recipe ideas bookmarked, pinned, and printed, but it is an absolute love of mine. In that sense, menu planning is easy for me!

Actually following through on that menu plan? Doesn’t always happen.

However, just having the plan is a HUGE help, because even when things get changed around it seems to ensure that we have more variety in our meals, and that I do get to some of those recipes I want to try someday. If it were up to my husband, we’d eat the same meals all. the. time.

My current routine is to go four weeks at a time – it seems like the most efficient use of planning time. I have a general schedule, as in beef, pasta or rice, soup, pizza, chicken, slow cooker, beans. I typically only plan five nights of the week – we always seem to go with leftovers at least once, and often go out once. So, although I have six categories listed above, they can overlap to create five meals for a week.

Beef Burgundy (beef / slow cooker)
Santa Fe chicken (chicken / slow cooker)
Spaghetti and meatballs (beef / pasta)
Potato soup (soup / slow cooker)
Red beans and rice (beans / rice)

You get the idea.

SML <3 Foodies! / 20090916.SD850IS.2859 / SML
Creative Commons License photo credit: See-ming Lee ??? SML

I sort through my recipe binders, and look at my pinterest board or blog reader for ideas that will fill in the 4-week grid. I try to go for 2 new recipes a week and the rest are tried-and-true meals – that keeps me happy because I love new recipes, and it also keeps my husband happy, because he would rather never risk trying something he might not like.

I never plan breakfasts or lunch, but only make sure that I’ve got food on hand to make our standbys – Breakfast is English muffins with peanut butter and jelly for me, cereal or toast for Mr. SJ, and the boy’s current obsession (this week it’s raisin toast or mini bagels with cream cheese). Milk and juice. Sandwich fixings for lunch for the days we don’t have leftovers.

This week’s menu plan:
Sunday – Alphabet beef soup & homemade bread (new recipe)
Monday – BBQ chicken with butter noodles and broccoli
Tuesday – Pizza
Wednesday – Michigan beans & sausage (new recipe)
Thursday – Leftovers / scrounge
Friday – Shredded beef quesadillas
Saturday – Reuben casserole (new recipe)

We may have a friend over for dinner both Monday & Tuesday so that’s why I’m planning meals for six nights this week – it’s likely we won’t have as many leftovers if she does eat with us both nights so we’ll need another meal available.

Menu planning makes such a big difference in how smoothly our week goes, and especially how smoothly the evening hours go. Days when my plan falls through (for whatever reason) always reminds me how beneficial it is to spend the time to menu plan!

And if you need some inspiration for menu plans, Organizing Junkie has a Menu Plan Monday link-up that has TONS of menu plans available for perusal.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Menu Plan

Monday – pizza (for R) and beef stroganoff (for me).

Tuesday – lentil shepherd’s pie.

Wednesday – tomato basil soup and homemade bread.

Thursday – chili (for R) and mac & cheese (for me).

Friday – steaks with cheesy onion and rice casserole.

Saturday – black bean & pineapple enchiladas.

Sunday – We’ll be at a Super Bowl party so no need for me to fix anything for dinner, although I’ll need to bake something to bring along.

Seven Quick Takes

  1. I haven’t spent much time on the computer lately due to my aunt visiting and not wanting to spend her visit with me on my laptop. It’s been so nice having her here, especially because R is off visiting his family for 5 days.
  2. Taking advantage of R’s absence, my menu plan for those days has included all dishes that he doesn’t like. He thought that was hilarious when I told him my plans. We had pasta with tomatoes and chevre (the guy hates goat cheese), and beef stroganoff (how can he hate stroganoff????), and will have corn chowder (again, who hates corn chowder?), and pasta with artichokes (mmmmm, artichokes, how I love you.)
  3. The pasta with goat cheese was fabulous, and while the “stroganoff” was delicious, it didn’t taste like stroganoff, and certainly did not satisfy my craving for it. I may have to make it again when R is home and feed him frozen pizza or something.
  4. Yes, fortunately for me my aunt likes all the items mentioned above, because I did ask her as I made my plans.
  5. We had snow all day yesterday and today it is just brutally cold so we’ve been hunkered down in the house. I am afraid my aunt will never want to visit again because she isn’t one for staying at home much, but I can’t face leaving the warm inside.
  6. I’m trying to finish a number of books that belong to my mom and/or brother so that my aunt can take them back with her when she goes home (she lives around the corner from my parents, and my brother lives with my parents). I hadn’t expected it, but my parents sent her up with a number of items for me, so she’s got a pretty good amount of room in her suitcase available and the paperbacks I have won’t take up much space…
  7. Only a week and a half until the ultrasound that will let us know if we’re having another boy or if I can go shopping for some adorable girl clothes. I am having a very hard time containing my excitement over the big reveal. I don’t remember being this excited over G’s ultrasound, but that’s probably because I absolutely, positively, 100% knew that he was a boy. This one I am in no way certain.

For more quick takes, head to Conversion Diary.

Menu Plan

Monday – Santa Fe chicken in the crock pot! (basically, chicken, black beans, salsa & some cream cheese at the end). With accordian potatoes and green beans.

Tuesday – Leftovers, because we still have a bunch from last week including broccoli cheese soup and pizza.

Wednesday – Steaks with mushroom gravy in the crock pot. (I love my crock pot.) Sides might still need to be finalized, but probably mashed potatoes and broccoli.

Thursday – Chicken enchiladas. Made with Monday’s leftovers. If I have the energy and have been to the store, with Mexican rice and a salad.

Friday – Vegetable barley soup with fresh bread.

Saturday – Leftovers again.

Sunday – Yeasted waffles for breakfast (we try to have something special for breakfast one weekend morning). Dinner is hopefully spaghetti because it’s been too long since I’ve had it. :)