Last week we reflected upon the powerful effect that consistent family meals can have over time. This week we will consider the meal itself—how to take it from merely an idea in our head (or a craving in our stomach!) to a lovely presentation on our dining room table.
I suggest that we begin with a plan. To do so, we need to figure out where we best fit on the planning continuum.
Some of you can get by with a simple “staples plan.” As long as you keep certain ingredients on hand, you can easily produce a delicious meal in a short period of time—depending on your creative urge that day.
I’m feeling a little envious even as I write this because if I tried to pull off a meal like that, it would be a disaster! Therefore, I’m part of the group who is at the other end of the planning spectrum. I need to rely on a “menu plan.”
Wednesdays are my normal day for planning a week’s worth of menus and grocery list and Thursdays are my grocery-shopping day. I always plan the meals with my calendar. That way, I can coordinate the meal with the day—plan easy meals for busy days and the more elaborate meals for the less demanding days.
Also, to simplify the menu-planning process, I plan meals from the same category of foods for certain days. For example on Sundays I make a breakfast meal since CJ and Chad like breakfast foods. On Mondays, which is my husband’s day off, I use a meal from my freezer. Then again on Saturdays, I make sandwiches for dinner (and add a dessert to make it a little more special!) because that is the night I babysit my grandsons.
I’ve found it helpful to keep a running grocery list on a tiny dry-erase board (a freebie from a seafood market that I frequent) that is on the side of my refrigerator. The moment I run out of a food item, I jot it down so I won’t forget it come grocery-shopping day. Certain family-members like to add to the list as well. This past week “cherry coke” appeared. I knew immediately—Janelle’s been here.
Then there are times when all my planning goes awry! The meals don’t get planned on Wednesday. I’m running to the store a few times a week to buy ingredients for a meal that I’m throwing together at the last minute. Or I serve cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and hot dogs and chips for three consecutive evenings. Even though weeks like this are bound to come along, my menu plan helps me get back on track.
Whether you’re the ultra-creative type who can do a lot with a simple plan or whether you need a more specific plan like me, an effective plan is key to consistently providing well-balanced, delicious, within-budget, and peaceful meals week in and week out.
So take a few moments to consider your plan—how’s it working for you? If one aspect of your plan needs tweaking or if you’ve never developed an effective plan, let me encourage you to draw from the wisdom of other women. While we are all different, by learning from each other’s strengths, we can all grow in planning meals for our family.