My Menu Planning Resolution

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on Tuesday, December 31, 2013.

This New Year is a good a time as any to tell you how I’ve been striving to turn over a new leaf in one area of my life. Anyone who reads my column may recall me mentioning what a poor cook I am…mostly, I don’t cook.  It’s a skill I was never taught, so I didn’t have a good habit established before I had children, and creating new habits with infants and toddlers in the house is next to impossible.

In the last few months, I had an epiphany. I realized that I wanted my children to grow up in a house where food is made lovingly and from scratch. They are picky eaters, so I knew they probably would not eat what I cook, but they love to help me in the kitchen, and I want to foster good memories wherever I can, so I set a goal.

I knew better than to set an unrealistic goal, so I told myself that I would cook something from scratch once or twice a week, and I’d also bake some items from scratch on occasion.  Several recipes are simple foods that my boys already eat, like chicken nuggets. Other foods are for my husband and me, but I encourage my children to try them. (So far, I’ve had little success in getting them to like more foods, but I’m determined not to give up.)

My husband’s idea of cooking is to see what is on sale at the grocery store, buy it and cook it. After talking with some female friends, I was relieved to find our brains are wired differently. I have to plan meals. Or maybe that’s the dilemma of a novice cook – I just can’t look at raw food and figure out what to make of it.

Obviously I’m not alone because there are several websites available that will provide you with a meal plan and grocery list every week. You can also save recipes, search for recipes and request recipes for certain dietary needs.

I found one that allowed potential members to sign up for a free trial, so I tried it. I enjoyed the Six O’clock Scramble (www.thescramble.com) website, and I found some good recipes on it, but after the trial was over, I quit using it. My budget does not allow for luxury items such as this, but using it allowed me to see that I would benefit from planning meals. This is when I came up with my own meal planning system. It takes some work to get going, but it saves time in the future.

I created a new calendar on my computer’s calendar, and I labeled it “menu.” Each time I cook something new, I enter it into that day’s date, add a grocery list under “notes,” and then I use the calendar’s automated “repeat” so that it will repeat every 2-3 months. I can also send myself reminder alerts a day or two in advance.

I don’t always use the recipes that appear on my calendar, but if I’m struggling on what to cook, I can find a recipe and grocery list on my calendar, and I know it’s something I didn’t cook just last week. (Did I mention my husband is as picky as my kids?)

All this does not make for a good cook though. Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes I’m not. I’m not prepared every night either….homeschooling, writing and other chores take too much time. I find that when I’m cooking, I’m usually getting behind on something else. It’s a constant balancing act.

But I’m enjoying cooking, and I love doing it with my kids who usually want to help, so I’m determined to keep it up in this new year, and I hope by the time it is over, I’ll have a calendar full of menu ideas.

Don’t worry about me ever starting a new food column or blog. I will never be that talented. I can point you in the direction of a couple of recipe sites I have enjoyed. Simply Recipes is full of good eats, and Weelicious is a great site for finding healthy baby and kids’ meals.

How do you handle meal times at your house?

5 thoughts on “My Menu Planning Resolution

  1. Have you checked out http://thisweekfordinner.com/ It is a menu planning blog focusing just on dinner recipes. Every week, readers can post their menus in the comment section…there are usually 40+ comments with tons of menu ideas. I have been planning weekly menus for two or three years and it makes everything so much easier. I don’t necessarily set out this way, but we often have Mexican food one night, Italian one night, something simple or meatless one night, a new or complicate recipe one night (usually Saturday), homemade soup once a week, and leftovers twice. Good luck with your resolution!

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  2. I have been using Plan to Eat (http://www.plantoeat.com) for the last few months. Anytime I come across a recipe online that looks like something I want to try, I add it there. Then I can go through and “queue” the meals I want to make in the next two weeks. Then I can look at my queue, and place meals on the calendar. It makes an organized shopping list for me. It is pretty slick, and since I am picking the recipes from everywhere, there shouldn’t be any that use things we don’t prefer. I do have to say that this has all worked much more smoothly for me since I started grocery shopping online as well, and then have them delivered! I love it! I have also been eyeing this: http://www.simplifiedpantry.com/ Another blog I follow has a code for 30% off on it right now, so I need to make a decision! (http://www.edsnapshots.com/2014/01/how-to-teach-your-smartphone-to-clean.html)

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