5:30 in the evening, starving child approaches you and asks with an ear grating whine:
"Mommmmmmm???? What's for dinnerrrrrr????"
You sigh and say the following:
"Blah. Let's jump in the car & grab Chick-fil-A"
Sound familiar? Yep.
Not that jumping in the car & grabbing Chick-fil-A is a bad thing (we're doing it tomorrow!) It's when you do it three times a week because you haven't planned ahead that's bad.
5:30 in the evening, starving children come to the kitchen to eat the dinner they've been looking forward to ever since you posted the weekly menu Monday morning.
There is a law irrevocably decreed in my house: If Mom doesn't plan ahead, we will eat copious amounts of fast food. There's also a law that states: If there are Oreo cookies in the house, Mom will eat them until they are gone. All of them. Mmmmm Oreos.
After years of trial & error, I've finally come up with practical menu planning that works for us. I don't get the whiney "What's for dinner" question anymore, and if for that reason alone, I'm a believer :)
So here ya go... "How to Menu Plan" Becky style. Which, to be clear, means only that this is what works for us. It's not an exact science, nor do I claim to be a professional anything. Maybe a professional geek if there's such a thing.
1. Sit down right now & make a list of all the meals your family eats. Open up your Pinterest account & try one of the 1,000 recipes you pinned last week.
2. Grab your calendar, and make a menu based on what you've got going that week. You won't be able to make Chicken Milano & Breadsticks on Tuesday because you'll be at piano lessons, the orthodontist, that guitar concert at the junior high, dropping the twins off to scouts, and somehow squeezing in baseball practice and mutual. Yeah... let's be realistic. It's days like this that grabbing Chick-fil-A is soooooo totally ok :)
3. Write your shopping list as you go! Nothing puts the brakes on dinner prep like not having the stuff to make it... no brainer.
4. Post the menu in the kitchen on Monday morning where everyone can see it. You can just scribble your menu on a Post-It note & stick it on the fridge if you want... it's all good. You can also make a fancy schmancy menu board for almost as much effort. Download my template HERE. Download the original size. Print it on a cute piece of 8.5x11 paper, trim to fit an 8x10 frame that you bought for 50% off at Hobby Lobby cause you're awesome like that. Use a dry erase marker, and tah-dah! Fancy schmancy!
5. You can make menu planning even easier by establishing routines in your menu. For example: Mondays: Soup Night, Tuesdays: Crock Pot Meals, Wednesday: Casserole Night, Thursday: Pasta, Friday: Grill, Saturday: Breakfast for Dinner, Sunday: Kid's Choice.... you get the idea. Routines make menu planning sooooooo much easier. Trust me! What's for breakfast Monday morning? It's pancakes! Every time! All you have to do is decide what kind: Pumpkin, blueberry, chocolate chip, plain... Easy like Sunday (or Monday) morning.
6. Start slow... plan a week of dinners. Once you've mastered that, add breakfast. When you've mastered that, try planning two weeks! I think you'll find that it becomes a way of life really quick.
I pinky swear, this works for us. I hope it works for you. We eat waaaaaaaaay less fast food these days. My kids are so excited about homemade breakfast & dinner that I feel almost accountable to make it... they'd be so disappointed if they looked forward to baked mac & cheese all week, only to get a crappy happy meal. There's also the added bonus that I'm more excited about cooking because I've been recipe hunting to keep things exciting, ingredients are on hand, and let's face it, I love eating good food.
Al-righty... time to stop bloggin'... Dinner's at 5:00!
For those of you dying to know what the heck Spongebob Squarecakes are, they're German Pancakes. I just named them that 10 years ago so my picky twinners would eat 'em :) I owe that little square dude so much.