my adventures

There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very good indeed, but when she was bad, she was horrid.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Those who fail to plan…aren’t me

"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch." ~Orson Welles

In the past, I’ve been very bad about planning meals.  (I say it this way because I hope I’m changing.)  When I was working outside the home, my husband would call me every day on my way home from work to ask “What do you have in mind for dinner?”  Even though I knew this call came every day, I was never prepared for it.  And now, as a stay-at-home Mom, I still find myself casting about at dinner time for something resembling a well-balanced meal.

The other day when I was struggling with the “what’s for dinner” question, instead of just cooking something, I did what any normal 30-something would do and googled “meal planning help”.  (I like to think of myself as normal.  Please don’t burst my bubble if that’s not actually the case.)  I read advice from several websites, sent my husband to pick up take-out (I promised myself it would be the last time for this month) and created a plan.  Admittedly, I would almost always rather plan something that actually do it.  And my plans tend to quickly become overly complicated and cumbersome.  But here’s what I did and, so far (I’m on day 2 of the plan), it seems to be working:

  1. I made a list of the main dishes I fix for dinner.  I made separate lists of the side dishes and veggies that I fix.
  2. I categorized the main dishes.  These are the categories I used:
    1. Meals that are good for left-overs
    2. Meals that I only fix when we have certain, special ingredients – like steaks or ribs when they’re on sale
    3. Meals that require little or no pre-prep time and don’t require anything be unthawed from the freezer
    4. Meals that take 2 or more hours to cook
  3. I figured out what days of the week work well for what categories of meals.  For instance, my husband works Monday through Thursday so I tried to focus meals that are good for left-overs around those days so he can use the left-overs for his lunches.
  4. I came up with 7 themes for meals.  These are the themes:
    1. Chicken
    2. Soup
    3. Chinese Food
    4. Italian Food
    5. Mexican Food
    6. Long Cooking Time Meals
    7. Sandwiches
  5. I created a calendar and started writing in meals.  I assigned 1 meal from each theme to each day of the week, keeping in mind the meal categories so that the meals I picked fit with our schedule. 
  6. I picked side dishes and veggies to go with each main dish and wrote them on the calendar as well.
  7. I figured out how long each meal would take to prepare and cook and wrote down the time I had to start cooking for that meal to be ready at 6:00.
  8. At the bottom of the calendar, I listed alternate meals.  These are meals that require no defrosting and that I can make at any time from items I always have in my pantry.  This is my contingency in case our schedule goes crazy or I forget to take something out of the freezer in time to thaw.
  9. I made a grocery list of the main items I need for the meals for the rest of the month.  I may have to make more than 1 trip to the grocery to get fresh veggies and other perishables but I should be able to do most of the shopping for July in one trip (a miracle it seems to someone who is used to going 2-3 times per week).
So I have meals planned for the rest of July and I’m very proud of myself for doing this.  Yesterday I fixed beef stroganoff with broccoli and homemade bread.  Stroganoff was a new recipe for me.  My husband actually liked it (a miracle as he tends to resist new foods) and I know what small modifications I will make the next time I fix it to make it even better.  (More on this later.)  Today we’re having Mexican casserole and tomorrow it’s chicken soup with butter rolls.  I love having a plan.


  1. wow you are very organized! I only big grocery shop was a month also but have some extra cash for veggies, fruit and milk (o.k. o.k. and the occasional gallon [or two] of ice cream!)

  2. Very organized!! I like the sound of it. This past year I also wrote a list of ALL the meals I know how to make and printed it for the side of my fridge. Whenever I find a new one we like I add it to the list. I grocery shop twice a month so started picking 8 or so meals off my list to make each time. (We seem to be out or at someone else's place or eating leftovers the other nights.)
    But that's as organized as I've ever got... nothing like you Mrs. Fancy Pants! :)