Monday, January 17, 2022

In the Kitchen: Menu Planning

Having a menu plan is a necessity for me. If I go through a period of time when I don't plan out my menus, it's difficult for me to consistently serve good meals. Part of the reason for my need of a plan, is that I have collected so very many recipes over the years, and the decision of what to make each day can feel a bit overwhelming. And then it becomes too easy to just put something together quickly, or else pick up fast food to take home. But if I have a plan with a few ideas right in front of me each week, then I'm much more apt to prepare a tasty meal, even just for the two of us. And besides, it's fun for me to menu plan!

But it's crucial for me that it needs to be a simple and flexible plan. I like to be able to move things around, changing the dates of when to prepare a specific recipe, depending on what is going on each week. 

My current menu planning allows for this flexibility. I spent a bit of time last week planning out my meals for the next three months, through the end of March. I'm continuing to use the same spiral notebook that I used in 2021. Each week has a printed weekly chart that I created on my laptop. And for each week, I have chosen three main dish recipes to put on post-it notes. 

When I actually prepare the recipe, I'll write it into the chart itself, and place a small check mark on the post-it-note. The reason for using post-it notes is that they can be easily moved around to a different week than originally planned for, if I wish. I am loving the simplicity and flexibility of this plan.

I like to switch up my categories of recipes that I pick from during the different seasons of the year. For January through March, I picked from three main categories of recipes in my collections:

One recipe from my SOUP section.

The next from my collection of CHICKEN main dishes.

And the third, changing off between FISH, PORK, or BEEF main dishes.

I'm only choosing three main dish recipes for each week (in this empty nest season of life we are in), as that is most likely the number I will need to prepare each week.  The other days we will use left-overs from previous meals, or use a frozen meal that I've made on a previous week, or else we may be gone from home and need to pick up fast food wherever we are that day. 

Also, at the bottom of each menu planning page is a space where I often put other ideas for the week as well: lunch ideas, sides or breads or desserts to make. Usually on post-it notes, as well, so they can be moved around, if needed. But the most critical planning for me are the plans for the main dishes each week. 

I'm always looking for ways to live creatively in the home, and also, to simplify the responsibilities of life, leaving more time for the things of ultimate importance ... loving God, and loving those around us. Preparing tasty, nutritious meals is just one way to let His love shine through us. And menu planning is a big part of making this happen! 

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