Meal planning, the third objective in my project, continues to pop up as a challenge. I’ve spent the summer throwing chicken or burgers and corn on the cob on the grill, and fixing a salad. I haven’t missed having menu plans. It’s often been too hot to contemplate the oven.
But Emma’s going back to school next week and I promised myself I’d work on getting more organized because I will have more time during the day to shop and prep, and clean and declutter and organize…
During the winter and spring, I tried unsuccessfully to sit down each week and make a meal plan. My successful streaks were few, far between and brief. If I had to cite one thing as a true failure in my project, it would be meal planning.
Since planning one week at a time’s been a mess, I decided to plan for an entire month.
I know you’re thinking, Wait, you’ve been an utter failure at planning one week at a time, and you think you can plan for a month?
But I did it! I spent the better part of yesterday morning (with Flea Market Flip on in the background) working on a menu plan for the month. Later in the evening I went back, made some revisions and grocery lists, and put it to bed. Here are my conclusions:
• Planning is the hardest part, so doing it once is key: I don’t mind shopping, and even though I don’t really like to cook, it was always the planning that caused me the most anxiety. Now I don’t have to do it again for a whole month.
• Eliminate the approval process: I always get hung up trying to make things that everyone will like. Bob isn’t really picky, but he always says he doesn’t like chicken and doesn’t want to eat steak either. But then I make chicken, and he eats it. He complains about too-tough steak so I’m going to marinate it and cross my fingers. It’s only on the menu once so I’m not going to stress. Emma is picky, but she’s slowly expanding her palate. She likes vegetables and in reviewing the menu I saw that on most nights she’ll either eat everything or the vegetable and side. Though at some point in the month I’m sure we’ll have the ‘yes I love you even though I won’t be your personal caterer’ conversation.
• Keeping organized records is a step I’ve overlooked: I have weekly menus stored on my phone, on the laptop, and written down on paper. So I could refer back when I needed inspiration, but it’s hard when it’s scattered. I made a new folder on my laptop where I’m going to store the monthly menus for reference. I divided the shopping lists based on perishables and non-perishables and will file those with the menu.
• Stick to theme nights. This is another element I’ve tried. Yesterday I made my first menu without any real structure and called it done. But later I went back in the evening and reorganized with a theme for each night. We have a few activities during the week which go into the evening, and I planned around those. I ended up keeping most of the meals I’d chosen during my first round, but reorganizing them with a theme for each night.
Finally, I know the execution is going to be the real indicator of success or failure. With the exception of making a menu for a month, I’ve tried all the above already. But I’m going to try again which might mean I’ve either devoted or delusional.
And while I don’t consider myself even a little bit of a perfectionist, I needed to accept this as good enough. Is this the best menu ever? No. Is is the healthiest I could have put together? Definitely not. It is better than saying I can’t deal with cooking, let’s go to Wendy’s? Absolutely. It’s a start. I’ll report as I go through the month and when it’s over.