Like a Bad Penny

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.


Photo credit: Pexels

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.

Photo credit: Pexels

Photo credit: Pexels

• 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.

Link to the menu.

9 Responses to Like a Bad Penny

  1. OH do I feel your pain!!! I still have 3 growing boys at home, and a husband who is vegetarian! I hate to cook! In fact if I could win help for the year, I would pick a chef over a housekeeper any day!!! Cooking usually involves 2 different meals, and a lot of grumbling! Throw in sports practices, and husband working late, it is virtually impossible! Did I say I hated it already!?! Planning meals, shopping for them and cooking them causes me so much stress! Every year. When school starts, I feel the need as well to get organized in this area, but it never seems to work out that way! I look forward to reading how your monthly meal plan works out…maybe there is hope yet! Thanks for sharing your struggles, it’s nice to know I am not alone!

  2. I think monthly meal planning is a great idea. Once you have enough months planned, you can cycle through them over and over, and even have associated grocery lists that you don’t have to recreate all the time. I think this could be a great time saver in the long run!

  3. Hello, I looked at your menu and one thing that really surprised me (I’m a french reader, so that may be an explanation) is that you plan both vegetables and carbs in every dinner (like chicken with rice AND brocoli). That’s a lot of work! I serve either one or the other, to accompany protein, but never both except when I use up leftovers for example.
    Appart from that, I plan loosely on a weekly basis (grocery shopping on saturday, and no more shopping allowed for the whole week. This forces me to use up anything I bought, and to adapt to what I have on hand).
    Thank you for the blog, it fortifies me on my own quest to de-cluttering and organisation!

  4. Great job continuing to try new methods that work. I meal plan weekly but have changed the tracking part multiple times. I’ve used an appointment calendar, gmail calendar, an excel spreadsheet and now I’m down to a simple spiral notebook. One side is the menu for the week, the other side I divide into 2 columns: 1. to-do items (marinate steaks, prep this for x night, etc.) 2. shopping list. The shopping list I enter into a website called which is connected to an app on my phone. The app will help you sort items by aisles which makes it a bit easier. The other helpful component is Pinterest. I have my boards for Bfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks and will move recipes back and forth to the Weekly Menu board. Everything is contained in once place and it helps to see the photos of what I’m supposed to be making. Shopping is done on Saturday and then Sunday after lunch I will spend 3-4 hours preparing breakfast, lunch and dinners for the entire week. I HATE cooking so the less work I have to do during the week when I’m tired the more likely we’ll get through the menu and not go out to eat constantly.

    Anyway…keep plugging away at it. You’ll find something that clicks and works for you eventually. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Progress Report: Month 5 | The Simple Year

  6. Pingback: Objective 3: Final Grade | The Simple Year

  7. Pingback: Throw Back Thursday: When Tracy took on meal planning | The Simple Year

Tell me, tell me...