Monday, 10 June 2013

How I do menu planning - Part 1 Dinner

How I do menu planning - Part 1 Dinner

I do menu planning almost every week. There are a few reasons for this:

- I'm not a good cook. There are some complicated things that I can do easily, but cooking is not one of those. I can't make cooking 'just happen'. I need to give it conscious, specific attention. For many years Dear Husband did practically all of the cooking. Dinner magically appeared in the evening as far as I was concerned. I realised this when Dear now-Husband was away with work. I would be sitting on the couch at 9:30pm trying to work out what this strange hunger feeling was.
- It saves time and money, and cuts down on waste.
- It means that usually, we avoid dinner time chaos.
- It almost eliminates emergency runs to the supermarket for  a missing ingredient. That said, I cook very simple meals and many of the ingredients are interchangable. This is partly laziness and partly planning.
- Some days I think I'm superwoman if can defrost something.
- It makes it easier to use planned leftovers for other meals.

I used to plan once a week, but I'm now planning fortnightly. Here's the process. It sounds quite long but I don't go through the whole thing each time.


Love your freezer.
We have no room for a chest freezer. We still have one - it's in the living room. I would recommend a freezer as useful baby equipment ahead of a cot. That's how much I love it. Freezer cooking is a whole other section, but for us it's a crucial part of meal planning.

Know your routine
After conscious experimenting, we have a routine that generally works.
Sunday night: plan meas for week/ fortnight. Blog it (see bwlow)
Monday: Grocery shopping in the day, freezer cooking and weekly prep in the evening after bedtime.
Tuesday: A work day for me, so often we aren't home until about 5:30 and there's hunger and crankiness. Then there's the toddler. Needs to be a very easy meal, almost always a freezer one.
Wednesday and Thursday: I'm home these days. I still want easy meals that are quick for me, but I can do something like crumbed chicken and roast veggies where I prep or cook it all earlier in the day and then toss in in the oven (now that we have one). I often need to take a plate to playgroup on Thursday, so I will try to have an oven meal on Wednesday if I'm making cupcakes or something so the oven only needs to be on once.

A menu plan is a tool for you; you are not a slave to it
I do try to stick to the plan, but if it's not working or we do something else then I don't worry at all. The whole point of the plan is SUPPOSED to be a reduction in stress, not an increase.

Know your meals
As I said above, I'm not a good cook. I'm someone who needs to practise a simple meal many times before I can do it reliably enough to be edible. Generally, I do meals that I'm familiar with. When we introduce a new meal I try it out a few times when it's a day when Dear Husband can chase Chubs wo I can concentrate, I do it in small quantities to see if we like it and how it freezes etc. Generally after four or five days I'll know how the meal 'works' and where it will fit best into routines.

I like to pair meals together - eg we will have chicken noodle soup the day after a takeaway hot chook. A roast is followed by a salad with meat or another 'post roast' meal.

A meal with salad is best at the start of the week before it gets wilted, and the potatoes and carrots are relegated to the tail end of the week.

We plan for meals out, leftovers, or 'scavenge' nights. I freeze leftovers if they are unexpected, so I plan to use then every now and again.

The actual process:

This, like everything on this blog, is what we do which works for our family at this time. It's certainly not a MUST DO list, but a What We Do list.

On Sunday night:
1. I see what we have. What freezer meals, meat in the freezer, veggies to be used up, things in the pantry. What needs to be used up in a few days? In a week? If needed?

2. I look at what we have on for the next fortnight. Some things (like work, playgroup) are the same every week. We live fairly boring predictable lives so it doesn't change much - generally Tuesdays are freezer Bolognese and Fridays are a takeaway hot chook. Still, sometimes there's a family dinner, a parent teacher night or something else to consider so these get popped in. I'm old school so I write these on a piece of paper - I have a booklet of weekly planning sheets that I was given - but I hear there are lots of apps and fancyschmancy things.

3. I actually plan the meals for the next fortnight and write them in. I like lots of wiggle room, so I rarely plan to use up everything. I go into 'siege' mentality sometimes...

This is the point where I try to match meals up , plan leftovers for the next meal and so on.

4. Make shopping list
I list how many of each thing I need to make the meals for the next fortnight for dinner. It's not an inclusive list - it's pretty much just dinner and anything else which can't be forgotten. I don' include things like cows' milk and eggs which we buy all the time. If there's something like bread which we usually buy but don't need that week, then I write a note saying not to buy it.

I also write a small shopping list for the next Monday when we will do a little shop with anything fresh that we will need.

5. Blog it. I do a recap of the previous week and then write my plan for the next fortnight. I link to along with literally hundreds of others. Many people list special diet plans and are great for ideas. I do find when I don't blog I get slack with the planning.

On Monday:
6. Do shopping
We shop on Mondays and somedays it goes wonderfully well. Some days - not so much. I do ind having a list helps with not forgetting things, since my brain does not work well when Chubs is screaming in it. It took me a while to work out that cranky baby almost always needed to eat food. MOTY there...

7. Do freezer cooking
Monday night after Chubs is in bed is my prep night. I will usually cut and crumb chicken and make a triple batch of Bolognese or chilli con carne. I also do sandwiches for lunches, cut up fruit etc. For our family it works well to invest Monday night doing this for the benefits of having everything ready later in the week.

Throughout the week:
8. Change as needed. We rarely stick to the plan as you can see - actually I don't think we've ever done it! I scribble over the sheet on the fridge as we go (which also makes blogging the next week easier.)

Next Sunday night
9. Look at the plan for the following week. Change as needed (and it's always needed). Update mini shopping list. Blog.

Next Monday
10. Do a little shop, and then any freezer cooking, sandwiches etc that night.

This is by no means a perfect system. We don't always go shopping every Monday, sometimes we don't need to. I still go to the shops during the week for more cows' milk and fruit. As I said above, we rarely stick to the plan totally. We still have scavenge nights. We still have breakfast for dinner occasionally - sometimes planned, sometimes not. I much prefer to spend my energy planning in the evening when I want to, when it's calm and before things go pear shaped than I spending energy at 5 o'clock with a screaming toddler clawing at me. Either way meal planning is going to take time and energy - I prefer to do it on my terms.

There's plenty of wiggle room built in and I do like to have quite a stash so I rotate long storage food. We still have the occasional 'what about a pizza?' nights, and Chubs still loves the prepackaged baby food pouches (six months + still counts at 24, right?)

Do you meal plan? What your approach?

Coming soon - breakfast and lunch meal planning.

Menu plan

The fortnightly planning is going well - kind of. It is good planning a fortnight at a time, because it means we do a big shop and a little shop. I often have to change the second week around (and often the first week as well) but that's ok. The menu plan is just that - a plan. It's supposed to be a tool to help me, not something for me to be a slave to. It is a big job to plan a fortnight at a time, but it seems to be paying off so far.

Last week's recap

Monday 3/6 Chilli con carne with rice, corn chips and salad I'm posting this Monday night, and so far do good! I also made three lots of Bolognese for the freezer
Tuesday 4/6 Asian chicken noodle soup MIL wants to make silverside, and I'm totally letting her!
This was done in the slow cooker and was very yummy.
Wednesday 5/6 Parmesan chicken with roast veg Heading out to dinner - a rare treat! We swapped back, and had the Parmesan chicken here
Thursday 6/6 Stir fry Parmesan chicken with roast veg - I'll bring this over from Wednesday MIL took us out to dinner
Friday 7/6 Hot chook with chips and steamed veggies Bolognese (We can't go all week without it!) DH grabbed a hot chook
Saturday 8/6 Stir fry Since we had the hot chook on Friday we had Asian chicken noodle soup
Sunday 9/6 Scavenge We had some soup in the cupboard from when Dear Husband had his emergency dental work done last week, so we finished it up. I also cooked some Bolognese for the freezer.
This fortnight's plan

Monday 10/6 Bolognese (in the fridge already, part of the batch cooked last night)
Tuesday 11/6 Stir fry (DH)
Wednesday 12/6 Crumbed chicken (prepared in freezer, just needs to be cooked) with roast veggies
Thursday 13/6 Stir fry (DH)
Friday 14/6 Freezer Bolognese
Saturday 15/ 6 Chilli con carne (freezer) with rice, veggies and sour cream
Sunday 16/5 Scavenge

Monday 17/6 Chicken noodle soup (with fresh poached chicken)
Tuesday 18/6 Freezer Bolognese
Wednesday 19/6 Stir fry (DH)
Thursday 20/6 Freezer Bolognese
Friday 21/6 Chilli con carne (freezer) with rice, veggies and sour cream
Saturday 22/6 Family dinner out
Sunday 23/ 6 Scavenge (or perhaps Freezer Bolognese )


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Guest Post: Hints for avoiding disaster when flying solo

I've done a second guest post at Double Blessings Boutique - pop on over and have a look.
Hints for avoiding diaster when flying solo

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Chore chart for Chubs

With the arrival of Chubs' second birthday, we also heralded the arrival of her first chore chart!

Now - honestly - it's pretty much a chart for the sake of having a chart. Quite a few of the 'jobs' she would be doing anyway - 'eat breakfast' and 'go to the potty' need to happen chore chart or not!

Some jobs are about establishing routines - eg shoes away. Some other things will hopefully pay off in the long run, but I tell you, it's a pain. Getting Chubs to 'make' her bed? Ugh - the 4.5 seconds that it would take me to just pull her sheet and doona up would be much faster. Not making it at all would be even faster again.

I have noticed a difference in actually having the chart. I printed out the lists below with pictures (either of Chubs doing that job, or a clip art picture), put them in plastic slips and taped them to the pantry doors at two year old height. So far Chubs has responded well to 'what's next on your list?' when 'it's time to do **' isn't working.

The plan is that over the next few years we can add 'real' chores on, and hopefully some that she can do on her own. Everything on the list she either needs to be told to do or needs close supervision, but then again - she is only just two!

Chubs’ Morning Jobs

May 2013

Go to the potty
Eat breakfast
Help to make bed
Put clothes on
Get hair brushed
Put shoes on


Chubs' Evening Jobs

May 2013

Put shoes in purple tub
Eat dinner
Put clothes in dirty clothes basket
Have a shower
Put pyjamas on
Get hair combed
Brush teeth

She is very happy to stand in front of the pantry and 'read' the list to whoever will listen. Hopefully the novelty and the excitement will last for a while!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Menu plan

Last week's recap:

As per usual the plan didn't work out. The spanner in the works was Dear Husband getting quite ill and needing a lot of emergency dental work. It appears he's had a number of tooth infections for quite some time (which we didn't know about). Two flared up last week and have been removed, with more work to come. He was quite sick with both the infection, and then the recovery so things went out the window this week. Mother in law has also been visiting so everything is a bit out of routine.

Monday 27/5 Crumbed chicken and roast veg (also do daycare cupcakes) All good
Tuesday 28/5 Bolognese All good
Wednesday 29/5 Chilli con carne (make large batch to freeze, eat one serve each tonight) Didn't happen, we scavenged that night.
Thursday 30/5 Stir fry Soup and scavenge
Friday 31/5 Bolognese Hot chook 
Saturday 1/6 Slow cooker chicken curry I knew that it would be a busy day - I had a book club meeting Saturday afternoon, picking up MIL etc. I put the slow cooker on at lunch time, and it was a great to walk in to a hot dinner ready to go at dinner time!
Sunday 2/6 Scavenge After a massive day and feeling under the weather, take away pizza won the day.
The plan for this week:

Monday 3/6 Chilli con carne with rice, corn chips and salad I'm posting this Monday night, and so far do good! I also made three lots of Bolognese for the freezer
Tuesday 4/6 Asian chicken noodle soup MIL wants to make silverside, and I'm totally letting her!
Wednesday 5/6 Parmesan chicken with roast veg Heading out to dinner - a rare treat!
Thursday 6/6 Stir fry Parmesan chicken with roast veg - I'll bring this over from Wednesday
Friday 7/6 Hot chook with chips and steamed veggies Bolognese (We can't go all week without it!)
Saturday 8/6 Stir fry
Sunday 9/6 Scavenge

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