Monday, January 4, 2010

Meal Planning

Menu planning is always a challenge, but we talked on the trip about how to make our lives a little easier this year, and menu planning is a big one. We talked about doing a monthly menu, instead of weekly, ala Sew Liberated. Basically, you do all the meal planning at once for four weeks, and simply rotate. You also don't have to eat the things on the same day each week. I think four weeks is enough that we can cycle back to the beginning and not be sick of the foods we're eating. You also get 2 "gimme" days, when you can cook whatever you want.
Right now, I'm trying to decide whether the way to do this is specific recipes or more generally - for example, do I put in "mac & cheese" or do I put in "sweet potato mac & cheese". The benefits of going more general are that I can choose to do beer-leek mac&cheese instead, but the drawback is that it still leaves us somewhat menu-planning.
So right now, my list, if we go general, would look like this:
1. Tacos
2. Mac & Cheese
3. Risotto
4. Grill Night
5. Stir-Fry
6. Soup
7. Pasta
8. Fish

That isn't enough meals, so I think the answer is to go more specific. 20 meals are necessary to make this work, and they should be seasonal or year-round items. In early winter, this means quite a few potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beans.
1. Sweet potato tacos
2. Traditional Mac & Cheese
3. Sweet potato barley risotto
4. Winter Lager soup
5. Burgers
6. Meatless sloppy joes
7. Barbecue tofu
8. Stir fry w/ rice
9. Curry
10. Minestrone soup
11. mushroom risotto
12. Chili/coconut salmon
13. Specialty mac & cheese
14. Goat Cheese/black bean/spinach tacos
15. Bean tacos (leaving general so we can do lentil or something else)
16. Pizza
17. Butternut Squash (I'm leaving this one general, as I don't know that much about what to do with Butternut Squash)
18. Salmon w/ cous cous
19. Mushroom "stroganoff"
20. Wild Card

I think a Wild Card meal is a good way to get to make something else - adds another "whatever" meal to the mix, in addition to the other two. I may swap one or two of these meals out for a Wild Card meal.

I wound up putting all of these into an Inkscape document and printing it out. Probably won't get it laminated just yet, because well, that sounds expensive. Although I do have teacher friends who might have access to a laminator. Oooh.

I'm thinking of the 5 meals as Sunday-Thursday - Friday and saturday nights are usually either a hodgepodge, leftovers, happy hour, dinner party, dinner out, or us cooking something together. I deliberately put a bunch of our Sunday "freezer meals" on the list - burgers, pizza, soups, so that those can be used for that day.

I also haven't planned sides - some of these meals are one-pot meals with veggies thrown in, and some will involve eating veggies. I find it's too difficult to try to plan the vegetables I'm eating until I get to the store. Oh, and check out this awesome link to figure out what is local and in season for you this Winter -

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