Micah asked some questions about my menu planning and I had enough to say that I decided to just answer it in post form. Hopefully some of you will add your thoughts as well – a lot of you are veteran menu planners and I would put myself in the novice group. :) Oh, and I answered a lot more than what was asked and I have a few questions myself that I’m hoping for some input on.
I tried planning all 3 meals and it didn't work very well for me - it was overwhelming and usually more than we would normally eat in a day. :) I found myself frustrated and I just needed the flexibility to do what worked for that day. So, I just plan dinners and try to keep things on hand for breakfast and lunch. We typically have cereal, oatmeal, or cereal bars for breakfast (occasionally eggs or pancakes) - the boys and I are not big on breakfast (and Andrew is usually gone earlier). Lunch is often sandwiches (pb&j, egg salad, tuna, grilled cheese, or cheese toasties), crackers and cheese, or scrambled eggs, yogurt, fruit etc. Just keeping a list of breakfast and lunch ideas on the fridge or taped in the cabinet would be helpful and I really need to do that.
As far as meatless is concerned, Andrew doesn't really care so I try to include a few meatless meals here and there. But if it's not your cup of tea (it isn't for many people I know), just plan other things. :) I try to do a variety of ethnicities, types of meat etc. I use less meat by putting it in things (like fajitas or stir-fry). Andrew often takes leftovers for lunch so I don’t plan in a leftover night.
I do try to incorporate a lot of organic products but we are not 100% organic at this point and I don’t know if we ever will be. I still use refined sugar in baking and don’t plan to give that up any time soon.
I am easily bored by the same food all the time, so I work to change up dinners to keep it interesting. :) I read cookbooks and magazines for inspiration. I probably spend about ½ hour – 1 hour per week planning the meals and making shopping lists. It’s fun for me and I get excited about cooking!
Most all of the meals I plan are ready within an hour or less which is important at our house. I don’t know about the rest of you but meal prep time is zero hour for my kids. They are demanding, want held, cry, fight etc. I often give them a little snack and/or drink and have them spend a little time hanging out on the couch and I go play with them or read to them when I have a break. Any other ideas for this time of day? I try to have dinner ready or nearly ready by the time Andrew gets home (between 6 & 6:30). Some days are better than others. :)
I’m contemplating doing a theme for each night – Monday (crock pot), Tuesday (Mexican), Wednesday (beef) etc. I’m not sure if this would be stifling or helpful. It may be an idea I try and then reject – we’ll see. :) Have any of you done this?
Hope that helps, it’s a bit trial and error and as with most things, it's really what works best for you, the cook! I’m gradually learning what works and what doesn’t and the great thing is that there is always next week!