Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Menu planning

I started this new cooking blog because I was feeling so empowered (and well-fed) thanks to a brilliant menu planning effort. I picked five of my cookbooks and devoted two hours one Sunday night to menu planning for an entire month! For the first two weeks, we were in food heaven! Menu planning had paid off beautifully! I knew what would be for dinner every night. I knew what I needed to buy at the store. We were trying lots of new recipes for what felt like minimal effort, and we were eating great food! I was singing praises of menu planning from the rooftops...until week 3 when I suddenly and seriously burned out on the whole enterprise. I didn't want to look at my menu plan. I didn't want to cook from the menu plan. I felt bossed around by the menu plan, and we had take-out two nights in a row. Thus, the lapse in posting.

In retrospect, I think I just need to scale back my expectations. Menu planning for an entire month might be useful, but it wasn't right for me. I'm going to try two week spurts and see how that goes. It breaks up the chore of planning better than doing it once per week, and it still gives me lots of freedom. Additionally, I learned two important lessons:

1) Plan at least one night each week for leftovers or take-out. Those nights are breaks and are necessary. We do ours on Fridays. The girls always want pizza then. Sometimes we don't, thus the leftovers option.

2) Prepare Monday's meal in advance to make it as simple as possible. I really don't like pre-cooked meals, but I really do like totally prepared and ready to cook/serve in the oven meals. Our favorite new discovery are the main course spring rolls from The New Moosewood Cookbook. Sooooo delicious and so fantastically easy! If the prep work is done the day before, all you do is unwrap, pop into the oven for around 20 minutes and enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of menu planning in two week spurts...I try to do it once a week, and that does seem to be too often. on the other hand, a month does seem like it would be too long, and I think I'd probably have the same reaction you did.

    As for method, I agree wholeheartedly that planning at least one leftover/take out night is a must! And, I like the idea of preparing a day, such as Monday, in advance...I will definitely be trying that!

    I don't have a ton of prep and freeze ahead meals that I can pop in the oven...so, if you have any that you'd like to share, I'd love that!

    I do make huge batches of homemade marinara sauce and freeze them in 2-3 cup increments to use as needed. It's a great tomato sauce on it's own, and really adaptable to lots of yummy variations. It's super easy to thaw and add a couple of things and serve. I'll e-mail you the recipe if you'd like.