Fail to Plan or Plan to EAT!

Menu Planning Week One

In Flylady-land, our habit for the month of November is menu planning.  I will admit, in the past, this is not a skill I’ve developed so I’m excited to give it another go.  My menu planning usually goes something like this:

menu

Do you see what the problem is?  I see it pretty clearly now.  My menu plan doesn’t reflect my family’s lifestyle.  I set out with these really high expectations, then remember that I have yoga on Tuesday so I don’t want anything heavy, my daughter has guitar lessons on Wednesday so I won’t have time to cook, we have my boyfriend’s son half the time, so the amount of people in the house, and their preferences, changes daily.  If I don’t take these things into account, I’m setting myself up to fail.  Now the upside it that I love to cook and, for the most part, we all love to eat healthy.  So if I can do this realistically, it will be a huge advantage.

Anyone else have a candy hangover from yesterday?  The other advantage to figuring out this menu planning thing now, is that if I’m eating healthily at home for our main meals, I’m not going to feel horrible when a coworker brings in brownies during the upcoming holiday season.  Life is about balance and I try to eat 90% clean and allow myself the other 10% wiggle room for guilt free indulging.  I can enjoy that brownie immensely if I’m not thinking I’m going home and ordering pizza for dinner.

Another aspect of the Flylady plan that is applicable here is how, as moms, we tend to play the martyr.  “Why do I have to do everything around here?” right?  I will admit that menu planning is an area where I tend to do this.  Why does everyone ask me what’s for dinner when I get home from work?  And then complain when I make a suggestion!?  And I really do question how it’s acceptable to eat the same cereal every day for breakfast, eat the same sandwich every day for lunch, but you want me to wow you with a new, creative dinner idea every freaking night?  Really people?!  Ok, tantrum over.  The way to get rid of the martyr attitude is to change the intention behind making dinner.  It’s not a chore;  I’m blessing my family with nourishment, while doing something I actually enjoy!  The only thing I really have to complain about is that it happens at the end of an already long day.  However, I’m in control of that when I actually plan.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

Sunday – I have all the time and energy in the world and we’re usually at home so this will be my day to try new recipes and maybe do some meal prepping for the week.  For example, we can have meatball sandwiches later in the week if I make the meatballs on Sunday.

Monday – I’m still pretty fresh for the week so I can play in the kitchen after work, no problem.  Mondays will be for a fun, yet not time or labor intensive, meal.  Since we never have my bonus son on Mondays, I can make the parmesan chicken he doesn’t like.

Tuesday – I have yoga so I’m not going to eat heavily, probably just a salad.  So Tuesday will be leftover day.  Sunday and Monday revisited.

Wednesday – I can either eat quickly before the guitar lesson or wait until we get home so Wednesday will be crockpot day.  (I love my crockpot by the way.  I’ll share some super simple recipes as we go.  Like if a recipe starts with, “brown the meat in a skillet,” it’s too complicated for me.  I’m a dump and run kind of girl.)

Thursday  – Will be similar to Monday.  30 minute meals (I’m also not opposed to buying a frozen lasagna and popping that bad boy in the oven with some garlic bread on occasion.  That said, maybe Thursday can be for casseroles or other meals I’ve prepped on Sunday.)

Friday – here’s where I’m going to be my realest.  I am not cooking on Fridays.  Period.  Once a month we meet one of my best friends for dinner.  That is always a great time.  Other weeks, we can grab pizza or burritos from the place up the street, we can go to Panera on the way to the movies, we can eat leftover chili from Wednesday, I don’t care.  Mama is taking Fridays off.  And, if we’re all honest, everyone else wants a day off from eating at home too.  Once a week, we’ll plan for an indulgence, a fun meal, a date night, and actually budget for it (in calories and money).

Saturday – this one can go both ways.  If we’re out and about, at a birthday party or whatever, we’re not going to worry about going home to cook dinner.  We’ll eat where we land.  This isn’t exactly menu planning; this usually just happens organically as a result of busy family Saturdays.  I’m not going to stress over it.  If we’re home, I’ll cook, if not, whatever.  I’ll probably have a menu item on the calendar but the flexibility of letting it go if it doesn’t happen, without resurrecting the martyr, “I plan this menu and we don’t even eat what I plan!”

Speaking of the martyr, I’m not going to do all of the menu planning myself.  I’m thinking I’ll get a list of favorite meals from everyone and pull from that.  I’m thinking maybe I ask everyone: What’s your favorite kind of chicken? What’s your favorite pasta?  What’s your favorite crockpot meal?  And here’s novel idea I’ve never done before:  actually write them down!  If I get a list of say, 6 crockpot meals, we’re only repeating every month and a half.  See what I’m thinking?

This past Sunday, I knew menu planning month was coming so to prepare for a Flylady habit, I did a totally Konmari thing:  I emptied my refrigerator, cleaned it thoroughly and only returned food and condiments that were not expired.  Now I know exactly what we have and a plan to use up as much as possible before we go grocery shopping on Saturday.  I still want to do the same in my pantry before Saturday as well.  It really doesn’t take long once you decide to actually do it.  I still use 15 minute increments to keep myself on task.  The shelves of the fridge were one 15 minute session, and the door was another.  I can probably bust out the pantry in ten minutes because I won’t be dealing with science fair projects and other gooey messes.  Just a good ole flinging session.

Now, I’m going to add one more missing link: accountability.  I’m going to try to develop the habit of posting our weekly menus here, along with any cleaner eating modifications I’m making for myself (yeah, my people eat lasagna but I don’t).  They’ll be in my Foodie Friday posts for the upcoming week.  For tonight, I’m making spaghetti with Italian sausages, and a salad.  Since I don’t eat pasta, I’ll be sautéing zucchini for myself with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.  We’ll do some kind of potato casserole tomorrow; I’ll play on http://www.allrecipes.com today and figure out what I can come up with based on what we have in the house. And Friday is our monthly dinner with my bestie.  Thursday night, I’ll combine menu planning for the next two weeks with selecting our goodies for our farm box.

I’m hoping I can get the menu planning habit to stick this time.  I’m glad to have you all along for the ride.

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