I’d always read, seen, or heard about women who meal plan by the month and I’d always written that idea off. Around our house, since I like to cook, enjoy meal planning and grocery shopping, our menu is based almost entirely upon what my stomach wants. Thankfully my stomach usually craves things that are GOOD for us and not just junk.
But throughout this pregnancy I’ve gotten a bit, well, let’s just say lax. I think for the first time in all our 8 years together I’ve heard my husband really request more options for dinner. I’ve been stuck in a rut. And it hasn’t been all that great for anyone.
And so last night I broke out all my cookbooks (Ina Garten, Pioneer Woman, family recipes, and Cooks Illustrated) and I made a huge list of all the meals I knew we enjoyed. These are meals that for the most part I can make on auto-pilot because I’ve made them enough. Shockingly this list was 65 recipes long. Some are a little more involved and some are as easy as pasta and jar sauce with everything in between. I know there are even more that we really like but I need Alex to go over the list and add in what is missing.
I should also mention that because I like to cook, enjoy meal planning, and grocery shopping that I can’t make a monthly menu that repeats every week. Again, after 8 years, we just can’t and don’t want to eat the same 5-7 meals on rotation. That works for so many but I know it will not work for us with the exception of pasta night and pizza night. Pizza and pasta in all their varieties never get old at this house. One other thing that just has never worked for us are lots of crockpot meals and make ahead meals. Neither ever get enjoyed or eaten so though we have a handful we like, it’s not a concept we are utilizing.
So when I sat down with a monthly printout ready to pencil in our meals I did so with great gusto. First off, I planned out October with the VERY realistic expectation that I will be sleep deprived and will need the easy recipes. I also knew that if I didn’t shop now I probably never would. I wanted our pantry, fridge, and freezer stocked with MOST of the ingredients we needed. I will need to go to the store weekly/bi-weekly for perishables but knowing that we have the ingredients we need for the meals I planned was freeing when I left the store today.
I also created a bit of a system to start out with that can be tweaked. Twice a month on Tuesdays we have MOPS so easy dinners are required. Thursdays we have BSF so those nights are for leftovers/miscellaneous. Because we eat out randomly I know our menu can be tweaked as we go. Nothing is concrete. And to keep the ease going, Friday nights are pizza nights, Saturday/Sunday are soup days, Monday’s are a beef meal, and Wednesday’s are a chicken meal. Right now I’m too flexible with our meals and rely on my ability to throw something together which I know will not work with a new baby on the scene.
I’m hoping this will work for us. I set out today after filling out my grocery list with Elizabeth and we conquered our shopping in record time. I already know that those who plan in advance by the month probably do save quite a bit on groceries. I came home after a Costco/Target run and basically couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Elizabeth and I bought a LOT of food and some how the price just didn’t seem that bad at the end of the day knowing we’d use it. I was actually shocked at how low our bill seemed at Costco for the size of our cart. Knowing that I just need to fill in weekly with produce, lunch meat, and some dairy makes me feel like grocery shopping with two will be even more manageable.
I keep reminding myself of Solomon’s words “There’s nothing new under the sun…” He was right. Mothers have been doing this for centuries and in so many ways we have it so much easier. Women have been keeping house, having babies, making meals, and grocery shopping for years. And they all survived and most had more children than I ever will. So I’m basically a bit optomistic while remaining incredibly realistic.
Have you menu planned by the month or do you? Any suggestions?