Monday, August 8, 2011

Menu Unplanning

Menu planning is a popular topic, and I love to cook so it's a notion that's crossed my mind once or twice. I'm sure we all know people who have their kitchens organized down to every last grain of rice and can tell you exactly what will be served at each daily meal. I am in awe of the organizational talent there, but I'm just not one of those people.

I have general nutritional and financial goals in mind for managing our resources, but my husband and I prefer to keep things a little more flexible when it comes to the menu planning, or unplanning, as I would properly call it.

I start with certain staples and make sure that we always have a stock of them. These range from flours, sugar, honey, oatmeal, butter, or milk to items such as home-canned tomatoes that we use very often. Every Sunday after church I place a blank sheet of notepaper on the refrigerator. Throughout the week, if we run low on a staple item, I note it on the list.

In addition, there are certain items that we buy every week - cat food, fresh fruit and vegetables(whatever is locally in season), items for my husband's lunches, etc... I go over the weekly coupons and use these in filling in the weekly items on the list.

And then the fun part - the night before my grocery run, I look over our weekly schedule to see how many nights we will be home for dinner. My husband travels for work sometimes and on nights I'm alone, I just eat leftovers. Once I have that figured out, I look through my kitchen to see if there are any ingredients that need to be used up or any ingredients that are on a really good sale at the grocery and I'll use this information to help guide my menu brainstorming.

And where are breakfasts and lunches, you may ask? Well, we like to just put together our own breakfasts in the morning. I just make sure that we have oatmeal, yogurt and fresh fruit on hand. And for lunch, I always make sure we have dinner leftovers as well as items for making sandwiches.

So what are we eating this week? Well, it's the height of fresh veggie season so I'm making a couple of big dinner salads, one of which, a grilled chicken and corn salad, I served tonight. The other is spinach, tomato and grain salad and that's up for Wednesday. I have frozen biscuit dough to use up so I plan on barbeque biscuits(recipe to come) with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes on the side, and I'm rounding the week out with eggplant parmesan and a big peach pie. Thursday night is date night, so we'll have to see what my husband comes up with for that one! :)

This is a little more free flowing that what one will find on formal menu planning websites, but after 10 years of practice, I've gotten good at keeping an inventory of my kitchen which is the main skill one needs for this "method" - and I use that term loosely. It keeps us fed on nutritious meals with a minimum of waste and since those are my main goals in the kitchen, I rather like running things this way.


  1. I'm a lot like this, too. There are about 11- 15 staple meals that I like to make, and pick four or five a week to make, with Sunday being a 'blah' night where my husband loves having crackers and cheese, and I just have a pita sandwich. I've tried menu planning before, but felt too guilty when I strayed off it, so I find it comfortbale this way.

  2. That's great that you do that! I am pretty similar in the summer, but in the school year I have to have it more rigid. One of the things I love about summer, I guess! :)

  3. I keep a well stocked pantry and fridge/freezer so I can be flexible at dinner. I often get meat out of the freezer in the morning without any idea what I will cook in the evening. I don't have a weekly plan, it is what ever springs to mind!! I can usually prepare anything I want based on the food I have in the house. With only 2 or 3 of us it is very easy to be more laid back.

    I'm not on for lists, I keep things in my head!!

  4. It looks like you make a menu plan to me, just a flexible plan. I don't make myself stick to the menu plan if I don't feel like eating what I planned for the night, but then I have the ingredients for 3 or 4 different meals to choose from! We are on such a tight budget that I need to be able to know exactly what we are going to need for the week so as not to spend unnecessary money.

  5. This is very similar to what I do! I buy the things needed to make several meals and then each day I decide what I'm going to make. Our life is really flexible, and we often get/extend last minute dinner invites, etc, so it's handy to have things available, but be able to change at the last minute if needed.