Managing Monday’s: The dinner menu
September 5, 2011, 6:00 am
Filed under: back to school, humor, menu planning, organization, Parenting | Tags: , ,

From the moment Christian woke in the morning, and was aware enough to form a sentence, his words were, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” At first it may have been from his lack of food for the first four years of his life. He needed assurance that there would be dinner and if I could tell him what it was, it soothed him. I think from there it became a habit, and from there, it turned into his anticipating what I would make. Would it be his favorite thing; hamburgers, or something else?

Before he came into our family I really did not give too much thought to our meals. I liked to cook, was pretty good and just kinda went by the seat of my pants. The kids were young and actually very easy-going, as long as it had cheese in it. I loved to entertain and would have high school kids or our volunteers with our ministry over for dinner at least once a week. I just learned to make extra because you never knew who might show up and everyone was always welcome at our table.

When John and Christian joined our family and dinners became a priority, and budgeting crucial, I changed my ways. I began to plan the week of dinners based on the Tuesday food ads. Then when I got good and consistent at that, I started to do it for the month. It has been a huge time saver, a great way to budget my money and I serve more balanced meals.

It definitely takes some time, but my husband always says you can accomplish the most when you focus, front load and follow through. So at the end of the month, I get my huge wall calendar off the wall in the kitchen, pull out my pencil, cookbooks and recipe box. I then fill in the two things we have each week. Sunday’s are home-made pizza and Taco Tuesday which is some sort of mexican dish, usually taco’s, taco soup or taco salad. These are staples in the Johnson household, and I have found my family enjoys the consistency and tradition of it.

I then look at our calendar of sporting events and see what nights I know not only will we not be able to eat together as a family, but everyone is scattered hither and yonder so it becomes a “Fend For Yourself” night. FFY as I name it on the calendar is open to all left overs, frozen meals and usually eggs. The only rule is you make it, clean it, and leave it better than when you started. There is usually one of these a week, and again I have found that my kids like the freedom and the ease that comes from these non-planned meals.

Now I work to fill in the rest of the month. To not get stuck in a rut, I like to choose two new recipes a month to add to my collection of tried and true. I try to balance the choice of meat, casseroles and pasta dishes. I work to include each of the four kids favorite sometime in the month. I make sure I put a vegetable down that goes with the meal and often the side I will serve with it. This is my way of making sure I actually make vegetables as I myself am not a big fan.

On the calendar next to the chosen meal (if necessary) I put the name of the cook book and what page the recipe is on. I then look through all the recipes for the month and make sure I have the spices or other ingredients for the meals. I make a list of what I do not have, and put it on my shopping list. I still use the Tuesday food ads and coupons but have a specific list of what I will need for the month. When chicken is on sale I look to see when we are having it that month and buy enough for all the chicken meals and then do the same with the other meats.

I know this sounds like work, it is, it takes time to save money and plan. What if you don’t feel like having what you put down on the calendar? By all means, make something else, go out, have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you are not bound to the words on the date. Be flexible! But here is the really cool thing. If you are so tired from the day, and you can not think what you could possibly cook for dinner. You look at the date on the calendar, and you know you have the ingredients for that meal, that it will be balanced with the right food groups, and what page to look at, in the correct cook book! No thinking required!

This does take time, usually two hours if I sit down and do all the steps at once. It is well worth it when I know I am providing my family with good, nutritious meals. I have eliminated a daily stress of answering the question “Mom, whats for dinner?” I am organized, and can spend my time thinking about other things rather than a 4:30pm ‘oh crap, what can I make for dinner? I guess we can just get fast food.’ Focus, front load and follow through for a fantastic, family, food filled, fiesta!


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I love that you’re willing to do all and I can benefit…-Julane

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