Part of being a philosopher's wife means living with a budget.. and while I am the first confess I am not good with budgets, menu planning definitely helps me in that area. It helps me not waste food (another good thing on a budget) and it makes my evenings much nicer--no scrambling to figure out what's for dinner, realizing I have nothing quick to make for my starving husband, and having to rush to the store for something quick or (even worse (for the budget)) going out to eat.
My favorite part, though, is that it gives me a chance to sit down with my Sweet P'Taylor and talk about our week--if he wants to invite people over for dinner, I can plan that into the menu. If we're going to some school, function, hey! it's a meal I don't have to think about. It's a lovely, weekly catch-up that's quick and quite functional.
So I wanted to go over my philosophy in menu planning, not because you're terribly interested, but because I like to talk about food :)
I don't usually plan a variety of breakfasts, except on the weekends. During the week, it's a whole lot of oatmeal, mixed up by what fruit we have on hand (fresh or dried). Weekends are fun, though. I love pancakes and enjoy trying new kinds on a Saturday morning, when we don't have to be anywhere on time. Sometimes I'll make scones or waffles.
[Favorite way to eat oatmeal: 2 T milled flax seed mixed in, 1-2 T coconut oil, agave nectar, and sliced bananas on top. It's like a pina colada for breakfast :)]
I don't really plan lunches either. When we're at home, it's easy--leftovers (mm, and it's always nice to have a warm lunch on a cold day). When we're going to be at work or school, T usually packs a sandwich and some fruit. I also make protein bars (recipe forthcoming), and we take those as snacks, too. I only bring snacks :) I hate the idea of eating a whole lunch at work, so I bring one snack for work and when I get home, I have another snack and start making dinner.
[Current favorite snack (and seasonable!): apples and cashew butter]
But I do plan dinners. Meticulously. In the interest of both saving money and improving our diet, I only plan a meal with meat twice a week. Also, in the interest of improving brain function for my smarty-pants-student husband :) I plan fish two nights a week. Two nights a week, we always have a "vegetarian" meal, and one night a week is leftovers. [We also eat leftovers for lunch whenever we're home.] So "leftovers night" may end up being a meat, fish, or vegetarian. It varies from week to week.
My meal planning revolves around Thursdays--the day of the farmer's market. I can get meat and fish there, too. I thoroughly enjoy going to a farmer's market because it's slowly teaching me what vegetables are in season and when. Can you believe I never knew peaches were a later-summer fruit? And I didn't even know what garlic scapes were... imagine my deprivation! Anyway. I really try to only shop on Thursdays and if I forget something on my list, I improvise or leave it out.
Friday is always a fish day. Monday is usually the other fish day, but fish is a very quick meal, so I sometimes mix up my dinner schedule on nights when I have less energy or time. (Momma always did that. When she planned meals, she'd just write out 7 dinners that she had ingredients for and choose which dinner she'd make each night. That wouldn't work for me, mostly, though. I would make all the quick-and-easy dinners all in a row and then have several more involved dinners toward the end of my week..)
Tuesday is our Two's-Day, so that meal, whether meat, fish, or vegetarian, is something we try to make together and sit down and eat together without other distractions :)
Since it's colder now, I'm trying to make a soup (or a chili) once a week. Soup is a very easy meal to prepare, especially if you have a husband who thinks soup is a meal (keep working on him, R!).
I have often entertained with soup, too. It's such a comfort food for me, I guess I assumed everyone else likes it as much as I do. It gives me a chance to be with the company more, rather than in the kitchen making an elaborate meal. And although there are soups that take a while longer to make, it's a one-pot thing and is great for leftovers. Which brings us to my next point :)
Since my meal-planning week begins on Thursday, Wednesday is usually the leftovers night. It gives me a good chance to go through my fridge and see what ingredients I may have on hand for the next week.
Another thing I do is save all my weekly menus. So far (since I haven't been doing this too long), I haven't had to refer back to any menus for ideas, but I'm sure that, once I hit a repeat season (ahem, when it's warm again), I'll go back to some of my summer menus and enjoy my salad-rich/stove-poor meals :) And as you can see, I put the page number and the cookbook where the recipe's from. I'm the kind of person that will forget where she found the recipe two days after writing it down...
So that's how I do it. Interested in any of the recipes we did this week? Let me know :)