Menu Planning

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I think I speak for even the foodiest of foodies when I say the last year of cooking breakfast/lunch/dinner plus the never-ending snacks on snack on snacks at home has been EXHAUSTING. Even for people like me who generally relish it. The endless cycle pushed me into a serious rut this last winter and I found myself frustrated even deciding where to order takeout. I just didn’t want to decide…no decisions. On anything. (Food community people you are so missed and loved and I can’t wait to tip you to the moon when we are back at it.) Ultimately, after a few consecutive weeks of super frustrating unplanned, unhealthy, takeout heavy meals I dug deep and went to Target. As one does when they want to waste time and money and fill a void…also to buy a little cute notepad. My plan was to make a more focused effort at menu planning. Menu planning isn’t new to me but it’s always been on a whim, jotted on the back of whatever scratch paper is nearby on whatever day we run out of the staples we use daily. I wanted to be more intentional but in a sustainable way. Something that made it easier for me to be excited about cooking but also gave me room to be lazy or take a night off when needed. After some trial and error on what fits best I’ve landed on an approach that has been really easy to stick to. While this isn’t revolutionary I recently chatted about it with a girlfriend who appreciated the idea so I figured I’d share it here in case anyone else finds it helpful.

Some things I did to help the process…

  • Signed up for delivery services for meat, seafood and produce to take the pressure of weekly grocery runs down a notch. Worth noting I love going to the grocery store, but now I don’t have to go so often. I use Butcher Box for meat, Tanner’s Seafood for fish and New Roots Organics for produce. 
  • Bought a cute little notepad from Target that is pretty enough to have on the counter at all times but also small and light enough to throw in my bag and not be annoying.
  • Focus on 1-2 cookbooks at a time. My collection of cookbooks is shockingly small considering how much I love them and REALLY love buying them. But I stashed most away in a cupboard and focus on 1-2 books sitting out on the counter per week to keep it simple and also actually use them. It’s been really nice to use my books vs own them but cook everything from online links.

The Process…

Worth repeating, this is not new. I did not make this up. I think I just finally tackled it in a way my brain can process…aka if you are wondering why I’m sharing because this is a no brainer, that’s a fair question.

  • Always 7 days of planned dinners
  • Always 1 pasta dish…sometimes specific recipe, sometimes left as just “pasta dish” for a refrigerator sweep, or easy jarred sauce
  • Always 1 takeout night
  • Always 1 pantry/freezer staples dish
  • Usually 1-2 new recipes I want to try
  • Usually 1-2 made it before, want to make it again recipes
  • Often 1 instant pot meal – usually more in winter
  • Never a specific day something has to be cooked. For whatever reason this really helps me stick to the plan because I have flexibility to do whatever works with my schedule/mood. The meals heavy with fresh produce often get made first and the takeout night is often reserved for those glorious days our house is cleaned and I want it to last a bit longer.

Some examples below. Note the grocery list on the opposite page for supplements to my deliveries. Also worth saying the last menu in pink is a bit more intense than usual because I have THIS new cookbook I am absolutely loving.

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