Menu Planning, Alas!

This September my daughter started high school. My husband also happens to be teacher.  This means my lifestyle is, in large part, dictated by the school calendar.  I am as grateful for the resumption of routine in September as I am relieved to see it go in June. Routine helps me better plan meals to support good nutrition. In my experience, eating well requires planning, shopping, and cooking. I rarely make a good food choice when I am ravenous!!!

Here’s how I do it:

I lay out the days of the week on a lined piece of notebook paper like this:

M

T

W

Th

F

Sa

Su

I fill in the nights any of my family members will be out. I know the night I come home from Portland I don’t have a lot of time to cook so I aim for a simple dinner or leftovers. Conversely, I typically will cook Sunday night dinner and something to have on hand later in the week. I don’t want to cook every night and take-out options in my community are slim!

This week looks like this:

M (webinar, parent association meeting)

T (driving to dance, see Frankenstein @ Heartwood?)

W (Portland)

Th (daughter’s play rehersal 6-9)

F (out of town)

Sa (home around dinner time)

Su (son home from school on break)

I lay out my proteins to ensure diversity – pork one night, beef one night, chicken one night, vegetarian one night, etc. So, the next step looks like this:

M (webinar, parent association meeting) spicy roasted chicken thighs

T (driving to dance, see Frankenstein @ Heartwood?) Grand Banks swordfish

W (Portland) leftover picnic pork

Th (play rehersal 6-9) spinach/tofu/sesame stir fry

F (out of town)

Sa (home around dinner time) slow cooker short ribs or leftover chicken

Su (son home from school on break) short ribs or white bean/kale/sausage soup

Then, I go through the menu and fill in the sides with vegetables and complex carbs. Because of what was at the farmer’s market, this week my sides include beet and onion salad, kale chips, braised red cabbage, green salad, roasted cauliflower. I also have a giant batch of red quionoa tabbouleh left over and some beautiful fingerling potatoes from the farm.

My other organizing principles for menu planning include:

Double and triple recipes so I’m not cooking every night.

Ask my family if anyone has any hankerings. I accommodate those when I can!

Frequent the farm stand as often as possible and allow seasonal produce to inspire the menu.

Use cookbooks, magazines, food blogs, and Cooking via the New York Times for recipe ideas.

Make the grocery list based on the menu.

And then, I get ‘er done.

What strategies do you have for working, cooking, and eating well? Share them in the comments below!

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