25 January, 2010

Menu Plan


Didja ever think you'd see the day I'd post about menu planning?

I've been meaning to menu plan for awhile now. A loooooooong while. But I never seem to get it really figured out. It's tough for me on so many different levels. I won't get into them now.

Suffice to say, I've come up with my own way. The point of menu planning is really to relieve stress, right? Well, it is for me anyway. I *H*A*T*E* getting to 3:00 in the afternoon and discovering I don't have a plan for dinner. It's right about then that all the kids start having a meltdown and the baby goes on a feeding frenzy for the next 3-6 hours. That's when I start having a meltdown.

Yes, menu planning would solve this problem. However, it's just too rigid for me to establish what each particular day will have. In fact, it's downright stressful for me to sit down once a week to figure out a menu plan for the coming week. But often I can figure out a general idea of what I can make sometime in the week. So that is my new plan. I sit down (read: while nursing) and write out a list of ideas of things I can make when I'm not already stressed out. Occasionally, the day before I need to make dinner, I look through the list to get an idea of the next day's meal. That way, if I need to thaw out something, or soak beans, I can do so in time. Usually though, I don't bother looking at the list until the day of. If I don't make a firm decision as to what dinner is for any particular day, I will offer two or three options up for vote to my kiddos and they can decide what we have for dinner. Majority rules in those options, but nobody gets too disappointed because whatever didn't win for today's dinner will be on the menu for tomorrow or the next day.

So, the last time I went shopping, I didn't bring or make a list. (I know, I know - bad idea.) I ended up coming home with a 15# bag of potatoes. When we went to put it away in the garage, we discovered another unopened 15# bag of potatoes. Consequently, this week is potato week. Yesterday, I asked the kids what potato recipe we should start with. It's fun to discover what each of their favorites are this way. Today we made Nacho Spuds. Then, I went through a list of our favorite potato recipes (typing 'potato' in the search function of my recipe software). I wrote down everything we love that I have the ingredients on hand for. Not everything is focused on potatoes, but there are potatoes in every recipe. Now I have a list me and my kids can choose from each day for the next seven days. And I don't feel bad if, a day or two down the road I come up with something outside of the list. The whole point for me is to have an IDEA of what to make. It really is all a mental thing for me. If I know what to expect, I can plan the rest of my day knowing how much time I need to allot for making dinner.

Just for fun, I'll share with you the options I came up with for this potato fest:

Green Potatoes (very close to my recipe)
Shepherd's Pie (using leftover green potatoes)
Cheddar Potato Broccoli soup
Cheesy Sausage Potato casserole
Minestrone soup
Vegetable Cheese soup
Sesame Chicken (okay, no potatoes in this one, I've just been craving it)

Likely we'll get tired of the potatoes before we make it through all of this list. But this gives us choices to work from - most of which I can choose to throw in the crockpot in the morning, or start at 3 in the afternoon. And the other great thing is having the leftovers for lunch the following day(s). (I get excited not having to THINK about what else to make for yet another meal.)

Oh. And last week's list:

Lentils and Spinach (and yes, my kids ASKED for this one)
Stuffed Bell Peppers (mine is very close to this recipe)
Pasta (we ended up with spaghetti with a chicken & basil sausage and a homemade sauce with mushrooms, green peppers and olives)

There it is.
My head is freer now to think about other things.
Like reorganizing our homeschooling shelves and our homeschooling/daily schedule.

What are your family's favorite potato recipes?