What’s for dinner?

There’s no question that menu planning makes life easier.  

Already having the decision made about what’s for dinner means one less thing to think about on busy days, and that’s one less reason to get take-out.

Toblerone at Simple Mom has written a very helpful article on how to menu plan.  Today she’s even provided an entire month’s menu!

I like her approach because she doesn’t try to use wildly creative meals for each night of the week.   

  • She chooses meals that are simple and familiar.
  • She adds variety with different side dishes.  
  • She plans only two weeks of meals, and then repeats them for a month’s menu.

She also demonstrates how she uses her online calendar to help her, but the same principles could be applied to a written plan taped on the fridge.  If you want to get started with menu planning, her article is a great resource.

What’s on my menu?

I’ll confess I don’t menu plan at the moment.  We eat more fruits and vegetables during the summer, and this makes it easy for me to quickly decide on dinner based on what I see in the fridge.

You could say I pantry plan.  I try to keep foods in my pantry that I use often, so when I decide to make something, I already have the ingredients.  This works for me because I tend to make fast meals that don’t require a lot of unique ingredients or the oven.  As the season changes and the weather gets colder, I’ll start menu planning more, using the ideas that Toblerone shared. 

Here are some meals we’ve had recently:

  •   scrambled eggs, steamed broccoli, carrots
  •   chicken wraps with spinach, red pepper, and miso
  •   chili with extra tomatoes, black beans, and tortilla chips
  •   quinoa salad like this one with chopped vegetables
  •   stir-fry chicken and brown rice

For lunches I usually have a smoothie with a banana, frozen berries, peaches, apple juice, protein, cod liver oil, and raw honey.  (It sounds healthy, but I still like root beer and m&ms too.)

Batch Cooking!

I like to prepare multiple meals at the same time by batch cooking.  (Some people call this freezer cooking or once-a-month cooking.)  This can mean that I might make a triple-batch of soup or chili and then freeze it in smaller portions.  Or maybe I will chop extra vegetables to use for the next night’s dinner.  

On Friday, let’s share ideas for batch cooking.  

I’ll bring some of my favorite batch-cooking recipes and techniques, and I want to hear your expertise!  Be thinking about how you can make more than one meal at a time, and let’s share these ideas on Friday.  Maybe you have a time-saving tip or a recipe that freezes well.  If you have a blog post about it, you’re always welcome to share a link to it in your comment so that we can read more.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Cod liver oil – yum! ;)

    Thanks for linking, Rachel. You’re a star!

  2. I love menu planning. I’ve done it on a regular basis for years. It’s something that has helped simplify my life, especially at the dinner hour. It’s ironic that you mention this as I post my weekly menu plan each Monday. Today, however, there is no menu plan. It’s too hot to cook or eat here (106°). I contemplated a weekly menu of cold liquids and ice cream. I’ll be prepared to share on Friday.

  3. This has inspired me to go beyond my weekly menu plan – knowing what we’re going to eat over the course of an entire month sounds so liberating! Thanks for the info.

  4. Because it’s just the two of us, my boyfriend and I wouldn’t really do well to plan so far in advance. But, we do create a menu anytime we do full-on grocery shopping. We don’t necessarily say “Okay, here’s what we’re going to have Monday night,” or whatever, but we do have 3-4 meals that we know we’re going to have for the week and shop for those items.

    Then, if he makes too much of whatever meal (he likes to cook and sometimes “overcooks”) we might eat it for multiple meals, multiple days. We always have whatever we had for dinner the night before for lunch.

    Then, whatever days are left over, we just have sandwiches/soup/something simple.

    myillusion.org

  5. Pepperdove says:

    It is too hot to cook here too, esp. since we are not running the (broken) a/c this summer. As a result, we have been eating out *waaay* too often… I need to brush up on my microwave cooking and get back in the kitchen!

    Meal planning is tough for me but remains a goal.

  6. I can definitely relate to summer heat since I’m in Texas. Nancy’s idea of ice cream for dinner sounds pretty good to me.

    Amanda, that’s so great that Eddie likes to cook!

  7. Robyn Thompson says:

    Dear smallnotebook,

    I just stumbled across your site and was very inspired by No-Spend-Month! Since January, I’ve been setting one monthly goal (like, Fitness February or Preparation June)…. and it’s lovely to see this working so wonderfully and simply in your home!
    I’ve just recently gotten married (one month!), and since we returned from our honeymoon I’ve been menu planning each Friday, and we do our groceries each Saturday. I find menu planning helps us eat more healthily, takes the pressure out of cooking dinner, and allows for a quicker and cheaper grocery shop because we know the exact quantities we need for the week. I make our grocery list through the week on a notepad in the kitchen when we run out of basics, and then add to it when I menu plan… Before I make the plan, I always check the pantry and freezer to see how much of what we already have I can incorporate into our meals (because we are moving to Scotland in a month, we simply cannot stock up!).
    One of the best advantages to our menu plans has been our post-groceries-meal-prep time… When I make the menu plan, I write out what kinds of food prep we can do to make cooking for the week easy… things like make any doughs/batters, like for breads and pancakes, wash and chop all of our fruits and veg, cook some chicken breasts for quick wraps or paninis, grate any cheeses we need… and cooking can really take ten minutes for what feels like a gourmet meal! My husband also loves to freeze our own fruit to make summer smoothies with yogurt (much cheaper than buying the pre-frozen bags, we’ve found)…
    Thanks for an inspiring little website!

    - Robyn

  8. Those are great ideas Robyn, thanks for sharing, and congratulations on your recent marriage!

  9. onebagnation says:

    I’ve been planning meals almost since my daughter was born; flylady was my inspiration. It became essential when I went back to work; you simply can’t stand in front of the fridge wondering “what’s for dinner” with a hungry baby, toddler – or school-ager!

    I try to cook and eat what’s in season, and I aim to try a new recipe every week, but I fall down on that goal pretty often, sad to say!

  10. What a great topic for our month of preparation! It’s something that I’ve just been meaning to get to but haven’t (maybe it’s the three little kids who are mysteriously demanding my attention all day!). Thanks for the little push, and I’ll hope to have something to share on Friday (we’re still on vacation and I haven’t managed to post nearly so much as I’d like to :)

    best,
    amanda@ http://www.kiddio.org

  11. Great post today! I am in menu planning mode and actually thought about having a mini-OAMC session on Sat…..so I will try and do a post on Friday :D

  12. I just made a menu planner last night. Brilliant minds think alike.

  13. Oh, and I have to say going to the meal prep places like Super Suppers and Let’s Dish are worth every penny to me. I just might have to stock up before school starts.

  14. Tim Van Arsdale says:

    I like what you said about eating more fruits and vegetables in the summer. My wife and I are the same way. We have a small garden in our backyard and there is nothing like a fresh salad made from things growing in the backyard. Last night we walked to the backyard and picked fresh lettuce, radishes, carrots, and green peppers.

    My wife and I made omelets one Saturday morning from onions and green peppers growing in our garden. There was a small amount of green peppers left. It was not enough to keep (if it was a store bought green pepper I would’ve thrown it out) but I kept it because that small amount of green pepper had more value to me simply becuase I grew it. Anyway, enough of my ranting.

    Garden Veggies Rock,
    Tim
    Author, You’ve Got Spam! a refreshing collection of e-mails regarding mercy minsitry

  15. Ya know..I’ve never really tried that…batch cooking. But I do want to know what’s for dinner way ahead of time. I ask my g/f what we’re having for dinner (what she’d like) every morning. Lol. Sometimes she says, “dinner?? It’s barely breakfast!” I know…but I just want to be prepared later….

  16. Thanks for this great piece and for the link to simple mom’s site for more menu planning ideas.
    It had just come up as an idea for my partner and myself for a few reasons and I have also just blogged about it – thanks for the inspiration…