Sunday, August 17, 2008

Menu Planning

I love planning, which is an odd trait for me to have, considering that I'm massively ADHD. I also love food, which means I adore menu planning.

I first started menu planning with my mom when I was in junior high. I was taking over cooking dinner every night, and we discovered that left without a plan, I either made the same thing every night for dinner, or I became paralyzed by indecision and didn't make anything at all. So every week, on Sunday, I'd sit down with mom and we'd figure out what I was going to cook each night. We'd go through the freezer and pantry, ask everyone what they felt like eating, and looked for new recipes I could try.

The weekly menu was a road map. It wasn't absolute. If I decided, for example, that peas would be a better side than corn, I was free to switch it up. If I decided I'd rather have chicken fingers tonight, I could move the Hamburger Helper to Tuesday. What it did, was give me an idea of what was available and how I could use it. It narrowed down my options. (And if you know anything about ADHD, you know too many options is a BAD thing for me to have!)

When I started cooking for Jimmy, I did the same thing. I'd write down all the days I planned to cook dinner, then fill in the meals. I'm a little more advanced now. I still start with going through the pantry and seeing what I have. Right now, since I do the farmer's markets on Saturday and I do my menu planning on Sunday, our meals are revolving around seasonal ingredients. Then I check the sales at Publix. I use both The Grocery Game and Coupon Mom to get the best deals. Sometimes I have a recipe I want to try. Other times, I'll have a craving, or my husband will.

Menu planning is a great tool. It helps me save money on groceries, not waste food, and avoid the "Well, what do YOU want to eat?" argument at 6 PM every night. It also helps me avoid making poor food choices. I know what I'm cooking, so I can make sure I'm avoiding processed foods. Right now my thing is trying to plan my meals to include as many plant species as possible. Weird, I know. But I like doing it that way, as opposed to counting fat grams or calories.


Natalie said...

I am really really trying hard to get into the menu planning thing. I've never done it, which is why almost every night we do the "so what are we having?" dance at 5pm, ending up fishing out some cans of peas and corn, and eating a hot dog. So today I did the weekly plan, especially knowing I'm going to be tired this week and wanting to just come home and eat.

Thank you for giving me ideas and a little shove in the right direction. I'm trying to start with small steps. Menu planning first, then I'll try cutting down the cost of my grocery shopping (which is completely insane).

Jennifer Liang said...

You'll find that the cost of groceries starts going down with a little planning, simply because you're wasting less and relying less on pre-packaged foods.

Ms Flores said...

Hi Mother!
I can ask you this b/c you're non-Chinese married to a Chinese man, like I soon will be. Is Jimmy picky? My Tom's very picky and is basically obsessed with Chinese food, so now that I need to learn to cook, I'm freaking b/c I dont know how to do the Chinese cooking in a healthy way. And my Tom has diabetes. =[ Any thoughts? Do you have to cook Chinese?
(Charis, DM)

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