The best way for me to successfully feed my family is to plan ahead. My day is nearly doomed if I wake up thinking, “What will I make for dinner?” The thought keeps coming back until I finally figure out the answer, but on occasion, the day is so full that an answer does not come and my family is resigned to having quesadillas for dinner. I much prefer to glance at my menu the night before and do a bit of advance planning. [...]
To make my life easier, I have a rotating weekly menu for breakfast and lunch.
- Monday: French Toast (Honeybee cooks)
- Tuesday: Cereal, Yogurt, Toast (or any combination)
- Wednesday: Eggs
- Thursday: Oatmeal (Russ makes great oatmeal with milk, apple juice, vanilla, cinnamon, etc. )
- Friday: Pancakes (Ladybug cooks)
- Saturday: Eggs
- Sunday: Bagels (our treat for the week)
- Monday: Sandwiches
- Tuesday: Quesadillas
- Wednesday: Pasta
- Thursday: Sandwiches
- Friday: Rice with cheese or whatever else we have
We love to have leftovers for lunch and always have them first before falling back on the lunch menu. The best thing about the breakfast and lunch menu is the elimination of the constant question, “What’s for lunch?” I can always answer, “Go look on the refrigerator.”
I like to plan my dinner menu a month at a time. First I print out a blank calendar page and fill in the dates. Then I sit down with my calendar and make small notes about family events, so I don’t plan a meal that needs lots of prep time on a day when I am going to be at a Cross Country race for three hours. To make planning a little bit simpler, I have a basic pattern I follow:
- Monday: Breakfast dinner
- Tuesday: Soup or Vegetarian
- Wednesday: Mexican
- Thursday: Pasta
- Friday: Pizza, Stromboli, or Slow Cooker
- Saturday: Slow Cooker
- Sunday: Feast
To cut expenses, I cook a breakfast dinner on Mondays. Generally it is an egg-based entree, such as a simple quiche or breakfast casserole. Once in awhile it is scrambled eggs, but I try to bake muffins or something yummy to make up for it. Tuesdays are most often a soup cooked all day in the slow cooker, but sometimes I’ll make an alternative vegetarian dish such as Stuffed Baked Potatoes. This month I am cooking a Mexican entree each Wednesday and a pasta-based dish each Thursday. Fridays I like to make homemade pizza or stromboli (like big calzones that are cut into strips), but if I’m gone at a Cross Country race, I’ll start something in the slow cooker in the morning instead.
The weekends are different. Saturday is a big work day at our house. Since I homeschool during the week, I can’t get into projects like switching out summer clothes for warmer clothes (that project is coming soon), deep cleaning, or preparing for Sunday guests. I like to start dinner in the slow cooker and forget about it all day so I can dive into whatever I hope to accomplish and not look back until 5:30.
Sunday is the highlight of our week. We do our best to take a true Sabbath rest, which means no work that is not necessary. Ideally, we eat the best food on our best dishes and we make the day lovely. Menus generally are special and always include dessert. In the fall I might make a pork roast or turkey. In the summer we might grill steaks (from our cows) and fish (for those of us who don’t love beef). We love to invite friends over on Sunday, although since I have been traveling to Seattle so many weekends, we have not hosted nearly as many friends as we would like.
To be perfectly honest, our ideal Sunday dinners fell apart not long after we brought our three children home from Ethiopia. I just couldn’t do it – I didn’t have the energy each week to think about goblets on the table and pretty flowers in a vase. Life is getting better now and I see our Sunday traditions coming back. Maybe we’ll even get out for an afternoon walk some Sunday soon.
Getting back to menus, despite my plan this was my actual menu for this week:
- Monday: Beef Stir Fry with Brown Rice (I took the meat out of the freezer on Sat. and then didn’t cook it, so I used it up on Monday.
- Tuesday: Stromboli (We had been without an oven for over two weeks, so we celebrated by having a favorite.)
- Wednesday: Tostada Bake (Baked burrito filling served with tortillas, etc.) Honeybee made it!
- Thursday: West End Pasta Special (Pasta with sausage, veggies, and a sour cream sauce)
- Friday: Slow Cooker Pot Roast (Cross Country race)
- Saturday: Grilled Pork Chops with bulgur pilaf (Since I’m doing a slow cooker meal on Friday, I thought we would grill Sat. – it is quick and easy)
- Sunday: Grilled burgers (I will be in Seattle on Sunday, so Russ will grill burgers, his favorite)
As you can see, I don’t always follow my template, but I have a loose system that works for me.
We are working on a new budget for our family, and I’m making efforts to keep our food costs down, but also realistic, as we figure out what it costs to feed us. I go to Costco once a month and we shop at WinCo once a week. WinCo is a great money-saving grocery store. My family likes meat, so I try to stretch it a long way with beans, pasta, and rice. Several years ago I bought a large lasagna pan at Target that is equivalent to a double 13X9, and I make all of my casserole-type dishes in it.
Owlhaven is planning to cut her food budget from $900/month to $600/month. She also is hosting a blog challenge to spend only $75/week on food for one month. She has done a fantastic job preserving food this fall. I know canning is healthy, frugal, and wonderful, and I used to can, but with homeschooling and finally getting my life back in order (pre-therapy with Dimples, we were only surviving), I just don’t have it in me to can this year. Maybe next year.
Thank you, Tyra, for the great question. If you have a question for an upcoming Tuesday Topic, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Tuesday Topic” in the subject line.
Thank you all for your great questions and answers.