For the first seven years of our marriage, I cooked through cookbooks. I rarely ever cooked the same thing twice. If it was a big hit meal, I might have made it 3 times. I simply loved trying something new every time I cooked.
It can be tempting to look back on those early years of marriage and cooking and think I really set myself up for failure. The standard I set for myself in the kitchen was onerous. But I like to think of it as a season that was special. The season may have changed, but the things I learned in that process made me the cook and homemaker I am today.
A friend of mine came up to me at church last week and asked, “I was wondering – now that you have four kids, do you still cook something new each time you cook?” I kind of laughed and said, “Those days are long gone.”
I have shared my meal planning woes here in detail. And I have by no means gotten it all figured out yet.
But, after my friend asked me that question at church, I thought better of my response and told her about our new plan for dinner planning and prep. I realized I am cooking something new most nights. It just looks different in this four kids and homeschooling season.
Recently, I happened upon a solution that is our NEW menu planning process. It is a solution that definitely works for our family…so far!
A Scroll Stopping Solution
I was on Instagram one day and a picture scrolled through my screen that stopped my scroll just long enough to capture my attention. Who would have thought I could solve my menu and meal planning woes with one simple solution from an Instagram picture?
Allow each family member to pick what he or she would like to eat one night a week.
It was so simple – so perfect for our family!
We have 6 (max capacity) in our family. There are 7 days in a week – read: Mama gets a day off! The math worked out! Everyone gets something they personally selected each week!
Switching over to the Solution
Implementing the plan was as easy as mentioning it to my husband. He jumped on it like it was the life-preserver it is. Tired of eating out and tired of spending money, he knew this was smart for our family, too.
That night, he grabbed a piece of paper at dinner time and asked each kid what they would like to eat for dinner in the next week. He dutifully wrote down each child’s selection. Then he added his and mine.
Voila! A meal plan was born!!
Why it is working for us
Well…it can’t be more simple than to be asked to make a specific dish. My daughters even picked out meals from a cookbook they had been drooling over for months. I had the ideas for dinners, I just needed to make sure I had a recipe (or an idea of how to make it).
With the simple meal plan in place, we made a trip to the grocery store (or I made an order to be picked up) and grabbed all the items necessary to make the menu happen. Having everything on hand at the start of the week has been a big key to making meals happen.
Why it works for me
I am feeding my family. That itself, is a blessing
But I am also feeding my desire to cook again. My kids and husband are giving me the framework and I can be creative within those boundaries. I can look up a new recipe and make it. I can use my vast experience with cooking to come up with a new recipe on my own.
Just last night my oldest asked me to make “Feel Better Soup, only your version.” Feel Better Soup is what my kids call the soup their Gran makes for them when they are sick. It is a favorite of mine from childhood – always makes me feel better! I knew I couldn’t hold a candle to Gran’s version, so I used the exact same ingredients and made my version. It was SO good!
If she had not requested Feel Better Soup 2.0, I would have been floundering around at dinner time trying to figure out what we could slap together and call dinner. Instead, we had a marvelous dinner, homemade by Mama!
Will it work for you, too?
I have NO idea if this is the solution you have been searching for. But, I do know it works for us! It works so well, that after a few weeks of making menus on the backs of envelopes, I decided to make it official – I made a printable menu. Then, I did what every homeschooling mama does – I laminated it and hung it up inside a cabinet door.
And I would like to share it with you! You can get instant access to my printable menu (available in three colors) when you subscribe to my Saturday Stroll emails. When you do, you get access to an ever-growing library of resources for your home.
A Note about Meal Planning and Menu Planning
I want to offer in a word of encouragement after offering you this simple blessing from my family. We are not doing this perfectly. This has not solved the problem of end of day energy shortages. It has not avoided the meltdowns that inevitably happen over picky-eating.
It is a simple blessing to be able to sit down at the end of the day with my family and eat a meal I prepared for them. This plan is making that possible more often than it was previously happening. That’s it. No earth shattering, life-altering solution. And definitely not a personal chef.
Just a Simple.Home.Blessing.