I did it. I have planned out meals for the entire month of July. Obviously we are only two weeks into the month yet, but I’ve stayed on track with my meal plan and only have made one minor adjustment to one menu item. I realize that since I have the month planned, I can switch days here and there, but I know sticking to my plan is how I will make this continue to work.
So using Linda’s idea from her blog I mentioned in Part One, I came up with this to use as my guide on a monthly basis.
I found filling these “themes” in with actual meals/recipes was so much easier than just coming up with meals. Knowing I’m looking for a Mexican meal, I can go directly to that tab in my Mealboard recipe list or in my recipe box. I chose all of the Mexican Mondays first and voilà! I’ll change out some of the days when the weather changes, but for the warmer weather I like this plan.
I also wanted to incorporate some freezer meals. I wasn’t ready to do an entire day of freezer meal cooking like some are in the habit of doing, but I wanted to have several meals that would essentially be done once they were thawed and warmed. Or that we could thaw and put on the grill and be done. I also like having slow cooker meals during the summer. We often go to the pool in the late afternoon, so when we get home we are hungry and need something right away. These two types of meals made it easy to fill in quite a few more days. I gleaned some additional ideas and recipes from this blog, including breakfast for dinner once a week (which we already did most weeks), déjà-vu food (our classy term for leftovers) twice a month, and doubling some recipes for freezer storage. I purchased two large packages of ground turkey and 10 pounds of potatoes. These were among the things that I made up ahead of time and froze. I made nearly 60 small turkey burgers–some Thai and some BBQ–and oven-roasted and twice-baked potatoes for the freezer.
I have learned a little already from this trial run. I discovered that since I do not plan breakfast or lunch on most days, that déjà-vu food works better as a quick substitute meal. We often eat it for lunch as a sandwich alternative, so unless it was a large recipe it can be a limited commodity. I also have learned that it motivates me to make the meal even when we are running behind, I still set in to make the meal on the calendar. As a last step, I went through each week and listed what prep work needed to be done before the meal could be made. These things might include thawing frozen ingredients (I like to cook bigger batches of legumes and freeze them rather than keeping canned beans in the pantry.), making tortillas before cooking the meal (I’m very particular about my tortillas. If they aren’t homemade, they have to be Trader Joe’s. I will eat others, but when I’m the chef this is my rule.), and picking up fresh produce or other specific-to-a-recipe ingredients at the store.
And I had to share this, although it hasn’t anything to do with planning monthly meals.
My beautiful red Kitchen Aid Professional Stand Mixer died. Scott has it in his workshop, but he’ll need some major parts to fix it. So after attempting to make a single loaf with the food processor and not being pleased with the results, I went back to the hand mixing and kneading method I learned from my mom, grandma, and 4-H and this is what I got! Scott loved it. He said it looked and tasted just like Cindy’s bread. The ultimate compliment. It doesn’t consistently rise this high every time, but it is nearly always worth the effort of hand-kneading. And I dream of this.