Want to meal plan, but don't want to lose spontaneity - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 11-09-2008, 04:09 PM - Thread Starter
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So in theory, meal planning seems like a great way to go, would save me time and heartache trying to decide what to have for dinner each night. We have a freezer and lots of stuff frozen, so it really would be good to know so I could pull stuff out accordingly in the morning. Also, I could be soaking beans overnight, etc.

However, the idea also seems REALLY boring. I just can't imagine knowing on Tuesday what I'm going to have for dinner on Thursday. I kind of like flying by the seat of my pants and being creative and coming up with something for dinner or lunch that is kind of improv. That being said, there are so many nights when it's 4pm or so and DP is home and ready for dinner at 5pm that I end up just cooking some noodles, veggies and a jar of spaghetti sauce. I don't have that stuff for everyday use, I more have that stuff for when I'm not feeling well enough to cook or if DP needs to cook dinner one night or something.

So with a baby due in a month and a preschooler already here, I think I'm willing to try meal planning, but want to know if there is some way to make it fun? Or does anyone else have this problem? Thanks!

                                       DS 7 ~ DS 3

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#2 of 11 Old 11-09-2008, 05:20 PM
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What about buying enough for five days of meals and posting the options on the fridge? That way you can decide what to cook from what you have available in the fridge and pantry.
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#3 of 11 Old 11-09-2008, 05:43 PM
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that's pretty much what I do. I come up with a list of dinner ideas approximately enough for a week and write them down. Then I pick the night before or the morning what we are going to have that night. sometimes if I have a lot of ideas from what I have, i have 5 or 8 ideas, instead of 7, but its much easier than trying to think of what i could make, and what's still frozen
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#4 of 11 Old 11-09-2008, 06:14 PM
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I tried to go shopping twice a month, but knowing what you're having for dinner next Thursday is an odd feeling when you like spontaneity. Shopping a week at a time is definitely doable. You can decide on something one day and have it a few days later.

mom of 3 , homeschooling the oldest with google and the internet
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#5 of 11 Old 11-09-2008, 06:30 PM
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I do home daycare, so I cook for 3-4 little ones every day plus my own family. I feel the way you do about menu planning,OP!

I have done detailed plans when I started out and when I cared for children with allergies/special diets (so mom could bring alternatives for the child with the special diet.)

Now I do what pp do, write a list of snacks I want to do and meals I want to do based on what I have on hand, and then pick from that list as I go. Or do something else!

I sometimes think it might be more useful to keep a menu of what we all *actually eat* for a couple of weeks and think about how I could plan/shop/cook more effectively from that.
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#6 of 11 Old 11-13-2008, 07:21 PM
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I meal plan by writing down fourteen to fifteen dinners as we shop for two weeks at a time. I do not designate the day for a meal unless it is a special occasion. I decide when to have the items on the list as we feel like it. As we have things I just cross them off.

You could write each meal on a slip of paper and draw it from a hat to make it even more spontaneous.

Sometimes I don't make what is on the list and that is okay. As long as we have enough food to last us two weeks and I'm using ingredients we have then if I make a spaghetti instead of chili then it doesn't really matter.

I do keep basics like spaghetti sauce and pasta on hand even if I don't plan it on my meal list. As you said it is a go to food when I'm feeling tired, etc.

I don't plan lunch and breakfast so much. I have a general idea what people like for those meals and just have things like sandwich supplies on hand.

I ask dh and dd if there is something they'd like to have when I am planning. We tend to have tacos/burritos or pizza every couple of weeks. We try one to two new recipes every two weeks.That kind of keeps it fun for us.

What you might try is jot down what you have had for a month or two. Do you really have something new and creative every night now or do you have a list of favorites that rotate and repeat?

Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#7 of 11 Old 11-13-2008, 07:35 PM
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i meal plan but very loosely. i make sure at the start of each week that i have several meals in mind with everything needed to make them. then each morning i decide whats for dinner and start my prep. somedays i am locked into a meal because i need to use something that i prepared the day before in anticipation of the next days meal but i still find i have tons of flexibility. in fact, i am probably more flexible now because i have 5 or 6 options every day rather than figuring out at 400p that i can't make this dish or that dish without a trip to the store or because i didn't defrost something so instead we end up with pasta...again.
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#8 of 11 Old 11-14-2008, 12:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all for your replies! All the suggestions do make sense and you're right, I'm not creative every night! Well, usually, I might pull out some chicken in the morning and then decided what to do with it later. So I think have some vague idea of what I"m going to do would be helpful. I like the idea of writing down some main meals that we eat and rotating through that. Then maybe some other meals that are new and throwing those in sometimes. Hmmm...I'll have to start trying this. Don't know how organized I'll be at first with a new baby, but if I start now, maybe I could get into a groove by then.

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#9 of 11 Old 11-18-2008, 07:25 PM
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I understand what you mean about losing the spontaneity - I solved this by only meal planning 5 days per week and then we eat out once and once is whatever I feel like cooking. Meal planning has been helpful during the week when I need to just get food on the table and then when I have more time and less pressure on the weekend I can just wing it.

Another thing that helped in a small way with the spontaneity was the fact that we have a CSA box through most of the year. I just build the meals off what comes in the box so since I never know what it will be it helps with that feeling a tiny bit.
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#10 of 11 Old 01-03-2009, 06:22 PM
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I have a 4-week meal plan with Saturdays free (mostly to use up leftovers). However, I don`t follow it strictly. So while the first Wednesday of the meal plan is beef stew, if I don`t feel like making stew we have something else.

Also, we do the 4-week plan once a month so there are 2-3 days left over at the end to be creative.

The fear of a lack of creativity was my biggest obstacle to doing a meal plan. Then I realized that we seldom had a lot of our favourite meals and that I really wanted to have them at least once a month. It was really easy to come up with most of our meal plan by simply listing our family`s favourite meals and adding a few more. One thing I`ve noticed is that Monday`s have our least favourite meals so they often end up being `try new recipe`days.

Gillian - Wife to an amazing DH, Mother to 4 wonderful kiddos . . . and now another on the way.
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#11 of 11 Old 01-09-2009, 11:12 PM
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I get the spontinaity back into my planning by having some special ingredients on hand to jazz things up. So if I am not liking what is on my list I just cook something special from the freezer- like steaks for a treat, or we make a pizza! (I ALWAYS have pizza ingredients on hand- so much more interesting then pasta, and we have an array of fresh veggies on hand always- so I have mine- he has his. I also keep a few tried and true faves on the list each month, and make them when I feel like it. These are favorite recipes that are special, that we don't do often, and that may have more expensive ingredients or be time consuming- like a chicken curry with homemade roti (a flatbread) or corned beef and cabbage, or eggplant parm. I make sure there are 4 "specials" each month.

Mama to bftoddler.gifand belly.gif

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