Failing at Meal Planning - Live Like a Mensch
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Failing at Meal Planning


Nearly every week, I sit down on the weekend with a pile of cookbooks, a calendar for the week, and a pad of paper for my grocery list. The result generally looks like this:

Monday: Chicken Tortilla Soup from Fix It and Forget It Lightly

Tuesday: Citrus Pan Fried Tilapia from Mediterranean Cookbook

Wednesday: Eggplant and Bean Curry from Thai Cookbook

Thursday: Spicy Broccoli Fritatta from 29 Minutes or Less Cookbook

Friday: Spaghetti and Meatballs from my brain

Unfortunately, that well-planned out list can be easily derailed. For example:

Monday, at 4 pm I'll realize that I forgot to defrost the chicken for the tortilla soup, let alone put all the ingredients into the crock pot in enough time. I'll decide to make my default dinner of spaghetti and meatballs instead.

On Tuesday, in the hopes of getting back into the swing of my list, I'll actually make the tortilla soup. It's delicious. So far, not so bad.

On Wednesday, I'll realize that both the citrus pan-fried tilapia and the eggplant and bean curry sound hard to make (since they were both recipes I'd decided on the spur of the moment to try), and I'm not in the mood for the broccoli fritatta. I'll rummage through the cabinets and fridge until I realize I can put together a stir fry with things we've got lying around, as long as I don't mind cutting up the chicken while it is still frozen. A minor flesh wound ensues.  Nonetheless, I manage to put a dinner together using ingredients I had been saving for other meals.

On Thursday, I'll spend 20 minutes wondering how I could make a broccoli fritatta without any broccoli (since I used it for the stir fry the night before) before I realize there's nothing to do but make a difficult recipe or call J to bring home some carryout. I call J.

On Friday, I realize that I've already used my take-out dinner card for the week and despair at the lack of meals I have any interest in cooking. After double checking every storage area in the kitchen to see if anything I'd like to cook has magically appeared, I decide to try the eggplant and bean curry. J comes home while the meal is cooking to tell me that not only did he have Indian food for lunch and is therefore not really in the mood for more curry, but he also overdid it a little at the Indian buffet (because it really is good stuff) and is not even remotely hungry. I end up eating saltines with peanut butter along with LO, and package up the curry in the refrigerator, where it will remain until it has become a science experiment, at which point we will throw it out and consider also throwing out the tupperware it is stored in, thereby certainly putting us behind in the entire money saving aspect of meal planning.

I tend to do better with dinner planning when I choose recipes that are either easy or part of my repertoire. And even though I know this about myself, I still find myself perusing the lesser-known recipes and the "interesting" cookbooks. Apparently, Emily doing the planning seems to think that Emily who will actually do the cooking likes a challenge, which is simply not the case. Clearly, this is another way that night guy can really make things difficult for morning guy.

Next time you see me with my nose a cookbook of ethnic/special dietary foods that requires a specific set of kitchen tools which the average American does not have, do me a favor. Slap me silly. I'll thank you for it.



Aunt Lucy said:

I try to plan a week at a time and write the main dishes on the calendar. However, the choas which is normal on a farm results in the calender having arrows drawn all over it to rearrange the meals, until the calendar resembles a paper "who's on first" joke and no one can tell what is actually for dinner.

October 29, 2012 7:45 PM

frugal_fun said:

LOL - Alas, my meal planning looks a whole lot like your week, too.

October 30, 2012 3:04 PM

Carly34 said:

I feel your pain. I've been there and done that too many times to count.

A few things that help me when planning my menu is to keep it simple.

Each day of the week gets a theme that is repeated weekly.

For example Monday's use ground beef, so dinner is spaghetti or tacos or enchiladas or salisbury steak with gravy & potatoes. Tuesday is pork which could be pork chops seasoned, put in the iron skillets and placed in the oven or a pork roast cooked in the crock pot until is shreds. Wednesday is winner winner chicken dinner night. So many chicken dinners could be made, where do we start? Have fun. Thursday is soup pot night, make a minestrone soup or cook some frozen/dried ravioli in some chicken broth & add your favorite veggies. Friday is beef mon' night where you can do anything from beef stew in the crock pot to stir fried beef & veggies with oodles of noodles seasoning with some oriental ramen packet seasoning so no fancy asian ingredients required. Over the weekend we feast on all the leftovers and the cook gets a break until Monday and we do it all over again.

November 2, 2012 11:17 AM

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