I know you are probably thinking, I thought this chick was supposed to be all about moderation? Menu planning is the definition of "perfectionist mom syndrome" and exactly what we're trying to avoid here! Agreed. I too used to cringe at the idea of it because it seemed so daunting and frankly just obnoxious. So what changed my mind?
ATTEMPT # 1
I tried the menu planning thing and followed a blog by this self described OCD perfectionist (my first mistake). I tried it for one week thinking, maybe it really would be life changing. Nope, it was not. The recipes included 1,000 ingredients, some of which were impossible to find in the store, and I spent about twice as much money at the grocery store buying all the stuff. Plus, when something "came up" one night or I just didn't want to cook, I felt like I was wasting the food and money. There was no flexibility. It was just too much. Major FAIL.
ATTEMPT # 2
So next, I decided to try the make-ahead freezer meals. At this time, I was still working full time so I thought this would be a fantastic way to be ready for meals all week! I picked the recipes and made the lists, bought all the items.....and spent ALL. DAY. SUNDAY. putting the meals together in baking dishes and large zip lock baggies. But it was going to be so worth it, right? WRONG again. The first few recipes were kind of gross and then a couple of nights, I forgot to defrost the meals beforehand, so we ended up getting take out instead. Before I knew it, the meals had frost all over them and were looking less and less appetizing. Eww. We ended up throwing the rest out. Big time FAIL.
ATTEMPT # 3
Lastly, I tried pre-assembled meals that you order ahead and they get delivered to your door. They are not cheap, but I thought, I'm already throwing money away, so it's worth a shot if we at least eat it. This was definitely a better option than the previous attempts, but there were still issues. The foods were very flavorful and rich. I enjoyed them at first, but then started to get tired of the rich meals, like cranberry and butter crusted bacon on pork chops. It's delicious for one night, but too much for every night of the week and I found myself packing on some pounds. Plus, you still have to read the directions and cook it, and often times it took 30 minutes or more. Ugh. And meals were wasted when we decided to go out. It just wasn't the answer either. Another FAIL.
So finally, I decided to try the menu planning again, but this time with more....MODERATION. I decided to make some changes:
1) Choose easier meals with fewer ingredients
2) Allow for a "Left Overs" night
3) Only included ONE new recipe in my menu each week, all the others I should know by heart so that I can keep it simple
4) Include one night that is either a grill night (maybe your husband will handle that night?) Or, a night where you pop in a store-bought frozen pizza or lasagna
Why did these 4 things make all the difference?
How do you make it work?
The menu planning takes me about 15 minutes. I usually do it on a Sunday and then I get the groceries done within 30-45 minutes. It has saved my sanity and we are actually using all the food I buy instead of wasting so much. We have saved more money doing it this way as well and it has now gotten to the point where I have enough recipes that I feel comfortable with, that occasionally I can just hit the grocery store without a list because maybe that week, I'm not going to try any new recipes at all because it's going to be a busy week.
Does all of that make sense? Do you feel like this is do-able? If you try it out, I want to hear from you! What are your thoughts?