I created a two-week menu plan in my Google calendar that repeats forever. It's my fallback, don't-have-to-think-about-it plan, one that works when everything else in life has exploded in chaos.
It works because it's basic, balanced, and brainless:
- Basic in that it relies on pantry ingredients, seasonal produce, stuff in the freezer -- what we usually have on hand.
- Balanced because it follows the rhythm of our week, with thawed dishes for our busiest days and more involved meals, like homemade pizza, when we have time together as a family.
- And brainless because these are meals we can prepare without recipes -- and without paying much attention, on those evenings when the kids are overtired and squabbling and it's hard to hear yourself think, much less follow a recipe.
Sound boring? It could be, but with that basic infrastructure in place, I can customize to my heart's content.
If an invitation to dinner falls through at the last minute, I revert to my fallback plan without missing a step. If I want to try a new recipe, I scratch Thursday's stir-fry and substitute the new one, just for that day. And if we love that new recipe, it might knock stir-fry out of the lineup and become an every-other-Thursday meal. There are no scheduled days for dining out. Since the fallback plan relies on staple ingredients, it's easy enough to shelve the night's menu and head out to a restaurant instead.
Here's my current default dinner plan, set up as Week 1/Week 2:
Sunday: roasted chicken/vegetarian chili or soup
Monday: turkey sausage and pasta
Tuesday: leftover chicken with greens/pork tenderloin
Wednesday: chicken cordon bleu/chicken piccata
Thursday: veggie stir-fry/salmon
Saturday: Chinese pork and kale/steak with roasted root vegetables
If you need more help, check out these sites offering free plans, recipes, and subscription-based services.
What works for your family? If you have your own tips, please share them in the comments below.