Friday, April 30, 2010

Summer Menu Planning

I have a love/hate relationship with menu planning. I don't really enjoy menu planning but when I discipline myself to menu plan I'm amazed at the amount of time and stress I save! It is also one of those areas that get easier with practice. Menu planning takes me much less time now then it once did.

I like to menu plan by giving each day a "theme". I've tried meat themes (chicken, fish, beef) but what has worked best for me is designing my themes around types of dishes (soup, casserole, crock pot, Mexican).

Our menus also seem to fluctuate with the changing seasons. In the winter I crave comfort food - soups, stews, and casseroles. In the summer, I crave vegetables - fresh, home grown vegetables of every sort.

I'm always trying to add more vegetables into our diet, as well as use up the garden excess. It seems foolish to freeze or can vegetables (though I do plenty of preserving too) if we are not eating as many vegetables as we can when they are fresh.

Last summer I brain stormed ways to add more vegetables to our diet plus make menu planning easier. It worked so well that I'm using the same system again this year.

These were my summer themes:
Sunday: simple (often grilling or a simple picnic lunch at a park)
Monday: stirfry (some type of marinated meat with whatever vegetable was in season)
Tuesday: salad (a main course salad like taco salad)
Wednesday: quiche (with seasonal vegetables) or other casserole full of veggies
Thursday: crock-pot (often this is my errand day)
Friday: pizza (again with seasonal veggies and often served with salad)
Saturday: grilling (often burgers)

Each week, I'd take a look at what vegetables were on hand or ripening in the garden and plan my menu specifics. Often I would try to plan ahead, maybe when grilling chicken I would do extra to add to a salad, or quiche, or pizza. The menu worked well because it was flexible but gave me a workable plan to alleviate the 5:00 what-are-we-going-to-eat tonight woes. The days of the week were very flexible with what I felt like making that night or what worked best with our schedule.

Just to give an example - here was our menu this week. Right now there isn't too much in our garden. We have kale, a little asparagus and lots of lettuce. As the garden selection increases so will my menu options.

Pork/asparagus stirfry on rice
Meat loaf and cheesy potatoes (a freezer meal) with salad
Kale/ham quiche
Pizza and salad
Chicken and frozen veggies in crockpot
Grilled steak with crockpot baked beans and salad

I'd love to hear your ideas for summer menu planning and how you incorporate seasonal veggies.

4 comments :

  1. I love to read your ideas. I am horrible about menu planning. If I do plan a week I do not limit myself to certain days. I make a list of 7 meals we can have and pick each day from that list.

    This year we planted a ton of tomatoes and several jalapenos. We have a little yard and rent so I cant plant a huge garden but I am hoping to get creative with these two things. The kids love tomatoes raw but hubby and I do not. I am going to have to find recipes to sneak them in our dishes as well. I LOVE your blog. I always leave feeling so inspired. :)

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  2. Thank you for the ideas Gina. I haven't meal planned yet, although during the "Eat From Your Pantry" challenge I enjoyed matching recipes to what meat was in the freezer. I know it's a time saver and saves lots of money but I'm a "mood cook" and cook on a whim most times. Discipline will save me in the end I think. Thanks for the inspiration :)

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  3. Thanks, Gina. I have been trying to meal plan this year, but was just thinking that my meals will really be changing now that summer is coming. Just a few random questions....do you use a salad spinner or how do you clean your lettuce/greens? I often see them at the farmers market, but I don't have a spinner. Also, when you are doing stir fries, do you boil the veggies first and then stir fry them. Thanks for your help.

    Erin

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  4. Erin -
    I do have a salad spinner. It was a wedding gift and I enjoy using it. But if I have just a few greens I often just rinse them and roll them up in a towel. I have several old dish towels I keep under the sink for such uses. You can also place the greens on the towel, hold the edges of the towel in your hand, and swing them wildly for your very own "salad spinner".
    There is lots of ways to stir fry. I usually start with my meat, when it is done, or right before it is finished, I place it in a bowl. Then I start with my raw veggies. I begin with the hardest and longest cooking and keep adding veggies. It helps if everything is all chopped before hand. I like to throw in some soy sauce, lemon juice or whatever other kind of seasoning I'm into that day. Right before the veggies are finished, I return the meat to the pan. It is also nice if the meat is marinated for some extra flavor. An easy nutritious meal!
    Gina

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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