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
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.