But this past summer, I decided to simplify things a bit more with theme menu planning. Now I get to enjoy the predictability of monthly menu planning with the flexibility of weekly menu planning.
Here’s how theme menu planning works for me:
Toward the end of each month, I sit down and pick out five themes for Sunday thru Thursday nights. These themes apply to the entire month. For January, our themes will be:
Sunday – Mexican
Monday – Pasta
Tuesday – Quiche / Soup & Salad (half the weeks will be a quiche, the other will be a soup and salad)
Wednesday – Stir-Fry
Thursday – Pizza Night
One week, “Mexican” might mean veggie tacos, while the next week, it could be black bean and sweet potato burritos.
With theme menu planning, I’ve got enough flexibility to be a bit spontaneous. I’m not beholden to making veggie tacos, if I’m out of tomatoes or just don’t feel like it that day. But, I also have structure, so I’m not left scratching my head at 5 o’clock, wondering what on earth to cook for dinner.
Structured spontaneity. Perfect!
Setting my themes for a month at a time also allows me to stock-up on the basic ingredients for each of those nights. I have plenty of pasta, taco shells, tortillas, veggie crumbles, eggs, rice and pizza sauce in my pantry. I stock up on these items when they are at their rock bottom price so I know I’ll have the building blocks of my menu plan on hand.
Weekly produce sales dictate how I fill in the “details” – for example, what kind of veggies will go in my quiche. Then, the only other thing I need to add to my list is dairy and fruit.
For Shabbat, my plan is a bit more open. Friday night is usually a crock-pot dish made with beef or chicken, plus some sides from our pantry/fridge. Shabbat lunch is my one “wild card”. If we’re having guests, I might get fancy – and if we’re invited out, I might breathe a sigh of relief.
What about you? Tell me, how do YOU menu plan?