What happens when you DON’T menu plan

My in-laws came for a visit the first week in December. They have very different dietary preferences than we do (let’s just say they like meat. Red meat.).

So rather than make our normal monthly menu plan, we decided to wait until they arrived and then make a menu with them for the week of their visit. No sense in forcing them to eat milchigs for an entire week.

That was the first week. I told myself that when they left, we would plan out the rest of our month. But we didn’t. Life was hectic, kids were sick, I was overwhelmed. We had a lot of food in our fridge and I figured I could wing it.

Why do I insist on learning the hard way? Over and over and over again?

After four days of rather terse family dynamics around the dinner hour — DH: “What’s for dinner, hon?” Me: “What do you mean, what’s for dinner? Why do I always have to be in charge of EVERYTHING? Sheesh!” (Defensive much, Mara?!) — I finally admitted to my husband that our lack of a menu plan was gumming up the works.

So we agreed to sit down to make one, but we got distracted. He had a deadline for work; I had a post to write; the baby woke up for the millionth time wanting to nurse. Plus, we were going away for a few days, so we figured we could make it through.

More tense evenings. More full-price runs to Walmart to pick up pizza crusts and sauce — since without a menu plan, I certainly didn’t have those things in the fridge and ready to go at 5:30 p.m., when I finally decided that that’s what we should eat for dinner.

Somehow, miraculously, we haven’t gone over budget yet. Although we do still have an entire week and guests coming for Shabbat ahead of us. I’ve got $70 left in my food debit card account. I can probably make it. Financially. My emotional well-being? That’s another question entirely.

Does anyone else have this kind of maddeningly slow learning curve?

Well, take it from me: You really can avoid these problems by making a menu plan.

Not sure how to start? Check out these two posts:

When you’re done reading, be sure to hop over to Organizing Junkie for her Menu Plan Monday linkup. Plenty of inspiration there, too!


  1. I think the thing that saves me the most when I don’t menu plan is my freezer and pantry. I freeze ground turkey and chopped zucchini. I keep pasta and sauce in my pantry. My husband and I can eat that at least twice a week if I don’t plan ahead. I also keep all the makings for tuna noodle casserole in my freezer (cheese) and pantry (mushroom soup, pasta, tuna) and tacos (morningstar farm crumbles, frozen peppers, taco box and spanish rice mix) so we always have at least 3 different meals we can make when we are desperate.

    • I think you are on to something with the components approach. I am going to integrate some of that into my menu planning for this month, setting aside some time to prep ingredients, if not entire meals, and keep them in the freezer.

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