I love planning a menu for my family. Without a menu plan, it takes me way too long to figure out what we’re eating each day. I also like sharing my menu plan with all of you each week. Many of you have mentioned how helpful you find my plan and have told me that you often “steal” many of my meal ideas. I love that!
But, I also really appreciate the perspective shared in a comment last week – the perspective that my menu plan may be overwhelming to some of you. The fact that I plan all three meals for each day of the week, and the fact that all three meals tend to be big meals – yep, I can definitely see how that could be overwhelming!
I decided to take the time to explain my menu plans just a little bit. I certainly don’t want to overwhelm anyone, nor do I think that planning all three meals for every day of the week is a necessity for everyone. It’s what works for me, but I know it doesn’t work that way for everyone. In fact, menu planning doesn’t work at all for some people. If you’re good at winging it at meal time - go for it! :)
I have found that planning all three meals each day for our family works well for me for the following reasons:
1. My family eats a boat load of food, for every meal. Having a plan for which boat load of food is going on the table really helps me keep my head above water. (Get it? Boat load? Head above water? Ha.)
2. Having a plan in place for each meal of the day helps me focus on other things so that I’m not constantly distracted by what I’m supposed to feed us next. Trust me, the boys ask all the time – “What are we eating for breakfast/lunch/dinner?”
3. Most of my boys wake up ready to eat my leg if I don’t have breakfast ready to offer them when they wake up. I need to know what I’m making for breakfast before I get out of bed. I like having two legs. It’s very handy.
So the question could still be then: Why don’t I just feed my family cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch each day, and then focus on our evening meal plan?
Well…I do feed them cereal and sandwiches every once in a while. But wow, the cost of feeding us this type of meal really adds up for us. I did the math one time on how much it costs to feed my family sandwiches. You can read about that here, but add even more to that dollar amount because we now eat probably double what I added up for a meal since my boys are older. (Did I mention that my oldest son has jumped several shoe sizes during the last year?) Therefore, I find that it really saves our family a lot of money if I cook heartier, more nutrition packed meals if possible.
Some tricks I use to make putting three big meals on the table each day just a little bit easier:
~ Just about every meal I make for my family is simple – especially our breakfast and lunchtime meals. I really don’t find that making a “bigger” lunch for the family takes a whole lot more time than making a bunch of sandwiches.
~ Sometimes we have leftovers to eat, so I don’t have to cook something new. But I don’t always know when we’ll have them, so it’s hard for me to plan those into my menus.
~ I try to have food made and in the freezer to pull out for quick lunches.
~ I have a list of “back up meals” and all ingredients on hand to throw them together if needed.
~ While I do have a detailed menu plan, I switch it up all over the place throughout the week depending on what’s going on and what sounds good. The plan is there, but it is flexible.
~ I give myself grace. If I really just can’t get a good meal on the table, the cereal is in the background waiting to be pulled out.
For a little bit more information on this subject, sure to read my Cooking Healthy Meals When the Menu Plan Fails post. Also, you’ll find a free downloadable page full of healthy, easy lunch ideas here.
Okay everyone. Jump in here with your ideas and thoughts about making menu planning simpler. What do you do about planning breakfast and lunchtime meals?