Menu planning truly sets the tone for my entire week. When I skip it, I’m more stressed than I need to be. In this episode, I share three benefits of menu planning and my method. I do all my menu planning on Sunday nights, picking meals that go with the themes I’ve set for each day. I’ll walk you through each step, and all the links to the recipes are in the show notes below.
Listen to Self Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver on iTunes or the link at the end of the show notes.
Quick links from the episode:
- Eliminating Decision Fatigue
- My “Go ahead, play with your food” Pinterest board
- apple cranberry bacon kale salad
- honey chipotle dressing
- Greek marinade for chicken
- Pioneer Woman cook books (affiliate link)
- The Lazy Genius’s change your life chicken recipe
- pizza bread (I called it pepperoni bread)
- Shipt discount link
- SandraPeoples on Instagram
Feb. 17 Episode 011 – Menu Planning: The Key to Making Every Week Go Smoother
This is self-care and soul care for the caregiver, and I’m your host—Sandra Peoples. To us, self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. We want to take better care of ourselves so we’re able to care for our loved ones who rely on us.
This is episode 11 and it’s going to be one that I’ll refer to a lot in future episodes because truly, this one task sets the tone for my entire week. When I skip it, I’m more stressed than I need to be.
So I’m going to walk you through the benefits of menu planning and how I do it. My method has changed some over the years, so I’m not saying my way is the only way or even the best way for you, but I 100% believe menu planning helps everyone, no matter how you do it.
First, it eliminates decision fatigue at the worst possible time of day to have decision fatigue. At my house, everyone is home around 4:30 each afternoon. If I don’t know what we’re having by that time, it’s stressful for me and for Lee. We don’t want to default to that “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know, what do you want?” discussion at 4:45 and then decide it’s too late and just pick up fast food. Which, by the way, starts a whole new “what do you want?” “I don’t know, what do you want” discussion.
Second, menu planning saves money because I know ahead of time what all I need to buy. One whole chicken can be cooked and picked for chicken potpie for dinner one night and then added to stir-fry for lunch another day. And let me just insert as a side note that Lee is the master at picking a chicken. He worked at Boston Market when he was in high school, and it was one of his duties. That’s not a skill he gets to brag about very often, so I’ll throw it in here to give him a little credit.
Third, it’s so customizable. I’ll share my method, but if it doesn’t work for you, trying to plan all the meals for an entire month. Or pick 12-15 recipes and rotate through those. I’ve done that before and written the recipes on index cards and just pulled out the ones I want to use that week. Ask yourself how to make it easier for you and then go for it!
Ok, now let’s jump into what I do.
On Sunday nights I get my dry erase weekly calendar and open our shared calendar app. I can see what meetings Lee has. As the boys have gotten older, our schedule fills up with their activities too. Right now, David has play rehearsal and James has Special Olympic practice every week. Plus there’s church on Wednesday nights. So I list everything we have going in one section of the dry erase board.
Then I open my Pinterest app, and pull out a cookbook or two, and pick out meals we want based on my themes for the days of the week. Let’s break down each one of those steps: First, I keep lots of recipes on Pinterest. I’ll link to the board in the show notes on my website, but a few of my recent favorite finds are apple cranberry bacon kale salad, a copycat recipe of the honey chipotle dressing from Chipotle, and a Greek marinade I use on chicken when we make pitas. Second, I love cookbooks, especially the ones from Pioneer Woman. I even recently discovered that my library has a big selection of cookbooks, so I check out a couple each month and then take pictures on my phone of any that look interesting. And third, I have themes for each day of the week to give me a framework for picking recipes. Here’s what’s working for us right now:
Mondays are the night I am most likely to try something new. Since I menu plan on Sunday nights and get groceries delivered on Monday morning (more on that in a few minutes), I’m most likely to feel creative in the kitchen on a Monday. If nothing new or different sounds good, I usually make The Lazy Genius’s change your life chicken recipe or the Greek pitas we all love.
On Tuesdays we have Mexican food. Sometimes it’s taco Tuesday, but it could be quesadillas or even King Ranch chicken casserole. We’re in Texas, so Tex Mex food is a favorite for sure.
On Wednesdays I pick from a list of a few quick meals we all like but can eat at different times since it’s church night. That may mean pepperoni bread, or grilled cheese, or leftovers.
On Thursdays we eat something in a bowl, like a rice bowl, salad, or pasta.
On Fridays I do comfort food. This is a new routine for us, but I’m working on Friday evenings having more of a Sabbath feel to them. So I want foods my people love. That might be soup or chili when it’s cold or a more involved meal like chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. I’ll do a whole episode on our Sabbath-feeling evening in the future, but for now, comfort foods on Fridays is working for us.
On the weekends I make a plan for lunch and dinner, but it’s easy because it’s the exact same plan every weekend. That makes is super easy!
On Saturdays we have Chick fil A for lunch and burgers for dinner. Right now David has rehearsal on Saturdays so we pick him up at noon and go through the drive thru. And having burgers on Saturdays was part of our routine when I was growing up. My dad grilled out every Saturday when I was young. And that routine works well for us now. Especially since James doesn’t always eat what we eat, so Lee grills extra burgers I can fix him any night.
On Sundays we have pizza for lunch and every is on their own for dinner. I may help them decide by giving them options, and of course we have to heat something up for James, but I don’t make a specific plan and I don’t cook anything new.
Ok, so back to my Sunday night planning session- I fill out the menu based on the themes for each night and make the grocery list. I use Shipt to shop for me, so on Sunday night I create an order to be delivered Monday morning. If you aren’t familiar with Shipt, spelled s h i p t, it’s a service that shops for you in most areas. I click on everything I need and can leave notes like whether I need ripe avocados I’m going to use right away or if they can be firm for later in the week. Then someone delivers the groceries to my house. There’s a link in the show notes to get a discount on a year of Shipt, so you can check it out for yourself. There are times my small-town grocery store doesn’t have what I need. Like last week I wanted kimchi and they don’t carry that. So I went to the grocery store in the town where James does therapy and had it delivered curbside. And a few times I year I go into Houston for Trader Joes! We like a lot of their frozen foods so I really stock up when I make the trip.
Shew! I feel like that’s a lot of information about what I do each week. I think we talked about it longer than it actually takes me to do. I’ll put lots of links in the shownotes so those of you who want to see specific recipes can click on them. All this talk about dinner is making me pretty hungry. I’m glad I already have a plan for tonight. I’ll share it in my stories on Instagram, so make sure to connect with me there if you haven’t already. My user name is SandraPeoples.
Let’s wrap up like we always do, with a prayer. Heavenly Father, what we eat matters to you. From the garden in Genesis to the Marriage Super of the Lamb in Revelation we read about food you provide and meals you plan. Some of my favorite stories in Your Word include food, like when David invited Mephibosheth to his table in honor of his friend and Mephibosheth’s father Jonathan. Or when Your Son Jesus made breakfast on the beach for the disciples after His resurrection. Meal planning can feel monotonous at times, but it’s one of the most practical ways we can show love to others. You provide it for us and we prepare it for them.Help us this week as we plan and cook meals for our family and anyone you bring to our tables. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Next week in episode 12 we’re going to cover solutions for super busy or stressful seasons. If you’re listening in real time, I’m hosting a special-needs conference this weekend and it’s going to be a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. So I’m going to be putting those solutions into practice at our house! I hope you have a great week and I’ll meet you back here next Monday!