What's that, you say? Well, I make a table on my computer with 7 columns and 4-5 rows. I head each of the columns with the day of the week and each square of the grid stands for a day of the month. I fill in those squares with dinners I want to make for the month. (Of course, this doesn't have to be done on a computer but I've come to love "cut and paste".) I also try to write in what the side might be, if any and if we will have a green salad or something special with it. I've saved onto my computer the template or chart for filling in. That way I don't have to create a new table for it each time. I also save each month that I do. Who knows? I may just be able to one day pull out one I've already created, make a couple of changes and be good with it!
I know it sounds like a lot to do the whole month at once, but for me it is easier to sit down once a month and fill this in rather than weekly. I usually start a few days before the month's end and of course, I don't have to fill it in all at once. Here are some ways I've found ways to make it easier and more useful:
I've made a separate list of all the dinners I like to fix along with the ingredients I need. I've got a list of about 30 different chicken dinners and 20 beef or pork ones. It looks something like this:
- Parmesan Chicken: chicken breasts, mayo, artichoke hearts, parmesan cheese.
- Malibu Chicken: Chicken breasts, ham, swiss cheese, mayo, mustard
I can go to these lists when I need ideas of what to fix. I'm also trying to put in my monthly dinner menu at least one new recipe to try.Filling the chart in is not as daunting as it might sound. For instance, does your family like spaghetti once a week? If so, fill that in for all the Friday nights if that works for you. I have my husband's folks over on Saturday nights. His mom loves chicken and so I go to my chicken list for choices to fill in those blocks with.
Don't forget left-overs! Each week for my family needs about four choices. One of those is usually only good for that night - like quesadillas or tacos. With the other three choices of the week I make sure I have prepared enough for left-overs. For example, when the in-laws come over Saturday night, I make sure I have made about 1 1/2 times what I will need. This ensures dinner is already ready on Sunday night for just us and that makes me happy!
There are other ways to simplify what it takes to fill in the chart. If you like slow-cooker meals, then plug those in on Tuesday nights and perhaps soup on Thursday nights. Do you like casseroles? Then think of four and plan those to be fixed on a certain night of the week. Doing things this way takes the thinking out of it somewhat.
I also pull out my calendar before preparing the monthly dinner chart. If I have a late appointment one night, then that is a night to make sure leftovers are available. My husband is great at breakfast and taking care of the kids, but he doesn't want to be the one making the dinner. Reheating leftovers saves everyone's sanity.
I certainly need to shop for produce a couple more times for the month. If there's a meal that requires something special, then I write that in and highlight it. For instance, I'll be making a dish with cilantro the third week of this month. I have that highlighted so that when I go produce shopping I'm not just getting the usual things like more lettuce, tomatoes, and apples. I'll have looked at that highlighted spot for some time and hopefully remember;)
I decided to share this with you, because it has actually worked for me. I can see what's "on tap" the night before and get out of the freezer what needs to be thawed out, if anything. I have also spent some time on Saturday mornings looking at what lies ahead for the week. I might have the gumption to cook up any chicken that might need to be diced up and cooked for a casserole or chop up the onions that I might need in any recipes that week. I can also get any of the dry mixes ready for any gluten free rolls or cornbread that might be listed to go with a meal. That's a real time saver for me.
What works for you in the food preparation department? How do you simplify gluten-free cooking and life on the go?
May God Bless your week!