A few months before our second child was born, I started to worry about how we were going to manage our lives with two children. One child is easy, somehow; at least, we seemed to have adapted in a way that did not leave us in too much of a tizzy. But, because of our schedule at the time, which could change from day-to-day, I was really concerned about how we were going to manage without any or all of us collapsing because of our varying schedules.
After evaluating some of the things that were causing me worry, I decided that the evening meal was something that I could make more manageable. Since supper largely fell to me to prepare (and to decide WHAT to prepare!), making that task easier in some way was something that would make me feel better.
Initially, my plan was to prep many meals once a month and stash them in our basement freezer. The library had several books about prepping and freezing such meals, and the Internet would certainly have a plethora of good recipes! Fast forward to me going through most of one of the cookbooks before that idea was scrapped. Too much organizing, too much time to prepare, and too much freezer protection (that would soon be thrown away) went into each meal. That idea was definitely not for me!
But…what if I scaled that concept down a bit? I could decide the evening meals for a whole month and still shop accordingly, but make them fresh each evening! Just print out some free monthly calendars, write down the plan for the month, and follow – that was an idea that fit with my brain.
That idea has fit with our lifestyle so well that we have been using it for almost 9 years now. Planning out the month takes maybe 20 minutes total – this is a task that can easily be stopped and come back to. The calendars hang on the refrigerator with a chip clip magnet, where everyone can easily view them and know what the plan is. I usually keep a year or two worth of menus on the clip at a time as reference. I only plan Monday – Friday, and ALWAYS write the menu in pencil to easily change days during the planning process. Grocery items (thought of during the planning phase, as well as throughout the month) go on the “blank” calendar days, which eventually go to the list for our big monthly shop at our co-op.
Activities for the month are noted so I can get an idea of what kind of meal to make (something the kids will eat quickly if plans that night, something light and easy if my husband will be gone, something more involved if we have off work that day, etc.). If I have the recipe written in one of my recipe notebook, that notation is written under the meal so I know where to find it (It is actually embarrassing to remember how long it took me to write page numbers in those notebooks. But that is another story for another time…). And, evenings meals can be switched around at the last minute if needed, because sometimes even with a schedule you forget to thaw the hamburger.
A big list like this may not be for everyone. Perhaps your life can only handle planning out a week at a time, or perhaps planning at all just is not your jam. But getting into the habit of even a small bit of planning can leave a lot of peace in your life – speaking from experience.