Every Sunday, my husband and I hash out what will be on the menu for dinner over the upcoming week. At the same time, we examine what we have in the fridge, freezer and pantry that needs to be used up and write our shopping list for our Monday grocery run. We don't always make everything we set out to, as events will come up that interrupt our normal routines, like a parent wanting to go out to dinner with us or our celebrating making it through yet another hurdle in my husband's immigration to the US.
When we got married last December and were living together permanently (i.e., we'd finished moving him over from Latvia), we set out some menu goals for ourselves. Our goals for our lives over the next few years include losing weight and eating better, so a menu to keep us on track for our eating helps us meet both. In addition, we don't have a lot of money as we are both students and need to be fairly frugal in our purchases. Shopping with a list created from a menu helps reduce impulse purchases and wasted food which saves a surprising amount of cash.
We found, however, that setting up "rules" for our menu made us more likely to incorporate more variety in our diet and makes thinking up a menu much more fun. It also helps prevent "meal fatigue" from having the same set of standbys all the time. And, any new recipe we make that is a keeper gets added into the family recipe manager. (We use Gourmet, an open source recipe manager with nutrition analysis.)
The basic rules we try to follow every week are:
You might notice this only covers six meals out of seven. Every Saturday for the past several years, I have had dinner with my father. Usually we eat at a restaurant but I sometimes cook and the meal is planned on the fly then. (Cooking for him has its own challenges given his high caloric intake needs.)
And with unexpected events, sometimes we only manage four or five meals off of our menu. In that case, we simply roll over that meal to the next menu. Lately, we've been writing seven meals each week so we can pick and choose from our menu every night. For nights where we're too tired to fuss, we add in an emergency meal that's quick and easy or comforting.
What's on your menu this week?