I feel that it goes without saying that organization is the key to successful menu planning. Having a clean and well-organized kitchen will encourage you to spend time there and create beautiful dishes for yourself and for your family.
Balance is also important to planning a weekly menu.
- the season
- the weather
- your health
- your individual tastes
- what is available to purchase
- your cooking and working schedule
- the dietary needs of your family.
I feel that this can be applied to any type of diet. I choose a Plant-based, Whole Foods diet that is gluten-free and vegan with mostly raw foods. That is what works best for us.
Breakfast and lunch are quite straightforward at our house.
I push for fruit bowls, smoothies, or fresh vegetable juice for breakfast. Sometimes my children like rice cakes with avocado or organic cereal with almond milk. I try not to get too strict about what they eat (although it is likely that most people would consider that I am very strict).
Mid-morning snack is generally more of what was had for breakfast. This is when it pays to make extra; cut up extra fruit, blend more smoothies and juice more vegetables.
Lunch for me is generally a green salad with seed pate or nori rolls or zucchini pasta with pesto on a bed of greens. The kids tend to pack up the leftovers from the previous supper and add containers of extra veggies and fruit.
Mid-afternoon snack is pleasant with an energy ball of some kind or cut up vegetables with dip or guacamole. I regularly make a large batch of energy balls on the weekend. My daughter likes to make muffins so that is a big help when she does that.
Suppertime is where I plan a little more.
Sunday afternoons/evening I do the following:
- Have salad ready; I make sure that my salad bowl is filled and ready (this is a large container with washed and cut greens, shredded, chopped and diced vegetables or various colours that I keep in my fridge) and also that my dressing is made for the week. This cuts down on a lot of time and helps me know that I will always be happy for lunch and dinner. The veggies from the salad can be used for many different meals; pile on your plate and top with other favourite foods, filling for nori rolls, rice wraps, stir fry, soups, or stews. I used to worry about what everyone else wanted and would wait to think about what I wanted at the last second. Often I did not get to eat what I would have preferred to have. Now I know that I am looked after. (Finally!)
- Have pate ready; I make sure that I have a seed pate made for the week to use in nori rolls, toss with pasta or quinoa, top salads, put in wraps, or eat with crackers or veggies.
- Ask; I ask what my family members would like to eat this week. I ignore requests for ordering pizza or dinners out. We do this very occasionally.
- Make a list; I make a list of the vegetables in the fridge. I prioritize the ones that need to be used up first (so they don’t spoil) and ensure that they are incorporated in a dish early in the week. I do not make a menu and then go out and buy the food for the recipes. For me that tends to get me put me over my budget. I prefer to purchase the foods I like and then get creative with how I prepare them. Of course that means learning to substitute when I don’t have certain items. That gets easier with practice and letting go of fear. (Funny how I can do that with food prep but not with other things)
- Double the recipe; I consider what I could make that is easy to double so that there will be leftovers for lunches or leftovers for an extra busy night. Soups, salads and stews are easy to double.
- Do ahead; After choosing meals that we are all happy with (I get ideas from cookbooks, Pinterest, internet, my dreams (seriously!), etc) I then look at things that I may need to do the night before. For example, if I plan to serve nut burgers on Tuesday evening, I will want to put the nuts in soaking water on Monday evening. This ensures that when I get home from work on Tuesday, I can get right to it. Or if I want to serve rice wraps on Wednesday with a special dipping sauce, I would make that sauce on Tuesday evening to allow the flavours to marry and save some time. I make sure that I write down the things that I want to do ahead of time or put reminders on my iPad (great invention, that is).
When choosing the actual meals that I want to serve, I consider the following:
- colours – I think about all of the colours of the rainbow and choose as many different colours for each meal
- tastes – I consider the 5 basics tastes that we experience; bitter, salty, sweet, pungent, and sour. I include as many of these in a meal as possible.
- textures – I prefer to experience different textures within a meal, rather than it all being the same. Sometimes this works out and sometimes not.
- proper food combining – This is mostly successful but not always. I make a valiant effort.
- different types of vegetables – I consider the types of vegetables that I am using and choose from root vegetables, round vegetables and leafy vegetables.
All of these factors contribute to the meal being pleasing to the eye and enjoyable. I do not get hung up on ‘do we have enough protein’ and things like that. I go for variety, taste and colours.
I also think about meals that can become something else the next day. For instance, if I prepare quinoa and roasted yams and pile them on top of a plate of greens and vegetables, I can easily turn the leftovers into veggie burgers, a soup or fill wraps. I may need to whip up a sauce or spread but that does not take too much time. In this way, I save time on the nights that there are activities going on or when I work late.
Don’t think that I am a perfect menu planner, because I am not. There are days when I don’t make what I planned to and there are weeks when I don’t make a menu plan and wing it for a few days. Life happens and I try not to beat myself up about it. I continue to stock my house with the best foods for my family and go with the flow (as best as a Type A can!).
Do the best that you can and all will be well.
Check out my Recipe Page for recipe ideas.
I would love to hear from you. Let me know what about menu planning you are struggling with and if this post was helpful. Next week I will share one of my weekly menus and any tips that you ask for. First I want you to give your own a try and let me know how you things went.