Friday, May 7, 2010

Seasonal Menu Planning

So I talked about how I have decided to make a move from a regular weekly meal planning to a seasonal monthly plan. I really think this idea is great- letting me use in season ingredients, and keeping my life easier. I want to share how I set this up, and then on Monday I will post my Spring/ Summer menu!

  • Break down the days of the week


    This was the first step, and it was really simple since I already had daily 'themes' in my menu plan.


    Monday: seafood or veggie meal

    Tuesday: crockpot/ soup or main dish salad

    Wednesday: veggie meal, soup or salad

    Thursday: Leftovers night- pizzas, pastas

    Friday: Special - date night/ family night - meat

    Saturday: Make-ahead – grilling or crockpot

    Sunday: Make-ahead – roasts etc.


    Now there's a starting point to fit in the meals. This really makes it easier to plan out. I do mine around ingredients, it makes it easier for me because I have set days that are veggie (meat-lite or meat-less days) or meat focused (weekends, usually, since it makes Mr. Shelley happy!)


  • Figure out which ingredients are seasonable for you


    This is an important part, and is dependant on your area. I just jotted down a quick list of what's available here, trying to keep it in order from spring- summer for veggies and fruit. I also noted that for us, trying to buy meat from the farms, beef chicken and eggs are our mean proteins (and beans of course!) in this season. When I write out the specific meals (last step) I will keep in mind what's in season.


  • Make a basic list according to your daily 'themes'


    This was the longest step, and also really lays out the meal planning. I wrote down each day, and expanded more specific ideas according to the themes.


    Monday: Fish with a salad or rice; Bean or egg dish

    Tuesday: Soup with meat and veg; Main salad with meat

    Wednesday: Bean and grain soup; Egg dish and salad

    Thursday: Pizzas, pastas or crepe dishes; Mexican with tortillas

    Friday: Special – Meat with veg and grgain/ bread

    Saturday: Grilled meat and veg ; Crockpot meat and veg

    Sunday: Roast meat with salad


  • Write out your meals, taking note of family favorites


    This is the final step, the actual meal planning. I went through each day, and fit in meals as suggested by the previous step. I tried to keep in mind our favorite meals, this is a waste of time if your family won't like the food! I keep everything fairly flexible- and wrote down a few meals for each day. For us at least, I don't want to be eating the same thing every other Tuesday! Also this helps, when I go through and focus on a week's meals I can allow for whatever veggies are in season.


    Example for Monday: Seafood curry or gumbo over rice; Hummus with veggie tray and pitas, Egg and veggie frittata/quiche

    Example for Tuesday: Soup with meat/ cheese sandwiches (like tomato w/ ham and cheese),chicken corn noodle soup, summer minestrone; Chicken

    Caesar salad, Chicken BLT salad, Spinach salad w/ hot bacon dressing



    The final adjustment, and what I changed around from most monthly meal plans, is to leave the last step open. Then, each week I can go through the plan and pick on of the meals set for that day, and make sure to write in what meat and veggies I'll be using if it's an open recipe (like above for seafood gumbo- what fish will I use? Will I add chicken or sausage? What veggies can I put in?) This makes the plan work well for us, because we still get some things at the store, and at the farmer's market. I need to purchase whatever veggies are most budget friendly that week. Even for when the garden produces, one week I might have peas, one week peppers.


    This means I would use the plan as follows:


    For early summer, one week I might use Monday as curry, writing in I'll use shrimp and add in fresh peas. Next week, when I make the plan Monday could be an egg frittata with a tiny bit of cheese and spinach, zucchini and scallions.


    This schedule lets me have a definite plan what I'll be serving for six months straight, and still let me adjust it weekly as I need to, taking advantage of bounties of fresh garden produce and sales at the market (unavoidable for us for at least a while longer!)



    Come back Monday for my full seasonal monthly menu plan!

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