Sit down with paper and a pencil and number the lines 1 through 30. On each line write the name of a meal that your family enjoys having for dinner. Then, look at your list and arrange it based on logic. (For instance, if two of your family’s favorite meals are barbecued chicken and barbecued ribs, don’t list them back to back. Or if your family likes oven roasted chicken and chicken noodle soup, list them within a few days of each other so that you can used the leftover chicken for the soup.)
In theory, this really does sound like a great method for making meal planning easier. And for a while, this is just what I did. Last spring, I sat down and diligently listed all the foods my family had eaten during the past month. We had beef stew, lasagna, homemade macaroni and cheese, pork loin, roasted chicken, scalloped potatoes, chili, crock pot minestrone. Then I ordered the foods and made my plan for the next month.
But soon, it started to get warmer out. And my family’s love of beef stew wained, while our desire for burgers on the grill and grilled chicken salads ramped up. And when summer officially hit, there was no way I was following a meal plan that said oven roasted chicken when it was 90 degrees outside. And, as you can probably guess, eventually, I had no meal plan at all.
Now, instead of trying to plan a year’s worth of meals in twenty minutes, I plan meals week by week. Most importantly, I plan our meals based on what food is in season and what we have going on at home. For instance, during the summer, most of our meals center around the food growing in our garden. So we eat lots of salads, BLTs, and eggplant dishes. (This roasted eggplant soup is one of our favorites!). In the fall, when we have a lot of after school activities, we often eat sandwiches, quesadillas and anything else that isn’t too messy. In winter, when the weather is cold and we don’t have many after school commitments, we eat heartier meals, like pasta, roasted chicken and pot roast.
Eating foods that are in season saves us a lot of money, too, because foods that are in season are less expensive. Green beans, corn and cucumbers are always on sale (and usually locally grown!) in the summer, sweet potatoes and apples are less expensive in the fall, and asparagus costs less in the spring. One thing I’m grateful for, though, is that no matter the time of year I can always get my hands on fresh tomatoes. Because, no matter the season, Taco Tuesday is always on the menu.