For the last few months, I’ve set aside my “wing it” ways and have started following a menu. First off, feeding four teenagers (3 of them boys) is like feeding an army. That ain’t cheap people! Second, I hate HATE coming home from a long day of work only to scramble about like an ant who’s lost its hill trying to produce something edible. Third, I love food. Like absolutely love it! I want to eat something yummy, not hamburger helper because it was quick and there! Fourth, we are busy peeps. Some nights have to be quick. But other nights I have an hour to grill salmon and whip up a vinaigrette. Fifth, I’m SICK of the question “What’s for dinner?” Hate it! Because, let’s do the math here, if all four kids ask me only once each day, that’s four times I’m asked the same question. But who are we kidding? They never ask only once! So double that- 8 times for the same question. Plus I happen to teach first graders in French. Do you have any idea how many questions I get asked in a day? They’re 7, so it’s cool. But adding on the dinner question from teenagers breaks this proverbial camel’s back.
There you have it. My 5 point monologue as to why I do a menu.
“But how can I do one?” you ask, scratching your head in bewilderment.
It’s easy! Sure, it takes time and planning, but once that’s down you’re golden for the next two weeks! All you have to do is take into consideration your schedule, your budget, and what you feel like trying out. Sprinkle in some staples like Taco Night, Spaghetti Night, and factor in leftovers. Et voila!
“I still don’t get it. I’m no chef.”
You don’t have to be! The internet and TV is ripe with recipes, ideas, and inspiration you can glean from. But this post isn’t about culinary skills. Let me break down how I make a menu before I even hit the grocery store.
First off, I do it for every two weeks, which means 14 dinners.
1. Taco Night
2. Mac n cheese Night
3. Spaghetti and Meatballs Night
4. Asian stir fry Night
5. Croissant Pizza night
Boom! Over halfway there in staples/leftovers alone! That’s only 7 more meals. This is where I like to get creative, so I will show you some of my examples. Don’t let the “fancy terms” scare you. It’s all culinary speak for simple techniques.
9. Cherry/apple smoked chicken salad with apples & bacon, Italian bread with dipping oils (seriously, just olive oil and some spices, whatever I fancy that night) and a side of sliced apples
10. Dill encrusted grilled salmon, roasted red potatoes, garden salad with blackberry-ginger balsamic vinaigrette (do not waste your money on store bought dressings. Blend olive oil, whatever vinegar you like, some honey to cut the vinegar, and season to taste. Trust me, way better in quality, cost, and zero preservatives).
11. Chargrilled steak with a Gorgonzola cream sauce, bourbon-honey glazed carrots, and garlic roasted sweet potatoes
12. Slow roasted pear/honey infused pork (aka crock pot, pear white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, & drizzle of honey) over Jasmine rice with sautéed green beans
13. Ok, so by now I have a fish, beef, chicken, and pork. It’s important to vary the meats. Don’t you get tired of chicken everyday? I know I do. Two nights left. What’s on sale? What do you prefer to eat more of? I like fish, and chicken is cheaper than steaks.
Roasted chicken and pasta salad with a red wine vinaigrette. Boom!
14. Roasted tilapia sprinkled with feta, cucumber salad, and angel hair pasta tossed with a champagne vinaigrette
Done! Just vary the proteins, veggies, and starches according to your budget/liking/timetable. Count up the busy nights and relaxed nights so you have an idea of what’s going to be quick or not. Don’t let this menu intimidate you. I have a very busy two weeks coming up so there are only two fancy evenings on my recent menu. It just all depends, but it forces you to stay out of a food rut. Because food is delicious!!
“But my kids are picky eaters!”
What happened to the gold old days of having to finish your food before dessert? Or at all? Kids will develop a mature palate over time, but we have to help them! Look at the French. Their kids eat all kinds of haut-cuisine without batting an eye. Why? It’s a part of their culture. Why not make food a part of ours? Then maybe, just maybe, our kids would grow up with a healthy outlook on food, and problems such as obesity, anorexia, etc wouldn’t be such an issue. Food for thought…