Do you cringe at the thought of planning a weekly menu? Do you avoid cooking from a plan because you don’t what you’ll be in the mood for that day? Have you tried planning menus and it doesn’t work for you? Then don’t do it. There are other ways to keep your pantry stocked, provide tasty meals for your family and save money at the grocery store.
However, before we go any further, I want to make it clear that I’m not experienced with this type of cooking and “planning”. I do make a menu plan pretty much every single week and I stick to it as closely as my circumstances allow. But if I wasn’t going to make menus anymore, this is what I would do:
1. Make a list of about 10 meals that you and your family enjoy. Then make a list of all the ingredients needed to make those meals and stock your pantry. When it’s time to make dinner, you know you have the ingredients for those meals. You will need a system for replacing the items you use – maybe a list on the refrigerator.
2. Keep your pantry stocked with basics. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are a few items to get you started:
- spaghetti sauce
- different kinds of pasta, including spaghetti
- cheese (slices & grated)
- Manwich Sloppy Joe Seasoning
- Tuna (if you like it)
- Cream of chicken soup
- Cream of mushroom soup
- Dry onion soup
- Italian salad dressing
- Bread crumbs
- Chicken Bouillon
- Pancake mix & syrup
- Frozen or canned vegetables
- Frozen pizza
- Peanut Butter
When you’re ready to cook, you shouldn’t have any trouble pulling together a meal from your basics. Again, just be sure to replenish what you use.
3. Cook some basics ahead. My sister-in-law, Lori, cooks a crock pot of chicken breasts at the beginning of the week and she and her family eat the chicken all week. (see her interview). The chicken is versatile and they can make a variety of things out of it, including taco salads, wraps, pasta topping. You could also make a big pot of soup or a large casserole and eat that all week.
4. Plan just a few meals. Don’t try to plan seven dinners – just plan a few. At least then you’ll have the ingredients needed for those two or three meals. If you don’t feel like eating those meals, save them for the next week or turn them into something else.
So while I personally think menu planning is the way to go, if that’s not your thing, see if one of these ideas will help you get meals on the table for your family. And if I’ve missed anything, let me know.