Rebekah at Vegan Spoonful recently devoted a week to cooking from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s cookbooks which, by the way and as an endorsement of both Vegan Spoonful and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, made me fall in love with the compassionate cook all over again! But, it was the blog’s handwritten menu plan for that week that got me thinking, because that’s how I used to do it, too. Meal planning, that is. I need to work on the part about using the cookbooks that I already own. I love to buy cookbooks; but actually using them once they are displayed on my kitchen shelves, however, is another story entirely!
Meal planning was once an exercise in frustration for me, considering the variables in our schedule during any given week and the fact that I may have some minor commitment issues. Meal planning commitment issues, that is. While we were able to agree upon a series of meals for one week, we found it difficult to commit to a certain meal on a certain day a full week in advance.
You can buy pre-made meal planners or find them in “domestic engineer” kind of magazines, but I find those planners too meat-centric for my vegan kitchen. And my handwritten meal plans always required a lot of whiteout tape over the course of the week to accommodate the many changes necessitated by unforeseen kid events and J’s erratic work schedule and (let’s be honest here) my particular mood that day (this is where the movable Post-it Notes come in handy)!
So, I created my own weekly meal planner template that is useful for any level of “predictability” (translation: “chaos”) in any given household; Level 1 being the most predictable (and the least chaotic) and Level 3 being, well, the chaotic norm for us.
Level 1: meals are entered into the template for each day before printing the weekly meal plan, or saved on the computer for those noble souls that are reducing waste and their paper footprint. This scenario, however, is entirely fictional in my house.
Level 2: after printing the blank template, meals are written in pen (if you are so bold) or pencil for each day, assuming that only minimal editing of the meal plan is required as the week progresses. This scenario represents an almost perfect, well planned and organized week in my house (and it’s definitely a rare occurrence).
Level 3: after printing the blank template, meals are written on the weekly meal plan and/or written on Post-it Note flags for ease in rearranging the planned meals throughout the week, according to time constraints, grocery items on hand, and/or mood and preference that day. This scenario is the norm in our house, commitment-challenged as I tend to be. J doesn’t care what day a requested meal is served; he’s just happy to have a hot meal when he comes home from work!
Whatever the predictability (chaos) level that your house may function, the shopping list area on the meal planner template is handy for jotting down the grocery items that are needed once the week’s meals are agreed upon. The goal here is to eliminate those last-minute dashes to the grocery store, which is another planned-in-advance meal killer for me (I just cannot get off of Level 3!).
As an aside, I am not planning meals this week. Instead, I am experiencing a whole nother level of chaos and my only plan is to drive to the local Papa Murphy’s and pick up dinner (a veggie pizza, hold the cheese).
After dinner is taken care of (and after a LONG day of listening to the big, burly movers squabble among themselves about the proper way to carry a sofa out the front door and whom said what and when, blah, blah, blah), I will dig through the box of “unpackables” in the kitchen for some liquid stress relief (always in moderation, of course)!
I’m in total agreement with the greyt boy, though: I cannot wait for this whole moving ordeal to just be done and over!