Autumn Meal Planning

The kids are back in school, the house is quiet enough to allow for thinking again, and the mornings are getting a little cooler.  This means that it’s time to think about food.  I don’t know what it is about feeling the weather start to change, but some impulse just gets switched on in me to start reorganizing my pantry and kitchen cupboards…and then I start to think about soups, and roasts, and spices…and then I can’t stop myself from poring over my cookbooks.

And then the Autumn Dinner & Breakfast Menus happen.  Mmmm, apples, pumpkins, and cinnamon.

I was talking about my method of meal planning with a friend a few days ago and she demanded that I share it once I got it typed up, so here it is…enjoy!

Autumn 2015 Menu (Dinner)

So, yes, a month’s worth of meals…and then I repeat it TWICE so that it’s actually three months’ worth of meals.  Favorite foods go into the “Week #1” slot because a quarter is actually 13 weeks long, so that week gets four times at bat.  I like my autumn meal plan to end with the week of Thanksgiving, so that I can start my winter meal plan with the Christmas season, so that means this year I’ll morph into my autumn cooking on Monday, August 31st.

Mondays and Tuesdays are all crock pot meals because we’re busy after school or have something happening close to dinner time.

Wednesdays are “easy to make” or “uses leftovers” because I have church responsibilities on some Wednesdays, so I need extra time for last minute prep and the like for that.

Thursdays are my “I have time to cook awesome food” days.  (I really like good food.)  I try to choose one weekday each quarter that I’m going to zealously protect from outside interference, and I really like it to be Thursday.  Then I’m home all day for the most part, I have time for more involved recipes, I do a lot of my crafting, AND Thursday is the night before all the week’s homework is due, so the kids need to be home for that.  No outside activities on Thursday, and our tummies are full with good food so we can crank out a solid homework session after dinner together. (I also try to have a dessert on-hand as well…it works well as a carrot for tough homework sessions, or as a treat for us all not killing each other over math homework.)

Friday is Date Night, either at home or out on the town, so Michael and I eat grown-up restaurant food and the kids get to have the food they love that Michael and I don’t want to eat.

I love alliteration, so Saturday is “Soup, Salad, or Sandwich” dinner day.  I usually make some sort of soup stock on Saturday morning from all the peelings and ends of vegetables I’ve used in the past week (I keep them in a container in the fridge), so soup is a natural next step for dinner.

Sundays are “Mexican Sundays,” which is something we started while we were in Australia and couldn’t find any decent Mexican food.  It was such a huge hit that we’ve kept it up since we’ve returned, even though I’m getting a little sick of it.  The kids love it, so it keeps being a thing.

And I’m trying something new this autumn by having a breakfast menu too:

Autumn 2015 Menu (Breakfast)

I don’t have a breakfast listed for the fourth Saturday, mostly because I can’t think up another potato-based breakfast, but also because I’ve decided that a “free day” might work nicely.

I do have themes for each day, which has worked well enough in past years, but I find that I’m in a bit of a rut with breakfast now, and there’s always some really great recipes that I just don’t think of at 6:30 in the morning, or while I’m making up my shopping list, so this menu plan will help me realize my dream of pumpkin waffles and apple cinnamon everything in the mornings.

Mondays: Oatmeal.  I don’t know why, that’s just how it’s always been in our house.  The kids don’t like it much anymore, so I’m trying some new flavors and combinations in the hope that they’ll re-convert.  I try to serve some sort of yogurt or nut alongside for extra protein.

Tuesdays: Eggs

Wednesdays: WAFFLES.  I’m obsessed.  (And, hello, alliteration!)  We usually have some bacon with them, too.

Thursdays: Omelettes

Fridays: Pancakes.  And sausage links.

Saturdays:  Potatoes.  Michael loves potatoes for breakfast, and I don’t, so this is my special “I love you/Happy Getting to Stay at Home Today” gift to him on Saturdays.

Sundays:  Muffins or quick breads.  I love muffins and quick breads, but I’m too busy during the week to make them, and they’re not the most filling, but I do have time on Saturdays to bake and then they’re a lifesaver as we’re getting ready for church in the morning.

AND, because I always get to the end of autumn and realize that, once again, I did not make that scrumptious-looking Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust, I’ve made up a treat plan, too:

Autumn 2015 Menu (Treats)

I’m pretty excited about the pumpkin cheesecake and the crème brûlée–I have wanted an excuse to buy ramekins and a kitchen torch for so long!

It’s a lot, I know.  And usually by this point in the conversation people ask me why I do this, and the answer is super simple: So I have more time to craft.  And I get to eat good food.  I’ve found that the more organized I am in regards to the daily things–food, clothes, cleaning–the more time it frees up for the creative things, which are some of the more exciting parts of my life.  I don’t see the need to re-think dinner every day, and I’d rather use that brain power for creativity.  My kids are better behaved when they’re well-fed, I feel and think better, and we’re a much happier family.

BUT…I’ve also learned to be very realistic with myself in regards to meal planning.  There are (usually, about four) back-up meals in the freezer for days when everything falls apart (read: sick kids, and I’ve been washing sheets continually since 3am).  And if I notice that a day in the week ahead is all sorts of busy, like those freak show days that end up having dentist appointments and parent-teacher conferences together, I schedule us to hit a drive-thru because it’s stupid to make things harder on an already difficult day.  Then I don’t buy the food for that meal at the grocery store that week because we’re not going to use it.  Good adulting takes a lot of work, but also a lot of honesty with ourselves, and the ability to cut ourselves a little slack when things get a touch crazy.

So that’s it for now.  I do still have to come up with sides and the weekly grocery lists.  (All my grocery lists DONE for the next three months!  Woo hoo!)  I’ll work on those over the next week when I have spare moments.  Food, done.