I have been on a self-improvement quest and trying to simplify our family life for the last few years. I first started out with a weekly menu and then a monthly menu. I initiated this when my step-daughter was still an only -child. She liked being able to look at the menu and know what we were having for dinner that night and also got to help me design the menu each month, which gave her a sense of choice. She helped design the family dinner, so her opinion was considered. As a result, she was a better eater.
Fast forward a few years and two additional kids, to simplify our even busier family life, I have created a standing menu. One single menu that is static. We have the same dinners every week on a rotating basis. But I promise that our menu is not boring and here is how it works.
Sunday: Chicken, potatoes, broccoli
Monday: Black beans, salsa, avocado, corn, tostadas
Tuesday: Left overs
Wednesday: Rice, chicken nuggets, peas
Friday: Turkey burgers with fries
Saturday: Left overs
Just because Sunday is “chicken”, you can be frugal and buy whatever ‘chicken’ is on sale that week (thighs, drum sticks, whole bird, breast) and cook that. If you purchase a whole chicken, you have even more options for leftovers and making broth from the carcass. You can never really go wrong with a whole chicken. One of family favorites is when I buy chicken breast or tenderloins and marinate them in house dressing. Any combination of olive oil, garlic and and spices would work too. We just know that Sunday will be some type of chicken dish. Be as creative or frugal and simple as you like.
I use the same approach to pasta night. If I happen to see garlic bread, i’ll grab it. If beef is on sale, we may have meatballs. Sometimes it’s plain pasta with sauce and other times it’s baked ziti. Again, you can tailor this to your budget and what ever is on sale that week or you can be as fancy as you like and make a deep dish lasagna.
Tired of turkey burgers? Make salmon burgers or beef patties instead. Try sweet potato fries rather than french fries. Use refried or pinto beans rather than black beans, or maybe add sour cream. What ever your tastebuds desire.
This is what I love about the standing menu. It’s an outline. It’s an outline you get to sketch in every week. Need to tighten the purse strings, this menu still works!
The advantages to this are 1) everyone knows whats for dinner, 2) grocery shopping is a breeze, 3) you stay on budget because you are purchasing the same grocery items each week (see #2), 4) you can still be creative with your food. Another big bonus of using a standing menu and having let-over days planned, you waste very little food. You could even run a zero-waste kitchen with this menu.
A standing menu will simplify your life! I spend so much less time thinking about grocery shopping and what we should eat for dinner during the week. This gives me more time to enjoy my days off and spend time doing things that matter more.