I created a system of meal planning that is not only practical, seasonal, and organized, but goes great with the home decor. Seasonal Meal Planning with a Menu Board is a game changer for those that have lost inspiration for what to eat tonight.
Interestingly, I get more comments from people who come into my home regarding my menu chalkboard than anything else. It is displayed on the wall in my kitchen and everyone likes to see what is on the menu for the week and what night they may “stop in” around dinner time. This system of meal planning with a menu board has been a life saver for this woman who used to go by her food cravings every night for dinner.
Making a List and Checking it Twice
I never considered myself a list maker until I had six children. Now I find myself making lists just so I can check them off. My journals are filled with lists of my favorite things, dreams that I don’t want to forget, places I want to go with my family, and of course ideas for this blog. I love organizing my world into seasons and seeing lists of my favorite things makes me happy. Anyone else feel like an amazing woman just pinning pins on Pinterest or is that just me? I love collecting ideas that most likely would require several lifetimes to fulfill, but there are just so many wonderful things out there.
Antidote for Burnout
My mom and I occasionally call each other to ask what’s for dinner. Sometimes I would call just to say I was burnt out and uninspired and needed to get excited about cooking again. Even our favorite things can lose their spark at times. Well, those moments led me to design a solution that has really been fun for our family. I not only organize all my favorite foods into one spot, but because they are organized by season, we have learned how to anticipate certain times of the year for special things.
Nowadays strawberries are available year round, but you can only pick your own during the months of May and June where I am from. How much more fun it is to anticipate late spring and those warm sun-soaked strawberries whipped up into a delicious strawberry shortcake or homemade strawberry jam. And just when you have had your fill of strawberries, blueberries arrive which make the most delicious crostatas.
When you have constant access to everything all of the time it can lead to burnout and boredom, attitudes of entitlement, and special things becoming not so special anymore. Having things to look forward to makes you grateful and always anticipating goodness. Eating seasonally keeps you inspired and the rotation of the family mealtimes fresh.
Categorize Your Family Favorites For Your Menu Board
Although the following may take some time, once it is done, you will have an easy way for meal planning with your menu board. First, list out all your family favorite meals. Second, place them into categories or themes such as the ones listed below. Feel free to put an item in several categories. For example, chili and cornbread can go in either crockpot, plant centered, comfort, or fun night. These are your lists to help you out at meal planning time.
Category Theme Suggestions
- Soup, Salad/ Sandwich
- Plant Centered
- Crockpot/ Instant pot
- Quick Fix/ 30 minutes or Less
- Comfort Food
- Fun Family Meal
- Special Family Meal
- Kids plan a meal night
I simply divided my week into categories and my families favorite meals into those categories.
- Sunday– Food prep day, leftover night or smoothies. I usually roast a chicken so I have the meat for meals throughout the week and then use the bones to make bone broth for the soup that week as well as extra broth for the freezer.
- Monday– Soup and Salad or Sandwich night.
- Tuesday– Plant Centered
- Wednesday– Instant Pot/Crockpot night. We have church activities on Wednesdays so we need something quick and easy to prep.
- Thursday-Plant Centered (This is also our date night so sometimes we eat out and the kids have an easy dinner fix)
- Friday– Fun Night. On family night we like to have fun foods like tacos, pizza, gyros, or hamburgers.
- Saturday– Special Night. This category is a lifesaver for this foodie. Knowing I can still make room in our budget for special items like Celebration Steak with Pan Sauce, Lamb on a Stick, Maple Glazed Chicken, or Fish Tacos means I don’t have to live with a scarcity mindset. These items become more special rather than something I am entitled to. This can also be a night you choose to eat out. A win win category for sure.
Categorizing with Themes Helps Save Money without a Scarcity Mindset
When you have categories on your meal map, not only does it help with organizing your time, but it also gives you something to look forward to instead of feeling like you are deprived of having what you want. If you are trying to cut back on grocery spending, specialty cuts of meat for dinner every night is probably not the best financial decision. For example, for a family our size, lamb chops cost $65 a meal. Realizing this does not mean eliminating lamb chops from our lives, it just means it goes into the “special” or “occasional” category instead of an everyday meal. I don’t feel deprived, but rather, it makes it feel more special. If you are interested in learning how to eat real food without breaking the bank, check out my post here.
Categorizing by Season
To take it one step further, making this a seasonal meal plan with a menu board, divide each of those categories into seasons. For example, I would write out five lists: winter, spring, summer, fall, and year round. If I were working on my winter list, under soup, I would write down all my favorite seasonal winter soups such as Chicken or Stone Soup. Continue this for every category. Simply writing out your favorite recipes by season and perhaps a note directing you to which cookbook to find the recipe in, will be extremely helpful. If you are not familiar with which foods are in season and when, check out this Seasonal Food Guide for your area. The recipes on this blog are organized seasonally as well at the bottom of the Eat category.
Why I EnJOY Eating Seasonally:
- Meals never get boring or monotonous.
- Each season inspires me with whatever is available.
- There is always something to look forward to.
- Eating seasonally is easier on the pocketbook especially when shopping locally.
- Seasonal eating is better for your health. Produce at its peak is actually designed with the nutrients your body needs specifically during that season. Did you know tomatoes actually have micronutrients that help prevent sunburn? That is why God made them available in the summer. He is so amazing.
Printable Weekly Menu
Below is a printable weekly meal plan PDF with a list of all the themes for you to choose from. For instance, on Monday, I would put Soup/Salad for my theme. If I were in the Winter season, I may choose Stone Soup for that evening. Tuesday, we have a plant-forward meal, so I might write in Vegetable Curry. You get the picture.
Breakfast and Lunch
Many menu plans don’t include breakfast and lunch. At our house, we are home all day and the kitchen is a revolving door. I don’t usually specify any ideas for lunch because we eat a lot of leftovers for lunch: PB&J’s, soup, salads, smoothies, or whatever we can scrounge. The only days that breakfast is actually an official meal is Saturday and Sunday. Saturday is pancake day and Sunday is reserved for our favorite Quinoa Breakfast Bowls. All other days breakfast is something quick like muffins, toast and eggs, omelets, oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt. My point is to have a plan and choices that make you feel empowered not bored and discouraged.
Food Prep Day
Food preparation takes a lot of time and thought to execute, but once you get a system, it becomes second nature. Taking a day to prep and cut up food and prepare healthy snacks is a great way to save time as well as involve the children in meal prep. What a wonderful opportunity to teach them the value of serving as well as teach them to run their own home.
Sunday is usually my prep day because we are home after church and usually spending time playing games, catching up or preparing for the week, or just resting. Sunday is the day I usually roast a chicken for the meat and use the bones for broth (along with all the veggie scraps I have saved throughout the week in the freezer).
Additionally, I cut up veggies and prepare hummus for snacks, make a huge fruit salad, and prepare almond milk (their little utters are simply microscopic). In the fall and winter months, it is also the day I prepare my Chocolate Almond Biscotti for the week as a fun dunkable “mom treat.” I love food prep day because I always feel so good getting a head start on the week and making sure I feed my family nourishing, yummy food.
Interested in Learning How to Eat Real Food without Breaking the Bank?
Eating seasonally is a wonderful way to enjoy food year round. It is also a wonderful way to save money. If you are interested in learning how you can eat real food without breaking the bank, check out the following post: