Menu Monday – Summer Pantry Menu Edition

menu monday from thishappymom.comMenu Monday? Pantry Menu? What was I thinking? What insane woman has her menu planned out early enough in the week to be able to post it on a blog early on a Monday.  (If you do, I’m impressed).  I confess that last Monday, when I was scrambling to come up with a weeks worth of lunch ideas at six am, I was complaining and whining and grumbling.  I’m not a morning person and I was NOT a happy princess.  (this week’s post was actually written on Friday to help prevent my monday morning murmurings).

But it was no whining week (which has evolved into no-whining month I suspect).  So I did it anyway.

And you know what, it was a blessing.  Don’t you just love that?

I ended up not following my menu plan exactly.  One lunch became a dinner, I moved stuff around to different days, I didn’t make the quinoa salad because there wasn’t much left in the produce drawer worth eating.

It kind of got me thinking, why do I plan menus?  I know I’m “supposed to” to be a good mom and stuff.  Am I really that bought into the whole menu planning concept?  Or am I doing it just because it’s part of what a good mom blogger does, or am I doing it because it is part of a long term strategy of being This Happy Mom.  Hmmm.

  • Breakfasts are easier because I do the “thinking and planning” part of breakfasts when I’m conscious (mid-afternoon)
  • Having a written lunch plan last week DID reduce the chaos and unhappiness at lunchtime.   It also kept us out of the drive thru line and at home.  I stayed a step ahead of the kids.
  • When I plan dinner menus we tend to actually eat the food I buy.  We don’t eat out as much, and we eat better tasting and healthier food.  Plus I’m not stressed.
  • Menu planning helps me control our food budget.
  • Every list of habits that are supposed to make your household run more smoothly (with less stress) have menu planning towards the top of the list.  There’s got to be a reason for that.

So why don’t I use menu planning faithfully?

  • Life happens.  If my husband calls me up in the mood to celebrate and take us out for steak, I don’t want to worry about the meatloaf I planned for dinner.
  • I’m moody.  If I’m in the mood for tacos, I resent cooking and serving spaghetti just because it was on the menu for the day.  This is pretty ironic considering how I’d respond to my kids if they asked for tacos as I served up spaghetti.
  • My kids are weird.  I have a hard time predicting what they will eat and how much of it.  I can serve the exact same dinner two different times with two entirely different results (ate all of theirs plus mine the first time, wouldn’t touch it the second time).  I end up with leftovers when I wasn’t planning for them.
  • I tend to over plan.  I get so excited thinking about all the cool new recipes I want to cook that I schedule full cooking (with fresh ingredients) for lunches and dinners just to squeeze them all in.

In order for menu planning to ever work sustainably for me, it has to be flexible enough to address those objections.  I need to feel free to move meals around based on my mood.  I need to be able to skip cooking a meal without worrying about stuff going bad.  Basically, I need a menu plan with room for real life.  Honestly, I tend to not menu plan for the same reason I don’t write down my budget.  I know I’m supposed to but I don’t like it.  I haven’t bought into it heart and soul.  Given that I’ve experienced the benefits of BOTH exercises first hand, I find my behavior baffling.  (there’s a whole rabbit trail I could chase down right now… pretend i did and that it was really funny and insightful)

I think that’s where pantry cooking comes in to the plan.  If would simply make one or two meals a week “pantry meals” then I would have that flexibility.  I’m using the term “pantry” pretty loosely to include the contents of my freezer and every day staples in my home (eggs, onions, bread).   Deliberately including pantry meals each week also helps address some other challenge areas for me (too much stuff in the pantry that never gets eaten).

It’s a holiday week, so I know it’ll be pretty crazy.  I also know I’m planning more food for the 4th than we need.  I have a few recipes I’m testing out (super easy, fresh, and under 300 calories… score!).   I’m sticking this pantry meals list up for reference – that should get me through the week.  (I’ll probably make that avocado egg salad again too.  I’m hooked on the stuff, and it qualifies for summer pantry menu all-star status).  These can work as lunch or dinner for me, although in one or two cases I’ll have to use a “deconstructive” approach and just feed the cut up unseasoned ingredients to my kids.

Menu Monday – Summer Pantry Menu

Those last two use canned chicken.  I have some in my pantry that I’d like to use up.  I have mixed feelings about buying more.  They would defiantly work with leftover rotisserie chicken too.
Do you have any summer pantry meals that you want to share?  I’d love some new ideas.  Do you struggle with the whole “menu planning” thing?
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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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