The Menu Planner

Menu Planner

The Menu Planner

So I finally did it. Cooking is neither a pleasure nor an strength of mine as there have always been people around that would cook instead of me. Isn’t that how it should be? I would even go as far as to say that we should ALL be able to afford a hired cook. I actually enjoy cooking once I put my mind to it. it is not the cooking itself that boggles me. it is the planning. Like decorating an empty room is impossibly overwhelming, so is planning a meal, never mind planning one or two weeks worth.

Much to my surprise, I found out a couple of weeks ago that Christine (my sister.. almost nine years younger) always plans her menu for the week on Sunday morning. I really was shocked. The idea of planning specifically what to eat for lunches, snacks, dinners, deserts, breakfasts and whatever else completely shocked me. Really. She laughed at my surprise. She said that it was no big deal and that she would throw it together AND THEN…. she would plan her shopping list from it!!!

WHAT??????????? I had an embarrassing silence on the other end while I contemplated the idea of planning that far in advance. And then sticking to it. I mean.. this is complex planning that involves thinking about food way ahead of time… writing it down.. figuring out what you do and don’t have and then after all of that you have to make a grocery list. And then there is all of that cooking.. Not that I don’t like cooking when there is a lazy day and nothing to do, but… that is just WAYYYYY too organized!!!!! Planning your shopping from a written-down, well thought out weekly menu?????? WHOA!!! WOW!!!!
Now THAT is seriously and neurotically insane. I mean is that not just a BIT OCD????

She laughed again (yes, at me again) and told me that it was soooo easy and that she cannot believe that I don’t have a planned menu. What do you mean? You mean you know other people who plan all of their weekly meals a week ahead of time??? Why would a person want to spend hours pouring through cook books just to write it down and see it on the fridge. People would never usually really use it on a day-to-day basis would they????? I mean it. Really. You mean people look at their little list and say "oh. yummy!!! tonight we are having beef strogenough (and God only knows how to spell that stupid word never mind actually having to MAKE it!!!) (and still in those way-too-organized people’s lives they say "but I can’t wait for tomorrow because we are having Baked Alaska for desert!!!!"!!!!! i mean really.. you really do that???? And you KNOW OTHER PEOPLE that do that?????? "Try it" she said.


I forgot about it.

Until I was on the phone with Ruth one evening last week. (my other sister who is TWELVE years younger) "Oh yeah… I keep meaning to tell you something. I forgot to tell you, but did you know that Christine actually PLANS her menu a week in advance AND makes her grocery shopping list from it????? I mean, it really sounds like a great idea and I know that Mommy is all for planning menus even months in advance, (that I know she hardly ever stuck to but "A" for menu-planning effort) but seriously.. I just didn’t know that anyone other than Mommy ever did that!!!" Oh. "You use one TOO???????" "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING ME!!!!!!!!" Are you SEEEErious????

Apparently Ruthie takes it a step further and actually plans for TWO weeks in advance!!!! Oh. My. Gosh!!! How does she not have a panic attack just at the thought of it!!!???? Oh wow!!! I thought it was just a concept pushed by women’s magazines (which I NEVER buy, by the way) (unless I am going on a long plane ride) (but never a cooking magazine, just decorating magazines.. another weaker area of mine, but fun to observe).

Ok. So maybe I should try it. I really, really like the idea of sitting down with the computer and making a meal-planning template. I LOVE doing fun stuff like that!!! It will be really efficient and It will have everything you need to have a great menu planner. I can even make it REALLY pretty!!!! AND VERY easy to understand for people that are REALLY new at the concept of meal-planning. (isn’t "meal-planning" kind of an oxy-moron, anyways?) Ruth said "Great! If you find one or make one, send it to me".

Oh!! Ok!!! Sure!!! I looooove doing that kind of stuff!!! So off I set myself in search of either finding or creating…..
It would have to be for two weeks because typically I shop every two weeks for my "BIG shopping" and the other two weeks that fall in between are a replenishing of the staples and fruits that have been used up. In other words, it works for me and trust me… you would not want to pay my grocery bill for the two main shopping visits I make per month!!! (ooowwww.. just the thought of it feels something akin to a kidney stone!!!)

Ok. It has to be in an Excel format.
It has to be pretty
It has to be for two weeks
It has to be pink.
Or pretty blue like Gerry’s eyes
It has to have a grocery-shopping column
It really should have all meals in it even though breakfasts and lunches are fairly redundant. It still has to have it because we always have special Sunday brunches.
It has to have "pizza Friday with yummy ice cream" in it for it to work perfectly.
It should have a snack area in it so that I can better plan school snacks for the kids and transfer it onto my grocery list area so that I don’t forget to buy them. Not that I forget it that often, but.. I have been known to … occasionally forget… this minor but important part of shopping. (Oh, sweetheart, mommy’s sorry. Don’t be upset with me. You can bring something else as a school snack… OH OH OH – you can bring that left-over Jello from two nights ago….. What??? Now you are just being too demanding!!!…. take the Jello and don’t whine any more!!!! Or of course; there is always toast that you can make, wrap in tin foil and then unwrap at school…. NO?? C’mon!!! Please Victoria.. honestly… no one is going to laugh at you."

Ok. So maybe there is some sense to planning a menu ahead of time. Oh. And there is even more sense in making your grocery list out of it. THIS is the kid of thing that I should have thought of. I probably did, actually. But then I forgot about it or just didn’t like the idea of spending hours and hours every week just thinking about what I was going to have to slave over making later that week. But I must have told my sister’s because they are not actually idea-ish kind of people.. they are more the kind that just really…. well… they get things done. (I taught them, of course) (I mean… I practically RAISED them. Kind of) (Cooking, working and kids’ activities are WAAAAY too much for one person… especially when we have nail appointments, time at the mall, time for latte and a treat with friends, time to write, time to have a bath every evening, time to email all of my friends, time to post poetry that I write… well you know what I mean.. a VERY single mom has a LOT on her plate and cooking already takes WAY too much time as it is never mind the thought of having to work so hard at planning it.)

Off I am in cyber land. Do you have ANY IDEA how many meal planners are out there???? And do you have ANY IDEA how many of them require a PAYMENT WITH CREDIT CARD OR PAYPAL for you to have???? Why can’t people just share their Martha-Stewart-ness with the rest of the world for free??? (Oh – I should have thought to check Martha’s website to see what is on there. – Wait. Does she even have a website?) Anyhow. A lot of people are selling their own diets of every kind as a menu planner. I would love that as the menus are already made out for people like me that are just a little bit planning-challenged. (A VERY little bit!!!)

I found a few "OK" ones. Then I found one that I really liked and I knew that I would need to put several changes in it (to start with, it was NOT pink or Gerry’s eyes blue!!!) and it was missing quite a bit of what I wanted, but it was pretty good so I used that as my inspiration.

Oh how fun. Now I get to play!! Yippee!!! What a PRETTY menu planner I have in my head!!!! I am actually already very impressed with myself! I fixed it, tweaked it, smiled at it and fell in love with it! I even turned it into a template in my excel areaI Imagine that!! I actually MADE a template. (yes, I am feeling like a proud bird – very pretty bird – preening my beautiful feathers)

Oh. Now the fun stuff is done. I can’t focus on making it prettier anymore because it really is perfect.
Time to start to …. plan.
I have often thought that maybe I should be on Prozac or Valume (sp?) or something like that for moments like this. Where I panic.
It really is overwhelming. I mean there are a LOT of boxes on this page!!! 48 meals and snacks boxes to fill in!!! AND a grocery list on top of this.
I wonder if maybe someone gives little workshops on stuff like this.
They should if they don’t.

Oh… that is an idea for me!!! Maybe I could hold workshops on how to make everything we use… Pretty… all of the world likes pretty, don’t they? And for the men, I can make a bold, testosterone-filled version with a lot of black, clean lines and VERY easy-to-use, one line instructions. (Because men read instructions as often as they ask for directions, I have noticed). I really think that everyone would loooooove it and for sure would use it because it is prettier than those boring black and white ones that are ALL over the internet. The ones you have to PAY for!!! And mine is for free so not only would they see that I am sooo talented making such a pretty menu planner, but they would also KNOW that I am soooo generous 🙂 They should write an article in one of those women’s magazines… not the ones about decorating that I buy but the ones that they like to talk about cooking and recipes and those kinds of things in them). The next very difficult decision to be made is very, very difficult. What cookbook to start to choose from first. I mean, there are FOURTEEN DAYS of meal planning to figure out!! That is soooo much to think about!! FORTY-EIGHT boxes to fill. and it is not like those boxes are just one word. No…

You have to think of ALL of it. Dinner can’t be just pasta. It has to be "penne with rose sauce; mixed-green salad with balsamic vinaigrette and apple crisp for desert!!!" As if I am writing a fancy restaurant menu!!! Don’t you have to go to school for that anyhow???? I am sure that you do. Or at least some people have. Or should for sure.

I have about thirty (or forty) cookbooks. I know.. cooking is not my thing – well not if it is the rush-hour kind of cooking anyhow. But I really do love cookbooks. And I love cooking when I have nothing else to do at all. Cookbooks are a very nice way to pass an afternoon.
Especially if they have pretty pictures and all kinds of savory recipes to make my mouth water if I would ever make them.

I chose one that is for fairly quick meals ready in less than an hour. That sounds like a good place to start since I have to work around Victoria’s dance schedule which is not very compatible with "planned menu dinners"! So I leaf through the pages for about two hours putting little paper markers where I like the sound of the recipe. I must like a lot of them as the book hideously crammed with little yellow and white papers when I finish (I ran out of yellow so I had to switch to white. that really bothers me as it would have been much more pleasant to keep it all in one colour scheme.)

I am so proud. I have selected so many that I will have many to choose from over the next two weeks. (starting Sunday, of course because I can’t start a menu planner on a Wednesday, now can I?)

I open thepretty 2-week menu. (it really is pretty – I decided to use Gerry’s eyes colour scheme as pink just did not work in this case. Can you believe that?? Pink actually did not work!!!)

I am ready for this. I take a deep breath and smile. Ruthie does this. Christine does this. It is easy. It is REALLY easy they both said. (God, I hope that they are not lying because I am so anxious that I feel like I just should leave it for another day when I feel a little less intimidated by the whole process). Going shopping and just grabbing what I want to is not so bad. So what if we don’t always eat all of it. At least we have a great selection of yummy food. And.. most of the time there is school lunch and snack stuff.. ) I have to admit that the idea of "planning" does appeal to me. I mean… there is nothing worse than standing in front of the refridgerator at 4:00 in the afternoon staring at the contents for thirty-three minutes while I try to figure out what I can make again. I do have a solution for that though.. my mom taught me that in days that you just can’t get food together fast enough, there is always KD.. Or.. if I am really adventurous, just good old pasta and sauce.

Oh – I love the song playing on the Ipod right now. Air Supply.. Two Less Lonely People. Gerry and I sang it together in Las Vegas in Jan 2007. We always had such a beautiful time together, but that night was particularly precious. It is when I really, really, really knew how much he was in love with me and that his precious, more-beautiful-than-anyone-in-the-world heart of his was truly, deeply and utterly in love with me. I mean I knew he loved me for a long time… but this was the defining moment of the depth of our love. It was a perfect moment in our almost-perfect relationship.

Oh yes. Planning a meal. No.. planning TWO WEEKS of meals. Hmmmm… Oh oh oh I know!!!! I will start with Friday nights. That is so easy.
"Pizza and yummy ice cream"
That’s better.
See – I already have TWO spots filled in already!!!
What’s next???
Oh – I know. Sunday morning. That is our brunchy meal. Pancakes, French Toast or good old bacon and eggs. Oh no. I have to pick two out of three. Which two should I put? Hmmm… Ok… definitely pancakes (that is everyone’s fave and it is Christine’s awesome recipe that somehow I think I perfected. Maybe. But it is amazing anyhow.
Ok – let’s say bacon, eggs and hashbrowns for the following Sunday. Yippeee!!!!!!!! FOUR – yes – FOUR spots are filled in.
I am soooo good at this!!!!!
Hmmm…. oh. I know… I will put my shakes next. I have to have two a day and Phil says that I should increase them a bit even though they don’t taste so good when there is too much powder – kind of drowns out the fruit flavor to me.

Ok.. that helped. Wow… there are still soooo many empty spots. Oh – I can go to the grocery list on the side… Yes. I fill it in with everything that I need so far. It is a bit of a waste of time because I keep an electronic shopping list (Oh I just looove electronic organizers and things like that!!!) ( and the answer is “yes”.. close friends and family do make fun of this little quirk of mine.)

Anyways. Ok. Hmm.. Oh lunches Monday to Friday. That is easy. I will just fill in one box and then copy and paste to another one!!! Yes!! wow!!! that made a HUGE Difference!!! I can do the same for Mon – Sat breakfasts!!! Woohoo!!!

Ok. Lots filled but I really need to think now about what Victoria’s dance hours are so I can make easy-breezy meals the nights that we are barely here. Thursdays are the toughest so I will make frozen shepherd’s pie one week and frozen chicken pot pie the next week. I looooove Shepherd’s pie!!!

Monday is always a hard day just because it is so hectic so I will makeeasy things that day too with a yummy desert so that we will all look forward to dinner that night. Crock-pot goose on the first Monday night (thank you Gerry for killing the geese and thank you Gerry for buying me the pretty crock pot) and perogis with sour cream and tuna-spinach salad the next Monday.

Wow. That was pretty easy! Oh – and don’t forget to add the ingredients on the side in the "grocery" column. And to add desert…

Ok. I think of what I have in the freezer and what I like to cook for Sunday dinners. Mmmm Roast Beef the first Sunday. (Yummy) and Lasagna for the 2nd. I DO make awesome lasagna if you eat it WARM or HOT instead of cold!

Oh and I can make a meat loaf.. and…

Slowly the little pretty boxes fill. I have chosen a particularly pretty font for the menu boxes and an even fancier one for the day and meal headers. It is so pretty now that it is filled in.

I even highlighted a couple of things that I thought I would forget. (still in the Gerry’s ocean-coloured-eyes theme, this time I choose a sea-foam green to highlight.. kind of the same green as my eyes.. oh how nice!! Now there is both Gerry’s and my eye colour on the pretty menu!!!) (even in a menu we are sooo perfect together) (big smiling sigh)….

Well.. by the time it is all done I think that I spent about four hours in total finding and tweaking the menu that I am using and another two hours pouring over my cook books and another three hours to fill it in.

Oh. The menu really is Very, Very pretty even it if was a LOT (a lot a lot) of work!!! Even my sisters both loved it and are now going to use itformat as their template 🙂
I like pretty.


Kitchen Dancer

I love and appreciate feedback. Feel free to let me know what you think. Bless you lots, Easter Ellen

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