Friday, July 27, 2007

Menu Planning

I started planning my weekly menu out of necessity. My nanny job was a 2 transfer bus ride from home. I'd get home around 7:30pm, hungry and tired. Without a plan, dinner would have been a glass of wine and an omlette. Every night. And while, as Elizabeth David duly noted, there are few meals quite so simply satisfying, every night, no so much.

So I started planning a menu. And every Saturday I'd go to the Market to shop, then come home and do some prep work. I'd make sauces, miripoix, chop meat and onions and garlic, make salad dressing. Then, when I'd come home of an evening, it was the work of minutes to put together a nice little supper.

When The Spouse and I got married the tradition continued. He loved it. Part of our late week ritual would be to sit over wine and talk about what we wanted to eat in the coming week.

Late in my pregnancy with The Child some friends came to dinner. Jimmy noticed the weekly menu on the side of the fridge. "Ha! That's something that will disappear when the baby gets here," he said, almost gleefully.

I don't know for sure if it's simply that the habit was too ingrained by then or if he got my Irish up with that comment (probably both), but we continued to plan menus after The Child arrived. And still do.

I don't know how people do it otherwise. I used to work for a guy who would receive a phone call every day at 4:45 so he and his wife could have the "what are we going to do for dinner" conversation. Crazy.

Planning a menu is so simple. First, you look at your calendar to see what is going on in the coming week. Meetings? Friends coming over? Oscar Night? Volleyball game for the kid? Then you consider what's already waiting in the pantry and freezer. Then you plan. We're meat eaters so there's always a pork night, chicken night, pasta night, fish. Then it's a question of which preparation for each sounds good...what we've been craving, what the weather's going to be like, all of those things factor in. Busy nights mean the crockpot will be employed. Movie night means pizza or some other food you eat with your hands. And if we can't decide? That's a good time to pull out that big notebook full of recipes that I've culled from magazines and newspapers.

It's not a tedious process. Not to mention, that when you know what you're going to have you can plan your shopping accordingly. It saves time because you aren't standing around in the grocery store without a clue and it saves money because you're just getting what you need and not so prone to the impulse buys.

"What if you don't feel like pork chops on Tuesday?" someone once asked me. Well, golly. First of all, I don't chisel the menu into marble and never once has it come to me out of a burning bush. If you don't feel like pork chops on Tuesday, eat something else. And if you end up going out to dinner one night, well, then you have a head start on the next weeks menu because you already have the ingredients for one meal on hand. But I assure you, knowing there is food in the house and not having to wrack your brains for brilliant ideas during the time of day when you are least inclined to feel brilliant is one of the most satisfying things in the world.

And with that, I'm introducing a new weekly feature (and thanks Seattle Coffee Girl for the suggestion): What's For Dinner? Each week I'll share what's on the docket for our family. (SCG amusingly said, "I'd like to know what you eat in Ordinary Time".) And yes, the recipes for some of these dishes will be forthcoming.
I hope it will help inspire you to plan your own menues and make things just a little easier on yourself. You deserve it.

What's For Dinner?

July 27 - August 2

Shrimp Cocktail in Steamed Artichokes
Crusty Bread

Orange-Thyme Pork Kebobs
Almond-Bulgar Pilaf
Green Beans with Lemon Butter


Rice Pilaf
Spinach Salad

Pasta Puttenesca
Green Salad
Crusty Bread

BBQ Chicken
Baked Beans
Corn on the Cob

Beef Enchiladas
Refried Beans
Sauteed Peppers


Seattle Coffee Girl said...

And THIS POST, Blogopia, exemplifies why Lorraine Thomas is one hell of a writer. Because she can craft sentences as delicious as her cooking.

I have goosebumps all over reading this post, LT. Because this is the writing you were born to do.

Lorraine said...

Well, gee, sweetie. That's an effusively nice thing for you to say about such a boring post. But heaven knows I appreciate your support!

Anonymous said...

I am salavating all over my keypa...39pgkhr451230@!S

(major malfunction ensues)

gina said...

Okay, now I'm not so sure we're twins separated at birth - you have really nice handwriting! I can actually READ everything on your list.

Also, do normal people really have shrimp cocktail for dinner? And fish in grape leaves? Wow. I'm impressed! My menu is going to say something like:

Monday: Taco Salad
Tuesday: Spaghetti, meatballs (from Costco), green salad (out of a bag) with feta, sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing, garlic bread.
Wednesday: BBQ Tri-tip, salad (see Tuesday), Country Crock Loaded Mashed Potatoes (cuz who has time to cut up, boil, and mash potatoes on a weeknight?)
Thursday: See Wednesday
Friday: KFC or Dominos or Taco Bell or ???

See...I'm hopeless. And not because I can't cook, cuz I can. I just don't have time. :(

Lorraine said...

Golly, Hat. Hope you didn't get a shock.

Gina: I'd like to point out that you do in fact, have a menu. Which is a step in the right direction. And as the wife of a Costco employee, thank you for your support.

gina said...

You're welcome. :) I'm also inadvertently helping to support my first husband. Ironic, no?

Lorraine said...

No kidding? See, something else we have in common...both our first husbands work for Costco.