A few years ago, Sean and I spent a totally, ridiculously disproportionate amount of time at the grocery store. We went 3-5 times/week because we were never very thoughtful about what we bought and how it related to what we might want to cook that week. While some people can whip up something amazing using whatever’s in the fridge, we’re not those people. We can cook, but we need a plan….and we’re better off if we have a recipe. So finally, after having our second child and realizing that hauling two kids to the grocery story multiple times each week wasn’t sustainable or fun, we started putting together a weekly menu. It takes some work, but a weekly menu has cut our shopping time, saved us money, taken away the stress of trying to figure out what to make every night, and better allowed us to share responsibility for feeding our family. Oh, we don’t eat bread, cheese, salad and wine every single night for dinner anymore.
So how does this work? Here’s our system:
- Saturday or Sunday, one of us takes the lead on planning a menu for that week. We plan four meals, assuming that we’ll either eat out or eat leftovers one night during the week. We have a chalkboard in the kitchen where we write down what’s on the menu each day of the week
- We survey what’s in the fridge and make a list of what we’ll need for that week’s meals and then divide the list by what we need to get at Trader Joe’s versus Whole Foods versus the farmer’s market (I know, this isn’t very efficient, but unless Trader Joe’s starts sourcing better produce and meat, we’ve got to do it)
- We prep what we can (cutting veggies, washing lettuce, etc on the weekend) when we can. I wish we were better about this, but takes commitment
- We keep any recipes we’re using in a recipe box at Epicurious.com (I’m sure there are lots of organizers out there, but this is the one we started using, so now it’s tough to switch)
- We make family meals. If the kids don’t want to eat salmon, tough luck. It’s difficult enough to make one meal at night, much less two!
- We stick to our menu (for the most part)! And having a fallback go out/eat leftovers/make eggs option takes the pressure off
So what’s on the menu this week?
- Mon – off the hook (going out with friends)!
- Tues – roasted chicken thighs with carrots and sweet potatoes, green salad
- Weds – broiled salmon, rice pilaf, green salad
- Thurs – chicken, broccoli, and red pepper stir-fry
- Fri – asparagus/leek soup (in the Vitamix), grilled sausage, green salad
What’s your system for cooking at home in as little time as possible? Do you have a few “go-to” menus? Do you prep everything on the weekend? Do you trade off meal duty with your partner? And if you have a weekly menu to share, please send or post it, as I’m always looking for ideas!