After the recent meal plan desert of a few weeks ago, I have decided to do whatever I can to ensure that doesn’t happen again. And, let’s face it, a few of my meal plans have been less than inspired as of late. They needed an injection of newness. They had started to be comprised of hot dogs, chili, pizza, tacos, nachos, and the combinations that can be made thereof. Is it any wonder that I hit rock bottom?
When I meal plan, I try to have in mind at least the dishes (if not the order) that will be made for the following Saturday through Sunday of the following week by Wednesday. I block out any days that I know we will eat out and that I know that Josh will probably be cooking. Unless I have a dish-heavy week, I now block out Thursdays as leftover night (I know that OrgJunkie refers to these times as “YOYO” or You’re on Your Own and schedules them for the weekends. That’s great for stay-at-home mamas. For work-outside-the-home mamas, the weekends are your days to actually cook. Thursday, as I’ve previously mentioned, this the worst day of the week sticking-to-the-meal-plan-wise. It’s when you are desperately counting down until the end of the week, and even setting something in the microwave to reheat may be beyond your energy level or brain power.). This week is the exception. Thursday, we are trying out a new-to-us sloppy joe recipe that was prepared earlier this week. Reheat the meat, slap on a bun, serve with a handful of grapes or fruit, and call it done.
I usually don’t try that many new dishes when Josh is on call because then it’s just Muffin and I. If I’m exhausted and Muffin has eaten a lot at Granny’s, I know that a huge, elaborate meal will go unappreciated by us.
The first thing I did to get out of this funk was to scour my cookbooks and recipe magazines (including the Taste of Home collector’s editions and Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications). I notated in a special meal planning notebook that I’m building the source and the recipe name.
Then, I began going through my bookmarks (just as I had on the previous two recipe challenges). I listed the recipes from my bookmarks.
That didn’t seem to be enough because I had made or combined several of those recipes in previous meal plans. So, I dug deeper. I made a list for each blog or site that I had bookmarked recipes from in my bookmarks and began dissecting each of the sites. Those that had an alphabetical recipe index (rather than an index with a list of linked clickable categories, or worse a regurgitation of posts tagged recipes) became my new besties. And it reminded me that I needed to beef up my recipe index page, as well. By the end of this summer, I hope to.
I made a comprehensive study of the ones that I had only bookmarked one or two recipes from and jotted down other recipes to try. The inspiration for Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce was one such example. I made a list of some that have appeared on meal plans that I haven’t tried (found a reason not to, didn’t buy the ingredients in time, etc.). I penciled down those to try soon because a few have appeared on several meal plan lists and never been tried.
My next venture is to go through Pinterest (haha…20K pins and growing) and list possible recipes to try (and then to go through each of the sites that I pinned from and do the comprehensive study I mentioned above).
Will it take a lot of time? Most definitely!
Will it be worth it for us in the long run? Most definitely!
I then hope to compile a list of active (meaning people still post on them) websites and blogs to visit every so often for new recipe inspiration (from those I make a comprehensively study). That serves two purposes: it gives me fairly safe things to Swag search, and I will find new recipes faster.
Critics to this method will say, “What about meal rotations?” Meal rotations are perfectly lovely provided that 1) you and your family are okay with eating the same thing twice a month without fail, 2) you have a very hefty stockpile of the proteins and other ingredients involved, and 3) your mind isn’t hardwired to think in food. Sometimes I wish my mind were not hardwired to think in food; I would probably be at least 80 pounds lighter. But I think in food. How to arrange it on the plate. How to make sure that there is a rainbow on the plate. How to adapt it, craft it, copy it, make it more kid friendly. Seriously, a restauranteur would be overwhelmed in my brain.
Case in point: My class is studying The Odyssey. I’ve been trying to think of an appropriate menu to serve for Josh and me when we watch the Armand Assante version (or to bring as treats for my students when they do well on the test).
Testing is right around the corner (state standardized testing, that is), and I’ve already been trying to think up little treats to bring for those students in my testing group after they finish testing each day.
So, I shudder to think what might happen to my brain if I don’t have a very changeable meal plan.
My sister scrapbooks. I meal plan. That’s my creative outlet. (In fact, the only successful scrap book I have ever made was a recipe book that presently resides on my mom’s cookbook shelf.)
What is your creative outlet?