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Friday, August 12, 2011

What's for Dinner?

So many of us live in such a place of abundance that we have the blessed problem of having to actually plan and/or decide what to have for our evening meal each day.  We have so many options!  As I remind my children regularly, our homes are not usually places of scarcity.

Problem is that often it is the figuring out what's for dinner that's the challenge, not actually even making the meal.  I'm not saying anything here that y'all don't know. 

Several years ago I modified something my sister-in-law was doing and it's worked well for me, in terms of removing the dreaded question "what's for dinner?" from my life.

Get yourself some colored card stock and cut it up into pieces, or get some 4x6 (colored) index cards. Now think of all the meals you make that (most) everyone likes, the meals you go to regularly.  You'll probably think of them in rough categories, so get out a sharpie and write the names of the meals on the cards.  Put all the beef meals on one color card, all the chicken-based meals on another color, meatless meals on another color, etc. 

Once you have a nice pile of all different colored cards with main dish names on them, you have a choice -- you can stop here or you can turn the card over and get a bit more fancy.  Write down the primary ingredients needed (or ingredients you don't normally keep on hand) and/or add side dishes that you usually like to serve with the main dish on the front.  If you do this step, then these cards can help you create your grocery list. 

I did this second step originally, but I don't use the cards this way anymore.  Here's what I do.  When I'm feeling the need to get a handle on the "What's for dinner?" situation, I grab all my cards an just pull out ones that look good to me, or meals we've not had in a while, or something that uses an ingredient I know have in the freezer and need to use up.  Then I put the cards in order, thinking about our family's schedule and what night it would be good to have what meal (roughly) and stick the cards up on the fridge with a magnet clip.  It's that easy!  [If you have color-coded your meals you can also easily see that you aren't repeating chicken dishes all week long, or too many beef meals in a row, etc.]

Sometimes (if I'm really organized) I do make my grocery list from the cards, and sometimes I put a little sticky note on the card with what else I want to serve with that main dish, or if I need to remember to defrost something for the next day's meal, I'll attach a sticky note to that effect on the previous day's card.

My family can always see what's going to be served that night and so, small blessings, they don't have to ask me.  And, I don't have to think about it either, I just look at the card in the morning and do whatever it is I need to do to get that day's meal pulled together.  [And of course I can always change the cards around if Life Happens and my original plan isn't going to work.]

I hope you try this extremely low-tech and flexible method, and let me know how it works for you!


Anonymous said...

Add a family member's initial to the corner of the card if it's his/hers favorite meal so that everyone gets to feel special at some point throughout the week/month! (from Natalie)

Lecia said...

I found your site from Raising Homemakers. I am looking forward to reading more here.
This is a wonderful idea! I have been searching for a way to make meal planning easier.