Meal Planning with a Monthly Seasonal Menu + Free Printable
Over the weekend the weather broke and allowed us a few days outside to start scheming the entire farm operation. Oh, wow! I have a big post planned this Thursday for you that will explain everything in detail, along with a plotted plan of our garden. I am starting to feel like the last week of January is definitely not too soon to be planning the extent of our operation. When my dad and I went out to measure the plots after Christmas, we were being a little hesitant with amount of space we would be planting in along with what we wanted to get started. I heard some great advice a while back that was from experienced gardener's talking to their younger selves. Everyone said that they wished they had planted more trees and perennials first before beginning on their annuals. Agreed! We'll be planting more apple trees and perennials like herbs and strawberries. What we thought was going to be 8,000 square feet of planting space has now turned into over 15,000... That's a MAJOR change. It made me realize all that I would have to work around, schedule, and possibly let go of in the year ahead.
I knew that meal planning was something I had to get my head wrapped around to make our days and weeks easier during the growing season. If you know our family, then you know that we are not elitists or purists, nor do we like to follow strict sets of lifestyle rules. We have our values and morals; we are a waste free home, plant based eaters, and sustainable homemakers. But we also don't have bias against others who decide to live differently. I have been seeing a lot of meal planning menus popping up all over the internet this month (January dieting, anyone?), and while I think they are great, I don't think they always work. I have tried it! It just gets overwhelming, and we always fall back on eating the same meals over and over again anyway. The biggest issue with figuring out what to make for dinner is always walking into the kitchen and struggling to put together your ingredients, right?
I wanted a menu that was unique to our family; now that we grow our own food we enjoy eating seasonally. Jill had the idea to try making a menu instead of a weekly meal plan. It would be a monthly menu, or weekly if needed, of our favorite meals for the season. I loved it. That made my life, my days, so much simpler and easier. Rather than worry about every single day as a plan, it was a suggestion, and filled with some that I loved. I decided to make a little chart for myself to hang on the fridge that could easily be viewed and give me an idea.
Here's why it works: I am a human that is unpredictable. When I have tried planning every single day of meals down to a T, I feel like I set myself up for failure! Right? I think it works well for some people, but I tend to get creative in the kitchen. You could also say that I just don't do well with structured boundaries. I added our main meals, sweet treats, snacks, and staples to the list. I consider staples as the types of things I have to make weekly for our family like fresh bread, salad dressings, and teas. I also added a shopping list section, which I think could also serve as a list of things that you tend to purchase weekly or listing which fresh veggies and fruits are currently in season to add to your monthly meal menu.
I am curious to see if any of you struggle with meal planning and if this might be something that could potentially help you out. It feels a bit like a restaurant to me, where the menu is set but open to change. I think I may laminate my next menu by putting some packing tape on top; that way I can use a dry erase marker to make my decisions or change out any ideas. It's a bit boring compared to a weekly menu, and that makes me turn away, but then I remind myself that I tend to make the same dishes every single week anyway because we love them. Plus, they're well known and easier for me to throw together. This also gives me room to experiment with new meals and ideas throughout the month!
You can grab this menu as a PDF for free in our online shop or click the button below to go straight there. Let me know how it goes for you and be sure to share photos of your seasonal menus with me on Instagram! (: