Now that my children are home for the summer, 88 days to be exact, I needed to create a specialized menu plan for our meals, specifically lunch and dinner. First, I wanted easy meals that can be made ahead of time or in 30 minutes. Secondly, I wanted meals that incorporate summer fruits and vegetables that I will be picking up at local farmers’ markets or the grocery store. Lastly, I needed kid-friendly meals that my children would enjoy helping me cook.
PLANNING A DINNER MENU
1. “NIGHTS” The first step was creating my dinner categories to make meal planning easy and meet my three terms. For dinner I came up with Sandwich, Salad, Seafood, Pizza, Grill, Breakfast, and Pasta Nights.
2. “LISTS” After I came up with these categories or “Nights,” I made a list under each category of the dishes we like for that category. For example- for the “Salad Night” category I came up with Cobb, Caesar, Wedge, Chicken Ramen, Chef, and Taco Salads.
Note- Try to come up with 6 dishes for each catergory so that they can be rotated at least twice through the 12 weeks. More dishes means less rotations and more variety of meals. But twice insures the ability to double the recipe the first night and freeze it for the second go around on the calender, if it is freezable of course.
3. “ROTATE” Once the lists are all made, I rotated each dish once or twice through the 12 week calendar of summer vacation. So with the 7 categories, each night was covered. This makes grocery shopping easier and I have a choice of 7 meals that I can jumble around for the week to meet each night’s different needs and schedule.
The photos show my Mini Ham and Cheese Rolls for our first “Sandwich Night” with fresh orange slices, tortilla chips and homemade fresh salsa from the Farmer’s Market. In the summer I like to serve a big variety of raw fruits and vegetables which makes life so easy and healthy and keeps my kitchen and family cool and COOL!
PLANNING A LUNCH MENU
For my children’s lunches (and mine) I came up with 15 different lunch dishes that I will rotate 4 times each, Monday-Friday, for the 12 week summer vacation as well. This way we don’t feel like we are eating PBJ everyday! We eat these lunches on blue cafeteria style trays and call them “Home Lunches.” Here are the Littles getting ready to eat Dinners for a Year and Beyond’s Chicken Nuggets which are out of this world delicious, my Ranch Dip, fresh fruit, veggie stix, and cookies.
Here is a list of my lunches:
Mac and Cheese
Brown Buttered Noodles
English Muffin Pizzas
My Big Fat Italian Sandwich
Chicken Noodle Soup
Mini Ham and Cheese Rolls
Oh by the way, you can plan your menu for an entire year using this method. I personally have done a 6 month Spring/Summer menu April-September and a 6 month Fall/Winter menu October-March. This is a great way to cook seasonal meals, save money, and prepare meals for the freezer.
So how do you menu plan? By sale circulars? Monthly? Weekly? Or weakly?