I spent approximately an hour this morning working on May’s family dinner menu. My two main goals for spring cooking are: 1) to make something the kids won’t whine about and 2) to keep it healthy -- doable on Weight Watchers. I’m also looking to try at least one new recipe a week so that I don’t get bored.
There is an art to making menus. But before I go into the details, let me just say up front that the menu may be a lie. Take this month, for example. Of the thirty days in the month, the menu lied 14 times. (The menu planner cannot be called a liar. When she prepared the menu it was the gospel truth.) Breakfast is the meal most likely to deviate from the menu. Mostly because the kids don’t like oatmeal and won’t make it themselves. Sometimes it’s because I didn’t bake muffins the night before for them to eat in the morning. So although cold cereal is only listed three mornings a week, we probably eat it an average of six days a week. Dinner may be a lie too. Such as last night – the menu said I’d make Nan Petersen’s macaroni casserole, but the troops ate cold cereal instead. (See actual sample scan of our April menu .)
But back to the art of menu making. . . I’ve got a complicated little system. I start by digging out my binder with saved menus from the last two years (if menus are saved, does that mean they go to heaven? Just a thought). Next I get out the huge desktop calendar that I hang on a dry-erase board near the back door. Before assigning dishes to days, I carefully coordinate what’s happening in the month with what will be for dinner. No labor intensive meals on nights I’ve had activity days and student council meeting. You know the drill. If I need defrosted chicken for Thursday’s meal, I write “defrost chicken” on the family calendar on Tuesday. All this takes much thought and effort. In fact, after this morning’s planning and calculating of an hour, I’m still not finished with the month’s menu.
Hmmm. So let me see if I’m getting this. I’ve spent an hour on a menu that will be a lie almost 50% of the time. And cold cereal is the kids’ favorite substitute for when the menu is a lie. Hmmm. Cold cereal is definitely something the kids don’t complain about eating, and it is fairly healthy – at least the stuff I eat. I suppose that I could branch out and try some new cereals to keep from getting bored. Hmmm.
Maybe menu making isn’t an art after all. I’ll just write “cold cereal” in all the slots, and then maybe the menu won’t be a lie!