Menu Plans vs. Reality

Menu Plan

Menu Plan

I’ve never been much of a meal planner. Back before GAPS I’d just go to the garden or the market, pick whatever looked good, and figure out what to do with it about an hour before dinner. I had a few regular favorites for breakfast and lunch so I didn’t really worry about that. Every week or so I’d make up a big batch of something or other to enjoy variations of all week long, or a special treat I’d actually planned for. The kids complicated things, of course, but not too much. I just made what I wanted to make and expected them to like it!

Then we went on GAPS and became super strict about all our foods being 100% gluten-free. Lucky for me, Kelsy was in charge of the kitchen by then. She’s a planner by nature. Every week she’d sit down with her planner and figure out what cuts of meat to pull out of the freezer on which day, when to pick up buying club purchases all over town, and decide what to get on the next buying club purchase, trip to the farm stand, or bike ride to the store.

Once that was all figured out, she’d write in breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner on each day, and transfer the whole mess to a white board we keep on the fridge. The rest of us would get the snacks and quick meals that were listed, and she’d take care of the rest. Here’s the amazing part: generally, she’d make everything on the list on the days she’d planned!

Crock Pot Chickens & Yogurt on the counter

Crock Pot Chickens & Yogurt on the counter

Now I’ve been in charge for a few weeks, and I don’t think I’ve stuck to the plan once. But I have been making a plan, and it does seem to help!

Two weeks ago was especially exciting, since I’d planned to bake all sorts of things, but the oven broke! My two chickens and make ahead meatloaf had to go in the crock pots, and I babysat the broiler to get my almond crusted salmon to turn out.

Here’s a little taste of plans vs reality at my house. Note: I didn’t include Kelsy’s lunches (she packs leftovers for every day). We also had sides of veggies like roasted cauliflower, homemade sauerkraut, steamed broccoli, and of course broth. Those didn’t make it onto my plan because they were pretty much ready to go.

Sunday

Plan

Baked salmon cakes with sauerkraut and horseraddish sauce

Baked salmon cakes with sauerkraut and horseradish sauce

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs
Lunch: Taco salad
Snacks: Veggies, ranch & cheese
Dinner: Salmon Cakes
Make ahead: Beef Jerky, yogurt, soak almonds & walnuts, bake squash, boil eggs for lunches

Real Life
I was doing fine until lunch, when I realized the meat was still frozen solid. Made salads with sardines instead. The salmon cakes were a big hit, and I did get a lot of prep done for the rest of the week. I got the beef jerky and yogurt going, put squash in the crock pot to bake, and soaked walnuts. Unfortunately we thought we had almonds in the freezer but we’re all out! That means my plans for nut butter later in the week were foiled. I also jarred up a bunch of stock I already had going.

Monday

Chicken Verde Leftovers

Chicken Verde leftovers into the fridge

Plan
Breakfast: Winter Squash Souffle
Lunch: Chicken soup
Snacks: Beef jerky, applesauce, veggies
Dinner: Beef Stew

Real Life
It turns out that what we thought was a whole dozen eggs was actually about 2 eggs, and we wouldn’t have more until Tuesday night. That meant the cake I’d planned for Tuesday was not going to happen!

Out of the oven too soon. Put 'em back in!

Meringue cookies in the oven

However, I did have a ton of egg whites left from making lemon curd last week, so I decided to try meringues. They weren’t ready before the kids had to go to bed, so I ate a few and saved some for them. Yum!!!

Instead of straight up chicken soup, I made a whole chicken in the crock pot with chili verde sauce from last summer and a jar of chicken stock from last week. The meat fell off the bone, it was wonderful. We added some veggies to call it a meal & of course ate it with the sauce/stock. It’s not on my list, but of course I started stock with the bones, back in the crock pot. I’ve been keeping it going and drinking it all week. The kids forgot about applesauce so we saved that for another day.
Beef stew was a bit of a disaster. I got sidetracked and was out of time. I thought I had rutabagas but didn’t and was nearly out of veggies. I made it with peeled broccoli stems for veggies out of desperation. I meant to add canned green beans from last summer but forgot. The kids liked it, though, and were happy to eat it as leftovers :)

Nothing on the make ahead list, but the walnuts did make it into the dehydrator.

Tuesday

Make Ahead Meatloaf Plated

Make Ahead Meatloaf Plated

Plan
Breakfast: Smoothies
Lunch: Fish soup
Snacks: Nut butter, veggies
Dinner: Steak
Make ahead: Chocolate Cake, Meatloaf

Real Life
We started off the day with those meringue cookies. The kids made smoothies! Yum! The yogurt turned out really good, btw. For lunch I didn’t make fish soup. I have salmon stock from the fins from last week’s almond crusted salmon, but no one seems to want to eat it. The kids had leftover beef stew (with added green beans) instead. Jupiter also snacked on boiled eggs.

I just had one big steak thawed for all of us so I sliced it thin and stir fried it with veggies and leftover rhubarbecue sauce.

The cake is waiting for next week. I did make ahead my meatloaf. Actually, half of one of the meatloaves got eaten and the rest was for lunches. I also made more beef jerky.

Wednesday

Beef Jerky Ready to Eat

Beef Jerky Ready to Eat (the white spots are fat)

Plan
Breakfast: Pancakes
Lunch: Meatloaf, cake
Snacks: Yogurt, veggies, beef jerky
Dinner: Carrot soup

Real Life
Since we still hadn’t picked up our eggs, pancakes were out. Instead we had pork sausage patties. We even thought to pull out the applesauce. Jupiter had to pack lunch, snacks and dinner, Kodiak and I just needed to pack lunch and snacks. Snacks went to plan, we brought meatloaf and salad, but the carrot soup didn’t get made. Dinner was all about leftover chicken soup! Jupiter had beef stew packed, because that’s what he liked better.

Thursday

Plan

One pint of apple butter

From a humble little apple to a divine indulgence.

I didn’t put anything on the plan. I figured we’d have enough leftovers.

Real Life
Sure enough, we had tons of leftovers. We also had our eggs by now. We made winter squash and egg crepes for breakfast, topped with apple butter. We each ate the leftovers we preferred, and had salad, too.

Friday

Plan
Again with the leftovers.
Dinner: Manhattan Clam Chowder

Real Life
We had smoothies for breakfast, and snacks of boiled eggs and applesauce. Kodiak packed her lunch and snacks to take to her classes.

A coworker of Kelsy’s had given her a bunch of fresh clams, so I made them into a Manhattan chowder. I’d never done it before and wasn’t finding a GAPS legal recipe so I invented my own (coming soon). It was really good!

Saturday

Garlicky Chicken Soup with Avocado

Garlicky Chicken Soup with Avocado

Breakfast: Garlicky chicken soup
Lunch: Chicken salad
Snacks: veggies, smoothie
Dinner: Pork chops & roasted veggies
Make ahead: Beef Jerky, yogurt, chocolate cake batter, plan for next week.

Real Life
So far so good :)

What Have I Learned?

I don’t think I’ll ever be great at following my own plans. Things happen. In the past couple weeks a bulk buy fell through, a farm direct delivery ran late, and our oven even broke! Some days I just don’t feel like cooking, or we have friends over at the last minute, or we decide to go on an adventure for the day. Yesterday I decided to forget about all housework and get some pruning done in the garden, since the sun was out! But having that plan out there gets me pulling the meat out of the freezer, gives the kids some idea of what they can get for themselves, and keeps me on track with prepping food for later. So I’m going to keep doing it. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually make it through a week according to plan someday!

This post is part of Sunday School, Make Your Own! Monday, Monday Mania, Made From Scratch Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Fat Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Blog Hop, Allergy Free Wednesdays, Frugally Sustainable, Real Food Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday Full Plate Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, Living Well Blog Hop, Fight Back Friday.

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20 comments to Menu Plans vs. Reality

  • I LOVE that you have two CrockPots. I’ve thought about that…I like to make chicken, but not every few days. I”m still on the GAPS Intro Phase 5. I don’t write anything down when I menu plan…probably not the best idea, I should get a fancy dry erase board :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

    • Joy

      Actually… we have FOUR! One is a 4 qt and very old. It doesn’t get used much, but is good for traveling with. The other is a mini dipper, fun for warm dips! Then of course there are the 6 qt and the 8 qt pictured here. :)

  • I try to have a plan and be flexible about it. Sometimes my plans don’t pan out or sound good to me at the time, so I shift on the fly. But if I don’t have a plan in place, it is bad news. Guess that fits into me being a routine girl instead of a schedule one. Good job making it through especially without an oven!!!

  • I love your post! Thank you for sharing all the menu-planning goodness with us! :)

    I used to be better about planning my menus (I love Excel spreadsheets!), but after my health problems really started up, I became very laid back about food. Then I realized that I need to at least have a bit of a plan to help keep my family on track with eating healthier (which helps me to feel better). :)

    One thing I’ve started doing each week is this: On Sunday, I cook a chicken in the crockpot for a chicken dinner. The following day, I start my chicken stock. Tuesday, I bottle up some of the stock and use the rest for soup on Tuesday night. Later in the week, we finish up the chicken meat and eat beef and fish with veggies. I had to make it super-simple and it seems to be working for now. In a few weeks, I want to start making another batch of stock midweek, too. Meanwhile, I’m making water kefir too.

    It’s kind of overwhelming at first, but I’m getting into a routine and it’s getting much easier. Baby steps… :)

    • Joy

      I agree that getting into a routine is key. It makes things a lot easier. Part of the reason I’ve been struggling is that I’m reinventing who I am in the kitchen… going through exactly the kinds of changes I help other people make! There is nothing like a healthy dose of your own medicine :)

      I think routines are why I worked so well without meal planning before. Back in the day I used to have breakfast on the table for me and my toddlers, dinner on the table for their dad (he worked nights), of course lunch and snacks, and then dinner for us and breakfast for him at night. I had a routine and most everything I made didn’t require much prep aside from chopping veggies and occasionally soaking something. I also wasn’t working out of a deep freeze like I am now. I didn’t need to research recipes because I just had my way of cooking that I’d always used.

      Now everything is different. Of course I’m still all about whole, real foods, but we’ve taken it to a new level and gone grain and refined sugar free as well. We’ve got Kelsy making her own breakfast and packing lunches every weekday, the kids packing meals two or three times a week, and all the rest to take care of. The kids are growing, so they’re eating more than typical adults some days, and barely touching their food other days. Add to this that Kelsy would really rather not eat the same leftovers every day of the week, I’m homeschooling the kids, and I’m also working about 40 hours a week (from home and outcall appointments).

      I *do* need

      We have several staples that need regular attention:

      • Yogurt
      • Dairy Kefir
      • Water Kefir
      • Kombucha
      • Sauerkraut
      • Other fermented veg
      • Fresh juice
      • Meats to defrost
      • Nuts to soak & dehydrate, nutbutter to make
      • Jerky to dehydrate
      • Lactofermented condiments (mayo, dressings, etc)
      • In season produce to preserve (can)
      • Stock
      • Freeze half of all leftovers to pull following weeks (the one thing Kelsy didn’t used to do)
      • Shopping/bulk buys/buying club pick ups

      Now that I list out all the regular stuff that has to get dealt with in addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I see why one or two weeks wasn’t long enough to have a graceful handle on it all. A meal plan is crucial to making sure we all have something we want to eat at regular intervals, but the routines are the foundation of the meal plan.

      There *will* be a post on all this :)
      -Joy

      • You are doing an awesome job! Cooking this way (and especially doing it via GAPS) takes a lot of prep time and work. But…it can turn into a nice routine with practice and consistency (I am proof). ;)

        I like your idea of freezing leftovers for later weeks. I ought to do that. And maybe cook up double batches of soups, casseroles, etc.

        Right now, I have to prepare:

        water kefir
        prepared nuts and nut butters
        sprouted wheat stuff
        dairy kefir
        stock

        I am going to make a batch of saurkraut this week and see how it goes (I’ve done gingered carrots and saurkraut before). We still buy plain yogurt, but it would be much more nutritious if we made it out of raw milk. The kind we buy is just non- homogenized.

        After the saurkraut, I look forward to making lacto fermented condiments. We don’t have a dehydrator yet, so I oven dry my nuts and sprouted wheat/spelt. When we get one, I’ll do jerkeys and more. We live in Phoenix, AZ, so I’m going to experiment with outside dehydrating this summer. It ought to be fun!

        I’ve had some fun reading your blog! Thank you for all the awesome information!

  • I love seeing real food in action! I know what I eat and prepare on a daily basis, but I love seeing how other people do it to. Like you I always plan it out, but plans sure do change!

  • I too have run into the frozen meat issue for days when I planned a crock pot recipe. Frustrating. I’m glad I have my meal plan on a chalk board so I can quickly make updates mid week. Jealous of the two crock pots, I think I’m in the market now for a second, especially with making yogurt and breakfasts lately.
    http://www.randomrecycling.com/2012/02/menu-plan-monday-feb-26.html

    • Joy

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who forgets to pull the meat! One of my problems is that if I pull too much meat and leave it in the fridge sometimes it just stays too cold to really defrost. I know it’s not ideal, but I do a lot of force thawing. No food poisoning yet!

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Your honesty and frankness is so refreshing. It can be hard enough to stick to a meal plan when you are not on a special diet – I think you have done really well! Your menus sound delicious, and those meringues look so good!

    • Joy

      Thanks April!
      I’m glad it’s appreciated when I let people in on my dirty secrets. Just wait ’till you see the state of my oven! I spent 4 hours *attempting* to clean it the other day.
      -Joy

  • Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! That happens to me too!Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!
    http://realfoodforager.com/fat-tuesday-february-28-2012/

  • Whew! I work for someone who does GAPS and SCD menu plans for families on those diets. Menu planning itself is a big job on those diets, so actually following them is even bigger. Love that you shared the successes and not-so-successes in this post. Good to know reality hits everyone! :-)
    (Here from Allergy-Free Wed)

    • Joy

      Hi Steph!
      Thanks for stopping by. Yes, reality afflicts us all :) I suppose the privilege of my very own blog means I could sugar-coat it and make it look like I always did everything right. But we all know just how good sugar-coating is for us, right?

      I thought I was going to do so much better this week, but just today I realized I’d put crock-pot chicken on the plan, but the chicken was still out in the deep freeze. When will I ever learn?
      -Joy

  • I adore menu plans and live by them!

    Thank you for sharing such a great post this week on AFW!

    Be Well,
    –The AFW Hostesses

  • I am a big meal planner, it saves on food, money and time. I have done it for so many years that’s all I know. Great Post with very good information! Hope you have a wonderful week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  • [...] Meal Plans vs. Reality from Liberated Kitchen. Good reality check. [...]

  • Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures’ Make Your Own! Monday link-up.

    Check back later tonight when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! :)

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