Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Makable" Menus

When I wrote the book Around the Table I always made weekly menus the night before I went grocery shopping so I could make lists of what I would need for the week’s meals and go shopping just once. (Shopping once was the goal, anyway.)

At some point over the years, I did the menus less and less. It took me so long to come up with 7 main meals I wanted to cook and eat. Some nights when I was planning the menu nothing sounded good so I would search out new recipes, seeking the illusive taste I was looking for. Plus, it had to be things my family would appreciate, within our budget, and doable in South America. (There were many, many substitution possibilities, but how much time did I want to invest in one meal?)

I got to the point where I planned menus for special meals (guests, birthdays, etc.) but just bought basic staples and “came up with something” each night. From time to time I would make out a week’s menu, but not often.

Photo credit: Terren in Virginia

Not too long ago I was motivated to do it again. The motivation was visiting my friend, Karen. We were there for 3 ½ days and she sent me the menu a month ahead to make sure it was things everyone could eat and so I could choose things to bring. A month ahead! I was seriously impressed.

Not only that, but I saw how things worked out so easily for her during the days we were there. She had everything on hand and a plan set so she could enjoy our visit as well.

As soon as I got home I sat down to make out our menu for us. It was so wonderful to have the menu on hand. I felt released from the concern of what was for dinner! Every day I would look at my list and take out of the freezer or pantry what I needed to have on hand for dinner. 
The ingredients were all there;
 no energy was spent worrying about 
what I could make for dinner.

I also made liberal use of my slow-cooker and of freezable recipes to have some meals partially prepared for an upcoming visit from our married son, his wife, and our granddaughter. Anything that lets me have more time with the family is a good thing!

I don’t have these recipes posted, but just to give you an idea of our main meal menu for one week, I’ll write it out for you, along with my notes from the changes I made.

Monday – leftover stuffing, sweet potatoes, and gravy (frozen from a church potluck); roasted chicken breasts, salad greens with red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing

Tuesday – Spanish tortilla (p. 226-227, Time for Dinner), Fruit and Broccoli salad (Slow Cooker Meals, p. 248; no, it’s not slow cooked, just under the “sides” section.)

Photo Credit: Iriskh

Wednesday – Easy Italian Chicken, (p. 74, Slow Cooker Meals), green salad, store bought breadsticks

Thursday – Hot and Spicy Sloppy Joes (p. 42, Slow Cooker Meals), coleslaw, (freeze half for lunch with "kids")

Friday – Pasta with Pesto, green salad (this was changed to a roasted vegetable soup I made up and put in the crockpot)

Saturday – lunch: grilled cheese, carrot sticks, apple slices (some foods kids never tire of!)
Supper: hamburgers, baked sweet potato wedges, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles

Sunday – Pork stew with Teriyaki Sauce (p. 59, Slow Cooker Meals), rice, frozen mini egg rolls, apple dumplings for dessert

Monday – Bean and Corn Burritos (p. 130, Slow Cooker Meals), green salad

Quite a few of these recipes are from the Family Circle Slow Cooker Meals, (I tend to go in cycles like that) so I just want to insert a caveat that I have found quite a few I like in this book since my sister-in-law gave it to me about 5 months ago, but our family likes things more “tasteable*” so I would double almost all the seasonings, unless it is called “Hot and Spicy”, and I think they generally put in too much liquid so I plan to try lowering the amount and testing it.

*The first time I served something a bit spicy to then 3 year old Daniel, he took a bite and said, “This is very tasteable!”

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Get Creative! Can you make a centerpiece from things already in your house? Knick-knacks, teapots, silk or dried flowers, a collection of something, photos, souvenirs, flags, toys, games...are all possible ideas.

Maribeth used these teacups, teapots, candles and a jug with silk flowers to create a summer centerpiece. I'd like to see what you come up with. Look around your house and collect some things to make a centerpiece for your table. Arrange it how you like and send me a photo to this email. I'll publish it in a future post!


  1. Sharon,
    Have you ever seen this book "Once a month cooking"
    I have had a copy for years (older version) and use to do it to some extent. If anything it's a great spring board for menu planning.
    Since then Mimi Wilson wrote a Family Favorites companion book to the other though I have not seen this one yet.

    1. Yes, I have her book. Although I don't cook once a month, she is part of my motivation for cooking once and eating twice (freezing part). She's also been my mentor in my walk with God in years past! Thanks for posting!

  2. Wow, this makes cooking dinner seem so easy. Thanks for sharing your ideas and your centerpiece. Blessings!

    1. It is easy, once you decide what to make. I have a lot of trouble with that part--decision making is not my forte! Thanks for stopping by, Renee! Hope you'll come back again.



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