How often do your kids ask you what’s for dinner, and no matter what you answer, they respond with disappointment? Mine do it all the time. I can understand it; some nights you’re in the mood for one thing, and another thing is what you get. But, what if your kids knew ahead of time what was for dinner each night of the week? And, what if they even had a hand in planning the menu? My bet is that the 5 o’clock whine would come to an end. Well, I shouldn’t really bet, since I know the outcome – the whining stops and the dinner fights end. Don’t forget about the added bonus: You won’t have to figure out dinner each night at the last minute.
When my kids were much younger, I made a family menu chart and let them have a choice in what we had for dinner every night. When they wanted to know what was for dinner, they would go look at the chart. If their favorite recipe was being cooked on Wednesday, they talked about how excited they were for dinner on Wednesday while they ate Monday’s meal. It made life easy, but for some reason – maybe a number of moves, maybe other activities taking priority over menu planning – we stopped using the chart. So this weekend, I decided to recreate it, but just a little prettier.
With a few office supplies you may already have in the house, you can make this menu chart too. The end product will be a chart that has a place for seven days worth of meals and a pocket for extra ideas.
Start with a file folder. You can use ones you already have or purchase printed ones from your local office supply store. I got a pack of six of these from Staples for $3.99. Start with turning the folder inside-out so you can do some measuring and not mark up the pretty side.
Next, take an index card and place it on the file folder length-wise. You are about to measure for pockets for the cards and you want about an inch and a half sticking out, so mark your folder an inch and a half down from the top of the card with a horizontal line and cut. Use scissors, a paper cutter, or an X-acto knife – whatever works for you. Then turn it right side out again.
Next, we want to make seven pockets – one for each day of the week. This folder was 11 1/2 inches wide, so I made each pocket 1 5/8 inches wide. I marked the pockets with a pencil, and then for fun, I sewed the pockets. My sewing skills are not great but my machine was handy, so I used it. Feel free to staple your pockets or use glue dots on each line of separation between each pocket, or run a line of white glue down each line to make the separation. If you use the white glue, you will have to allow for drying time before you insert your menu cards.
Once all of the pockets were made, I sewed a scrap piece on in the corner for the extra menu cards. You could leave this step out and just paper clip your extra cards to the chart. Then, I added the days of the week and the word “MENU” with stickers I had in the house. Again, feel free to keep it simple and write them on with a pen or a marker.
Next, it’s time to make the menu cards. Take the index cards and cut them into one-inch strips length-wise. Add any and all menu ideas you have on to the top of the strip. You can also add the ingredients of a menu item on the card so when you go to write your shopping list, you will know exactly what you need.
And here is the finished product…
Now that you have your menu chart, feel free to use one or two of my recipes on your cards or use your own family favorites. One thing I like to do with my cards is make a card for each of my kids. When the card “E’s choice of recipe” is in the chart, that means that he can pick the dinner – either something that we have had before, or he can find a recipe he would like me to try. If your kids are able, you can even have them prepare the dinner on their night. You can do so many things with this chart. You can write an actual meal on a card, or you can write “Leftovers” or “Take Out” if that’s what works for your schedule. You can even have “sandwich night” and keep it vague, or if you have older kids, you can have a “Fend for yourself” night. Make a plan to change the cards out on the day before you food shop or cook for the week, so that you can plan ahead with your shopping list.
You may have noticed that only the main course is listed on my menu cards. I like to serve seasonal vegetables, so I might serve the GGL cod with yellow squash in the summer and acorn squash in the fall. If you find it easier to pair your meals with a vegetable, then by all means, go right ahead!
If you are anything like me, you struggle with weekly menu planning. I am hoping that by reinstating this chart in my house, it will keep me from running to the market every other day and fretting over what to make before the extra-curricular activities leave us all eating cereal and milk. Oh, that reminds me: Don’t forget a “Breakfast for dinner” card – who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner sometimes? You can make frittatas, omelets, or everyone can have cereal and milk. Let me know what menu cards you make. Maybe we can share some family favorites with each other and all have lots of menu cards in our extras pocket!