Menu Plans


If you make the piecrust ahead and keep it in the freezer, dessert doesn’t take long.

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley – Robert Burns
I suspect Jean Armour, wife of the poet, would have added that men don’t have a clue when it comes to menu plans. I am a planner – I like to make lists, cross things off and try to stay organized so I can get things done. This last is not always an easy task. Interruptions are the norm around here, whether it’s a hubby-originated “come help me with this mechanical-whatever,” a bear wandering into the front yard, a herd of cows come to visit, a kid pelting in to ask “do you know where my *** is?” or a cat squabble to break up before major damage occurs. However, there is one thing I don’t try to plan – menus.

Ratatouille – good hot or – should dinner be delayed – good at room temperature.

The concept of a menu plan sounds great. It’s supposed to help decrease costs by allowing you to buy on sale, cut waste because everything gets used and make sure your food intake has some semblance of nutritional balance. However, menu planning makes some basic assumptions, which I have found to be untrue in my situation.

Fast food: home-grown ranch eggs, poached in raw milk, with diced home-grown bacon as garnish. Total time, 10 minutes.

Assumption #1 – you buy most of your food at the grocery and go shopping once a week. You peruse the food ads in the local paper or online and plan your week’s eating around what’s fresh and on sale. What about what’s in the freezer? What about what’s getting ripe in the garden? What about buying staples in bulk? What about your home-canned foods that should be rotated and used to make room for next year’s canned foods?
Assumption #2 – leftovers are minimal. Maybe if you have a family in which no one ever says, “I’m not really hungry,” or “I don’t like broccoli.” Maybe if your rib eye steaks don’t come from older cows, which means they often weigh close to two pounds. Maybe if you always cook for the same number of people. Maybe if you don’t want to have some leftovers to take for lunch at work the next day.
Assumption #3 – no one will be late, there will be no interruptions and you’ll all sit down to dinner at the same time, so something like a souffle won’t go flat.

Making applesauce with a food mill for freezer storage.

Garden to dinner plate!

My menu planning consists of a quick check the day before – what’s ripe; what’s leftover that I can incorporate into another meal; what do I need to take out of the freezer or put to soak (like beans or grain) or rotate off the pantry shelf; what time will I be getting home from work/what projects do we have on the to-do list? All of these factors are fluid and change without notice. A two-year-old kid comes into the clinic with febrile seizures and has to be shipped to the hospital – no time for meatloaf, it’s hamburgers instead. You go to do the irrigating and the stud has gone to visit the mares because Someone-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless (not me!) forgot to put the chain on the gate. The birds have gotten under the netting and stripped the strawberries or cherries – guess it’s applesauce or canned peaches for dessert.
So, menu planning doesn’t work around here. What does work? Staying flexible (bacon and eggs work just as well for dinner as for breakfast), stocking the freezer with leftovers and things like soup that can be quickly reheated, and keeping your sense of humor.

I figure if you’re going to make soup, make a BIG pot!

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