Thank you to Gathered Table for sponsoring this conversation.
It is no secret that I have an off and on relationship with meal planning. I always feel better when I’m doing it, but don’t always sit down to make the time to find recipes. I’ve always needed a better system that more that just scrolling through Pinterest or trying to remember where I saved that recipe that looked good.
So, when Gathered Table invited me to take a look at their menu planning service I said yes, please! I’ve enjoying playing around with their service for a while and discovered that it’s more than just a random selection of recipes every month. Your menu is 100% customizable giving you the chance to add in your own recipes, select dietary restrictions or preferences, or just take the week’s menu and run with it.
Of course Gathered Table provides a grocery list and a handy list of pantry staples which is really helpful for someone like me who never seems to have the right spices on hand. Best of all they have an app which easily syncs with the desktop version so you can access your menus and grocery lists on the go!
We’re big fans of cooking at home – we dine out as a family about once a month, so we needs lots of dinner inspiration! Along the way I’ve learned a bit about what it takes to be successful with menu planning.
Keep it Simple
Or don’t! Really your menu planning should match your personal style. If you’re not the type to regularly make meals that incorporate lots of steps, don’t add these sorts of meals to your plan. Often our menus include some sort of steamed frozen vegetable rather than any sort of fancy side. (Even Gathered Table gets this, including cheeky recipes like one for defrosted frozen peas. Virtuous green vegetable feelings included!)
Take a look at your week. Are you really going to cook full meals five times per week? Our menu plans often include plans for breakfast for dinner, the occasional takeout pizza, and – of course – leftovers! Usually we don’t repeat a full meal exactly but put together a few things hanging out in the refrigerator for a slightly different meal. Gathered Table has options for repurposing leftovers so you never even have to say the word “leftover,” a word that has my kids’ noses wrinkling before they even know what will be on their plates.
I get that this kind of flies in the face of what I said above, but some of my greatest kitchen successes have come from trying something slightly outside of our comfort zone. Worst case scenario you pour everyone a bowl of cereal and call that a lesson learned. Best case scenario you have a new go to recipe that everyone loves. For maximum success, I would bookend a recipe like this with one of your family’s tried and true favorites.
I mean, duh, right? Make a plan, write it down, and stick to it. Even if your plan is “reheat something from the freezer,” write that down and stop the dread that accompanies the 5:00pm question of “What’s for dinner?”
I like to keep a list of our families favorite recipes and go to meals (and Gathered Table has an easy tool for importing recipes from websites or adding your own) and pepper these with new recipes or slightly different takes on some old favorites.
Make a list
Look, maybe you have a mind like a steel trap but I often call my children by the dog’s name so I can’t be trusted to shop without a list. Once again, Gathered Table has you covered – your list will be in the app and it will combine ingredients you can use across recipes so that you’re not wasting half an onion.