I've had a few people ask me why I menu plan and if I cook for the week in advance. I'll answer the second question in a later post.
I started menu planning after I found out about my son's gluten and dairy intolerance. Suddenly, many of the meals I had previously cooked as simple, go to dishes were off limits. I also had to start bringing my son's lunches to the daycare because despite their best intentions, he was being cross-contaminated there more than once a week. I found myself making the same few dishes over and over again. It didn't take long for me to get tired of eating the same meals all the time.
When we finally figured out what was making my son so sick all the time I was incredibly relieved. Knowing that I could make him healthy again by simply avoiding certain foods was a blessing. I knew that it would mean a lifetime of avoiding some of the foods that most people don't think twice about, and that social situations would be tricky. I swore that I would create an environment and a lifestyle for him that simply made avoiding gluten and dairy a virtual non-issue whenever possible, and that we would deal with tricky situations as they came up.
So, I started brainstorming meals for the week. Initially I was working my dinner menu around the daycare lunch menu so that I could send him to daycare with the same things the other kids were eating. I no longer follow that as carefully now because I've pretty much memorized the daycare menu and I batch cooked and froze a few things to make my life easier when it comes to his lunches. I don't always send him what the other kids are eating, but it's usually something pretty similar.
Ultimately though, the biggest reason I went to menu planning was for the budget. Specialty gluten free foods aren't cheap, and they're like any processed food- generally not as healthy for you as fresh, homemade meals made from healthy ingredients. So in an effort to cut back on my grocery bill, expand my gluten free recipe list and feed my son a variety of foods, I put pen to paper the day before grocery shopping and create a menu plan.
I haven't looked back. I don't always stick to the meals according to the days that I've allocated them in, but I always know what there is to choose from. Most of the time there are enough leftovers to pack for lunch the next day, taking care of another common dilemma in one shot. I'm not always the most organized person, but taking the time to menu plan has made a huge difference and has taken a lot of stress from my shoulders.
I post my menu plan here each week on either Sunday or Monday if you're looking for a little inspiration. I plan on eventually including some of the recipes with photos as well. Maybe someday I'll post the recipes for every day of the week. Baby steps!