I am a huge fan of menu planning. I truly believe that planning a weekly menu is the best way for us to keep our food budget under control. For a long time I posted our menu each week which helped even more with the accountability of sticking to the plan. In my mind if the menu was typed out and made public – it was a done deal. I stopped posting menu plans but still wrote them up each week in a word document or sometimes on a piece of paper.
Last winter when we were down in Oklahoma with my folks the menu plan was a huge help. We moved up to our cabin in March and the first few weeks I kept with menu planning — and even went back to sharing on the blog.
Then it became evident that menu planning really wasn’t working out too well in our off-grid unfinished kitchen.
The problem with menu planning became I wouldn’t know what method of cooking I could use from one day to the next.
I can’t really plan to bake thing since don’t have a regular oven. We do have a Sun Oven that works wonderfully but the conditions have to be right to use it. Not only does there need to be sunshine it needs to be a wind free day. Too much wind and the solar collectors begin to look like kites.
I do have an Instant Pot which is wonderful for pressure cooking, slow cooking, sauteing and I can even do some baking in it (Click here to get a free sourdough cornbread recipe from my affiliate partner Traditional Cooking School, This post may contain additional affiliate links) but I can only use the Instant Pot on sunshine days because of the draw on our solar system.
We have a rocket stove which is great for quick cooking meals as long as there isn’t too much wind or rain. And a barbecue grill plus a fire pit we use, weather permitting.
You see where I’m going with this? Our meals have become quite weather dependent! I can always use our little camp stove to cook up a quick something but the kinds of things we were used too — roasts, pots of beans and such I couldn’t plan ahead for.
Now instead of putting a menu together at the beginning of the week, I loosely plan what might work based on the weather forecast. Then instead of cooking a meal each day I usually do very basic batch cooking. If we have a super sunshine day I’ll cook up several things in the Instant Pot. Or a sunshine/no wind day I’ll use the Sun Oven. We’ve even use the fire pit to cook the most delicious chickens that carried us over for several meals.
This is working well but there is a balancing act to batch cooking too. While we have a full size chest freezer our refrigerator is a small dorm size to cut down on drawing too much power. Sometimes I have to enlist a small cooler to hold my creations. I’m also putting dishes in the freezer for days when we can’t do much more that heat things up using the little camp stove. We also keep very simple to prep dishes on hand for those days. These emergency meals have been wonderful.
I’ll admit, I’m not liking this as much as my put together menu plan and it’s sometimes stressful for me to not know exactly what I’ll be preparing. That said, it’s definitely been a growing experience. And I’ve very much loved learning how to use my Sun Oven and Instant Pot to their full advantage.
Soon it the weather we’ll turn and we’ll have a wood stove going most of the time which we’ll enlist for cooking. I envision lots of soups and pots of beans over the winter. Eventually our finished kitchen will have a regular cooking range then I suspect I’ll return to menu planning as I’ve known and loved it for years. 😉
Do you menu plan? Why or why not?
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