The Five Day Menu – One Pandemic Habit That We’re Keeping

One of the lifestyle changes that we made during Covid was the Five Day Menu.

My old way of making meals was to wing it. I would come up with a plan later in the day, run off to the supermarket to get stuff, and then cook it. It wasn’t very efficient. Because everything happened last minute, if something went wrong, we would end up at the local pub getting burgers and beers.

When the pandemic hit, I had to think ahead to avoid the supermarket. We stopped going to restaurants and friends’ houses for dinner. The boys and the husband were home all the time. So, I had to shop in bulk, cook in bulk, and have menus.

We’ve largely kept the system with some modifications for normality. We have home cooked food five days a week. By bulk cooking and prepping on Sunday and Wednesday, I don’t necessarily need to do a huge meal every night. I plan everything out on a little bit of paper under a magnet on the fridge.

Cooking is mandatory in my house. My men eat TONS of food. A month of take out or restaurant food would easily cost us $2,000. When we stopped cooking every day, Steve and I instantly gained five pounds. But we’ve decided that five days of cooking is enough; we love pubs too much to stay home every night.

This week’s menu:

  • Sunday: Steve did ribs and chicken thighs on the grill, because ribs were on sale. We cooked enough for at least two days of food for us, my parents, my sister, and a girlfriend.. I made mashed potatoes and sautéed broccoli rabe. I chopped up three days worth of carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and scallions to put in three days of salads.
  • Monday: we had leftovers. I made quinoa, too.
  • Today: Last night, we set up the InstaPot to cook up dry black beans to be ready by 4 today. I’ll put rice in the rice maker. I’ll sauté the beans with spices and and onion. Rice, beans, and cheese. Salad. Leftover meat for the hungriest. Everything has to be done by 6:00, because I have to drive Ian to the reading tutor.
  • Wednesday: Bean quesadilla and potato-leek soup. The leeks are already cleaned, sliced, and frozen, so I just need to chop up some potatoes and carrots.
  • Thursday: Salmon on a sheet pan. If there’s not enough leftover soup or beans, I’ll make a box of couscous.
  • Then Friday and Saturday are random. This Friday, I’m going out with the autism moms. Saturday night is still a question mark. Sunday morning is brunch.

This year, I’m recommitting to the Five Day Menu. It worked for us on so many levels.


7 thoughts on “The Five Day Menu – One Pandemic Habit That We’re Keeping

  1. I like to have a list of dinners for the week but not commit to days. Somehow that’s less pressure. My son is young so there’s usually pizza or chicken nuggets one day each week.

    We used to do Blue Apron because I hate coming up with dinner ideas but they’ve gotten boring.


  2. Ha! For the last fortnight I’ve taken a holiday from cooking – and we’ve been eating ready-meals from an up-market supermarket (whatever they have on special when I go in). [OK, I have made bolognese sauce with pasta – to use up the mince and tomato juice which needed to be either cooked or thrown out]
    This is my holiday off work – and I’m over cooking for an ungrateful teen who complains about everything I make.
    In my opinion – they are nothing like as good as the meals I make – but he hasn’t complained once…. [sigh]

    Once we’re back to real life, I’m working on reducing the volume of ‘stuff’ in the freezer and pantry. So I’ll check to see what I have, and then create a meal around those ingredients (with maybe a few extras from the local vege shop).
    Sometimes it depends on just how much energy I have when I get home…..


  3. I have been doing weekly menus for 40 years (yes, since I was a college student). Originally to save time and money, and now because it makes life easier.


    1. I am a terrible planner at least partially because i can never tell what I will want to eat.

      I am proud to report that my college kiddo is hopefully following in your footsteps and not my misprints and has a five day meal plan. I hope she can keep it up for as long.


  4. My mom did a variation on this but it was a 7 day plan because people just didn’t eat out much in the 70s. We did a 5 day plan for many years but have gotten lazy lately. I’m grateful to my mom for teaching me how to do this. Of course two middle aged women eat less than teenagers, as my sister with her athletic girls always complains to me.


  5. I’ve meal planned for 30 years now – since I started working! Only way to have a (somewhat) relaxed evening after work. The plans were very detailed when the kids were in school and had specific needs – breakfast/lunch/snack/dinner every day – with just us and now that the kids are adults, it’s just general plans – I make a good number of dishes over the weekend, and that lasts us through Thursday usually. I have developed a health condition that eating out exacerbates, so I try to restrict my eating out to once a month now, which frees up the others to get food on Fridays from wherever they please!


  6. I meal plan too, and I read the flyers first (a habit instilled also from my youth) so that if beets are on sale, the menu features beets, and so on. It makes a huge difference in how our family eats. For a while I had an 8-week rotating menu with all the daily steps written out in Google Sheets, and that got me through all the preschool years.

    My parents are also kind of hoarders and we had a few weird times around food when I was growing up. Pre-pandemic I was finally coming to terms with feeling like it would be okay to only have 4 cans of diced tomatoes or tuna in the cupboard rather than like, 8 or 10. The pandemic threw me off my game & it’s only been in the last couple of months that I have started to not have completely full cupboards and deep freeze again – and by full I mean 15kg of chickpeas etc. On the plus side, inflation has been mitigated by my massive stores. Not sure yet whether I want to go back to trying to spend less time rotating bags of frozen cherries in my deep freeze or give up and be The Full Appliance and Pantry Person forever.

    In my defense, I had bought a few bottles of children’s Tylenol and Advil just to have around, and in the local shortage of it I was able to give a bottle to a mum with 3 kids under 4 who is pregnant with twins (!!!) who really, really needed her kids to get some sleep despite a fever.

    I’ll probably have slightly ridiculous amounts of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, masks & pain killers forever. I told my kids they can explain it to my kids the way my parents explained the Depression to me to shed insight into why my grandmother had a drawer of ‘clean used’ foil and a drawer of ‘clean used pipe cleaners’ and a half a drawer of those flat plastic bread clips…


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