How to Create your own Autumn Go-to Meals Menu
Did you know everyone has a list of autumn go-to meals? It’s true. You might not realize it but you have a meal plan listed inside your head.
When four or five o’clock rolls around and your brain goes into overtime, there is a list that our brain naturally goes to in order to get dinner on the table. If I’m having an especially good day I tend to give myself bonus points for adding “healthy” to the menu too! Generally this list is about eight meals long and for the sake of this post, I’m focusing on dinners.
Learn from Mom
I can think of almost every dinner from my mom’s “meal list.” She still doesn’t think of herself as a good cook, but that is far from the truth. I remember MANY from-scratch meals: chicken noodle soup on rainy days. Lasagna, complete with the grocery store french bread and salad. Comfort foods like homemade split pea soup and homemade mac and cheese. She even had a few pantry items like cans of chili (she’d always put toast in the bottom of the bowl-yum!). At four o’clock her Betty Crocker cookbook would come out and she’d flip through the pages for inspiration.
My mom was an amazing cook and, although she didn’t make every meal under the sun, she taught me a gem: to pick what you want and practice it over and over.
If I asked my mom to make something like a chicken pot pie, she’d probably look at me with a blank stare. That is not her specialty. Her specialty is what she’s practiced for years and years.
Like my mom, I’m not always looking to try out a new recipe. I want something familiar. I want something I’ve committed to learning, failing at and making over again.
What is a Go-To-Meals Menu?
A go-to-meals menu tends to contain these three Characteristics:
- Little mental energy to create
I hope to add in “healthy” to that list but the quick, easy and familiar meals come first!
In order to figure out your go-to menu, all you have to do is ponder where your thoughts go when planning dinner.
Do they automatically think of the spaghetti in the pantry? The corndogs in the freezer?
These things you tend to think of first will be your go-to meals. Your brain and grocery shopping will gravitate around items from this list.
Autumn Go-to Meals
What about for fall?
Fall meals are very different than summer meals because although the seasons are close, the cooking methods are opposite.
- Autumn meals will be warm, often use ovens or have more protein/ fat than summer meals.
- Fall meals will use Autumn produce such as winter squash (or summer squash in early fall), carrots, potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes and pumpkin.
- There will be more bread in the meals such as pie crusts, biscuits, breaded chicken or simply fresh bread.
- Other flavors include warm spices like cinnamon and comforting herbs like rosemary or sage.
Chances are, your actual go-to menu isn’t at all what you’d like it to be. I say that because, so often, my own isn’t.
Assessing your current Go-To Meals
I often find myself going to just one or two specific meals like spaghetti or tacos. During stressful seasons this is just fine, but if you’re like me you eventually want variety in your meals. You want them to “feel” easy and yet taste like you slaved for hours.
In addition, busy days make it so much easier to just pull out a freezer meal. Again, this is totally fine if that is the meal that you like and want to fall back on. It’s helpful to at least have a couple of no-brainer meals on hand! For myself, it’s important to know I have something easy to prepare in case all else fails.
When assessing your current go-to meals, think about what you’ve been eating for the past couple weeks. What do you make when you’ve got a busy day planned or simply run out of time?
Your list might look something like this:
- frozen pizza
- frozen lasagna
- chicken and veggies
- pot stickers with a veggie
Now that you’ve gotten an idea of what you go to, it’s time to decide what you want to keep and what needs to be forgotten.
Our brains can only hold so much, so adding more ideas doesn’t work: This is why those 200 recipes you’ve pinned on Pinterest often go unused. It’s too much input to remember.
Narrow down what you’d rather not be falling on for those quick dinners and take it OFF the list. If you’re done depending on frozen pizza this season, it’s time to take it out and exchange it for some other autumn flair. Now for the fun part…
How to Make a New Autumn Go-to Menu
Get your paper and pencil. Yes, you will need to write this down because when you start something new it will take a long time to make it routine. Until it becomes second nature, you’ll need notes. It’s very helpful to tape them up somewhere like inside a cupboard that you open often.
This is where pinterest is great. If you have a board of recipes, chances are you’ve tried very few of them BUT they also give a clue into what you like and the types of things you eat. You can also look through any cookbooks or recipe cards you use.
Here We Go
FIRST. These meals will be your practice meals. Remember the 50 years of practice your Grandma Mildred did to learn her stupendous Pie recipe. It’s your turn to practice. Pick a couple meals you feel your family might like for fall. Soups are great and skillet or pan dinners are good too. Consider adding autumn flavors that we talked about earlier. ONLY pick a couple. Otherwise you’ll get overwhelmed.
For my family, this category includes our chicken soup and biscuits that I’ve been working to perfect (They LOVE this meal). Mine is adapted from this recipe if you’re curious.
NEXT. think about a couple of meals that you can’t leave because they’re SO simple. For me, these are tacos, rice bowls or just a plain meat and a veggie dinner. Remember your autumn veggies! While freezer meals are great, I tend to NOT put these on my go to list.
LAST. Fill in about three to four more meals that you gravitate toward. After making your list you should have around eight meal ideas. Here’s what my list looks like for the season:
What About Other Meals?
If you want to try your hand at a new meal go for it. Some pumpkin soup for Saturday night or a roast on Sunday could be a fun venture but remember those ventures are just that: ventures.
Use your Go-To Meal List for the meals that are easiest and you eat the most.
This list will change as the seasons do and will help you build up those cooking skills as the years go by. You don’t have to be good at everything, but having a few mastered meals for your family can make your role at home so much more enjoyable.
Best wishes for some cozy Autumn suppers!
Need more inspiration?
- Want to stack up on some from scratch freezer meals? Have a freezer meal party!
- Check out the Homemaking Devotional for encouragement on making your house a place to love
- Our favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe using our favorite nutrition packed flour
From the hilltop,