Isn't this every mother's bugaboo? Homeschool mom, working mom, volunteer mom, older mom, younger mom we all need to get the food on the table at regular intervals during the day. It's exhausting. Not only the cooking but the planning and shopping.
Now is the time of year that many of us moms kind of re-evaluate how things worked in the last school year in preparation of the upcoming school year. Even those who homeschool year round often take a break in the summer and use that break to refresh and re-plan. I am no different and part of the process is to figure out how better to feed my family.
My regular readers know that I have been slowly changing the way my family eats in terms of trying to eliminate chemicals and sugars from our diet. This is an ongoing process and it is one that I generally enjoy. The big change has been having to bake and cook from scratch so much more and finding time to do that in the mad rush of soccer practices, track meets, play rehearsals and dance classes was challenging and sometimes downright impossible.
There are only so many hours in a day and while I'm all for being prepared it seems that life has gone seriously awry when you seriously consider starting dinner at 5:45 in the morning because there is just no other time in the day to get it going.
Menu planning could help this. Seriously. And I know that but somehow it is one of those things I am not very consistent about doing. Can you explain that? I mean why stop doing something that works? Sheesh.
A few years ago my dear friend Alice mentioned she has used the book Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely with great success. I can't find a post about it on her blog so it might have been an actual real life conversation (imagine that!). I bought the book and have myself used it with great success. There are some excellent recipes and all come with a shopping list as well as suggestions for side dishes. Even if you don't own the book the exercise of making a list of dinners and creating a shopping list from that list is like buying yourself several free hours and a lot of piece of mind every evening. I know this because I am one of those women who has been seen at 6:00 p.m. with a package of frozen chicken cutlets stuck in each armpit running around the kitchen trying to quick thaw. This usually ends up with my spending some cash on a pizza or chicken delivery and kicking myself for feeding the kids food that I know in my heart of hearts is not really good for them. If this happened only once in a while I would feel no guilt but it has a habit of happening frequently in our crazy springtime schedule madness time.
I can't be the only one.
Please tell me I am not the only one.
So now I am trying to devise a simple schedule of meals that will allow me to change plans if I need to but also allow me to be prepared. Flexible. That's what I need.
I should mention that I have also done the bulk cooking thing and I liked that too. Chris, our friend Theresa and I spent an entire day a few years ago cooking up a storm. As a matter of fact I was pregnant with the twins to give you an idea how long ago that was (they will be four next month). It was an arduous day but also a lot of fun. We managed to spend not too much money and come away with a lot of meals for each home. I think we need to pick a date and do that again ladies.
So over the next few days I want to share my meal planning process. I will do breakfast, lunch, dinner and healthy snacks. I may break it up into a few posts so it is not too much at once. Then we can move on to homekeeping.
Are you with me? Good. Because I want to hear all of your good ideas along the way. Share and suggest because I am a dope when it comes to this stuff so knowing what works for people might just help me and who knows who else out.
Blessings to your day.
Jennifer Gregory Miller says
I have no good ideas. I have a bare bones rotating meals not put to paper and I come up dry and bored all.the.time. I’m limited by our food allergies and what the boys will eat. I know what you will do will be fabulous.
I’ve heard that a 3 week rotation is a good system, although I think I only have 2 weeks, and these change up for seasonal cooking.
Christine M says
Menu planning drives me crazy, but I think I finally got a handle on it. I made a list of the different meals we eat and like on a regular and seasonal basis – and put them on index cards. I have probably 20 cards.
Then when I go to plan the menu for the week, I use the cards for ideas (I can also branch out and check out other recipes if I have time).
I plan the menu for the week (taking into account things like weather and evening activities) and make my shopping list accordingly.
I find it helps – a lot!
Barb Szyszkiewicz, sfo says
Sometimes I get the kids involved–mine are 8 to 18. So they can help figure out what will be good to serve. I like to bring an index card and pen to the dinner table and just ask what everyone would like to eat in the coming week. They think of some things I might not have–and I get a list of ideas. I try to plug them in as possible.
I always serve spaghetti on Thursdays since that is Boy/Cub Scout night and spaghetti is quick to get on the table.
Friday is something meatless.
And I know what it’s like to have crazy afternoons/evenings! On not-so-crazy days, it’s good to make some “planned leftover” kind of food, so you can do a quick meal on the crazy days.
Here are some recipes I use with leftovers:
Life happens and no matter how well I have meals planned out, something will come up and through me off my schedule. If that happens, Friday suppers become fried egg sandwich night. So easy and good for you! If any other time during the week, I always have tortilla shells in the freeze and few extra pounds of hamgurger. This makes one of my family’s favorites, tacos. Both ideas are fast and easy!
Menu planning does make life so much easier but like you I often don’t do it. I must say my little Maria has really made her presence known so I have not been able to keep many routines. WHEN I do menu planning I like to make the menu for the week and do all the shopping in one day. It’s so much easier when all I have to do is take the meat out of the freezer to defrost and everything else is in the house.
I tried Saving Dinner and loved it, but unfortunately my kids didn’t care for the meals.
I wound up bringing it to last year’s book swap.
Hope to see you soon!
I teach classes on menu planning. You can find some ideas on my blog.
Meal planning will save your sanity as well as your money!
MaryEllen, I meant to come back yesterday and comment and forgot, lol! Since we moved into our new place I have resurrected my very worn copy of Saving Dinner, and like you I was inspired by Alice’s original posting. It is really a time saver for me at the grocery store and even though I don’t do all the week’s meals, or in the order that they are listed I know that I have everything in the fridge and pantry to make each of the meals when I want. I can pick and choose which nights will be for which meal depending on how busy we are. I can also get a jump start and cook it earlier in the day cause I already have everything 🙂 I have also tried to branch out and menu plan with my own cookbooks of our favorites, but the Saving Dinner lists are just SO easy and my family actually EATS these meals, especially when I add in the things they like to certain recipes, like more garlic or fresh ingredients rather than dried or packaged. The other thing we have been doing is Organic fruits and vegetables delivered each week, in fact I think we’re going to move up to two bins/week cause we’re eating so much more in the way of fruits and veggies and I go nuts if we don’t have salad makings on hand. I want my kids to reach for a piece of fruit or veggies for snacking and have stopped buying any kind of packaged snack items unless it’s for special, but our way of thinking has changed so much about what we are eating and feeding our kids that it isn’t even special anymore to have a bag of chips, it’s just giving them cr*p! (pardon the french 🙂
We are now on a quest to locate an organic farmer who we can buy meat from and have discovered a true love for more whole grains in all our baked goods, etc. I also add ground organic flax meal and organic wheat germ to all our smoothies, pancakes or waffles, etc.
I can’t wait to read your breakfast post and sorry this is like a dissertation 😉 Love,
I know what you mean about trying to make healthier choices without spending all day in the kitchen. We have been reading Nourishing Traditions over here. I plan a weekly menu with 6 meals and go shopping. Then I make them according to how busy I will be each day. The other thing I have been working into our menu is flax seed. A recent study showed that diets high in omega-3’s seemed to lessen the risk of SUDEP. Three months ago, our 5 yr. old started meds for seizures after suffering her third seizure. Good luck on the menu planning!
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