Meal Planning

Life is crazy busy. Kids. Sports. Work. School. Politics. Saving the planet. Most days I’m either spinning or completely lost in the fog. I know I am not the only one. Meal times are completely and utterly challenging! I found myself going out to eat far more then necessary because I would look in the cabinets to find there was nothing I could conjure in less time then it would take me to drive to a local spot.  Rather then reach for a box of frozen wastefully wrapped not so healthy “food” I have found my savior on a scratch piece of paper.

I am proud to be a crazy strict meal planner. I have to say this has saved my sanity nearly every night of the week. Those monster mommy moments when I would find myself melting down in the evenings seem to have dissipated. Dinner can still be a moment of challenge but its more of a manner police problem then a what should I make, oh no its not ready and everyone is melting down problem. I have attempted to meal plan in the past but I’ve taken it to a whole new level and let me just tell you, its my saving grace!! I received a planner/grocery list PDF when I purchased a reusable lunchbots  container. This helped me realize that meal planning doesn’t just mean planning out dinners, but more of planning out every single meal. Still this was not enough to motivate me. It was a family vacation in a town with very few edible dining opportunities, that had me planning all of our meals. Having a baby you find that you can’t just wing it. Kids will eat anything but you really can’t expect your 9 month old to sustain on french fries and breast milk. I felt so relaxed all week knowing what each meal held, so when we got home I continued it, and I am happy to say I haven’t gone back. I’m pretty sure I won’t.

meals

Here is my process:

The night before grocery day I sit down and plan every meal my family will consume for the week. EVERY MEAL. Including snacks. I lay out 7 scratch pieces of paper, the day goes at the top, next to it in parenthesis go the activity that is occurring that day i.e. soccer practice, ballet, girls scouts, office day, etc. This helps me know how much time I will have to prep dinner, breakfast, etc. Under the day and activity I divide the paper into meals – Breakfast, Morning Snack (school days only), Lunch, Afternoon Snack, and Dinner. I use Bea Johnson’s Weekly plan as a guide, though I do not stick to a certain day for anything, I need more flexibility then that. However it does help me contemplate what my family is consuming and make sure there is diversity in our diet. I am not that organized in my recipes, though that might change. I find myself making those recipes you find in magazines but never get to, and checking out more books at the library for ideas. I get extremely bored and that is why I was so hesitant about meal planning for so long. Trying new recipes on evenings when I have a little more time gets me excited about what we are eating. After I have planned out our week I write out an extensive grocery list and put the daily lists on the fridge with two magnets. As the day is complete I recycle or compost the list and move on to the next. I can look ahead and prep things the night before if need be. I do find myself prepping or even making dinner earlier in the day to help with those witching hours. The whole “planning” process takes me about an hour to an hour and a half. That is a lot of time, and its hard to think of putting aside that much time on a weekend evening, but IT IS SO SO SO WORTH IT. It might take you less time if you eat more simply then we do. I swear it saves me so much more than that in stress and thought during the week. I do this the night before farmers market so I am ready to get my shop on the next morning. On my way home from market I hit the grocery store for any missing items. Things happen and sometimes I have to adjust my days, but most of the time I stay on track.

Here are my plans for this week:

I have to say this is an unusual week, but it still gives you an idea about my process. My daughter thought it would be fun to make dinner by letter – meaning one day we eat A foods, the next will be B. I love this type of exploration because she is more motivated to eat what is on her plate when its part of a bigger plan. Plus having her help in the kitchen makes it more fun. We have done rainbow meals where each night is a different color, weeks from around the world (French week was wonderful), and my favorite is always when we cook meals inspired by the books we read (Yoko, My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, Peter Rabbit, etc.). 26 days of limited dinners will be interesting but I’m up for the challenge.

Monday

B- Waffles with PB

MS – Sesame Crackers & Cheese

L – Sandwich, Fruit, Veggie

AS – Snack Board

D – Artichokes & Aioli, Avocado & Arugula Salad, Baked Apples

Tuesday (Soccer, Office)

B – Seasonal Muffins

MS – Cheddar Whales

L – Sandwich, Fruit, Veggie

AS – Snack Board

D – Bouillabaisse (slow cooker), Bread & Butter

Wednesday (Girl Scouts)

B – Yogurt, granola, fruit

MS – Apple & Almond Butter

L – Sandwich, Fruit, Veggie

AS – @ girl scouts

D – Chili (veggie) (slowcooker), Carrot & Cucumber Salad

Thursday 

B – boiled eggs, fruit, toast

MS – “trail mix”

L – yogurt, fruit, veggie

AS – snack board

D – Dumplings & Drumsticks, Dino Kale Salad

Friday (Ballet)

B – oatmeal, fruit

MS – celery, almond butter & raisins

L – sandwich, fruit, veggie ( or hot lunch)

AS – snack board

D – Enchiladas (Black Bean & Spinach), Endive Salad

Saturday (Soccer)

B – pancakes, fruit, bacon(?)

L – Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

AS – @ soccer

D – Seasonal Frittata, Frisee Salad, Figs

Sunday (Soccer, Girls Scouts)

B – scrambled eggs, fruit, biscuits

L – salad with left over veggies & quinoa

AS – BAKE!

D – Seasonal Gallette, Garlic Soup, & Grapes

A snack board is a plate with nuts (tamari almonds, macadamia nuts, peanuts, or cashews), cheese (whatever we can get not wrapped in plastic), fruit, veggie, and sometimes a cracker. My daughter comes home from school cranky and ravenous so these have become an important part of our school days. Lunch is hurried in public schools, which isn’t benefitting anyone.

Sandwiches vary sometimes lunch meat is involved, cream cheese and jam or cucumbers, also almond butter and honey fills her lunch. She has friends with nut allergies so our school items are sensitive to their needs. Fruits and veggies are whatever is seasonal and tasty. I tally the number I need rather then limit my shopping list to a type. Shopping primarily at Farmers Market means its possible that something new will be there, or something could sell out. For dinner veggies I try to be sensitive to seasonal items, and give myself as much flexibility as possible for the same reasons as above.

I highlighted some recipes that I am using this week. I haven’t tried most of them so here’s your warning I’m not sure they’re that great. I have gotten several requests to share my meal plans by friends who need some inspiration so there you go, wink wink. If you are looking at this and saying my kids will never eat any of this or you are a short order cook for your family you need to read “french kids eat everything“. Read it, live it. Looking at our daily menus you can see even if she doesn’t like what I am making for dinner, she won’t starve. She does however try everything on her plate without fuss, no exceptions, no buts. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it. (Its a fun quick read I promise)

Overall it takes a bit of time up front, but on the flip side it saves me some serious sanity during the week and not to mention how little food is now being wasted!! That last one is a HUGE reason to start meal planning. I encourage you to jump in, you won’t regret it 🙂

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