Now that I am a month into my new meal plan, I feel like I can share it here with you all. It could still bomb tomorrow and we’d be back to my scrambling to feel my children more variety than beans and rice (and yes, I’d be telling them the whole time that this is what most of the world eats twice a day with NO Cheerios for breakfast) but at least I have one month of success to share with you. It’s a start.
“Hash”– chopped potatoes, sausage, onions, and whatever vegetables are left in the fridge. (Microwave your potatoes first, then saute it all together and serve with cheese and a poached egg.)
I have worked our meal-planning many ways over the years. The easiest was when we got all our produce weekly from a local CSA and I just made a grocery list after I’d washed it all. It was just Sam and I then, and we tried all sorts of new things, and often just roasted what I didn’t know what to do with. It was simple, seasonal, and [to me] delicious. Then we had babies.
Pretty soon, we were eating a rotating schedule of pasta with marinara, beans and rice, pasta with pesto, and take out. Neither balanced nor interesting. Oh, and when my children refused, I let them have PB & J. Until the boys decided they didn’t eat PB. So I was “cooking” a meal for two of us, and making jam sandwiches for the
Dictators children. Ahem.
Last fall, I ran out of steam on meal planning. Dinner was the same ten recipes that at least a majority of people would eat. Everyone else could lump it for that meal, but at least there wasn’t any whining (to my face). Lunch and breakfast were another story.
Everyone gets their own breakfast around here for the most part: I eat oatmeal, Sam eats oatmeal or cereal, and the children eat bagels or scavenge in the pantry. Not elegant, but at least I’m not the one preparing the food. But lunch– oh, Lord have mercy, lunch was a problem. One child likes quesadillas. Two don’t. They’d prefer Ramen seven days a week… except when they don’t. Only one child will eat PB &J. One child likes turkey sandwiches. One won’t eat the bread…
Every day at 11, there were at least three proposals for what to have for lunch. So we’d just eat Ramen. [kidding]
During Christmas break, after sleeping for a week solid while the children played Kinect, I came up with The Plan. I write three meals/day on a blank calendar for January and February. A few of our favorite meals make two appearances for dinner (homemade pizza, noodles & sauce, and Pad See Lew). Otherwise, the dinners are all different. One night of the week is dinner swap, and our friend delivers hot dinner to our house. On swim team nights, I have to make kid-friendly meals, or everyone will throw up in the pool from hunger. One night is my dinner-swap night, so it has to be relatively easy to make a double portion. Saturday night is our Sabbath dinner, and I try to include dessert. On Sunday, I want something super easy for both lunch and dinner (think leftovers for one, and crockpot for the other.) You get the idea.
Pad See Lew with chicken
For breakfasts, I rotated through pancakes, oatmeal, cereal, bagels,muffins and eggs (something for everyone at least once a week), though I haven’t enforced breakfast yet. I may not ever get around to enforcing breakfast.
The lunch plan is the biggest change, and one I’m excited about. I have two week-long plans for crock pot lunches. I put it all in the crock pot before start reading, and at 11:30 or 12, we have hot lunch. The weeks in between we have quesadillas, sandwiches, soup, etc.– favorites that rotate through. At first I thought it was working only because it was novel, but I think the children are in favor. Why?
this is the egg atop the hash
- They can see what’s coming. If today’s lunch is a bust, they know what’s for dinner (and I have tried to alternate new recipes with old favorites) and can look forward to that.
- I have completely headed off the moment when we’re all hungry and nothing is ready.
- I have made lunch a more substantial meal. Previously, most of their calories came at night, but sometimes (even with swimming) it was too much. I think the bigger midday meal is making the afternoon a little smoother.
A happy by-product of this has been that we are eating out less. (I know, it’s only been a month.) The kids are looking forward to lunch– or even if they’re not, I’m still less likely to cave into requests to go out for lunch if it’s already bought and/or cooked at home. This is true especially after church on Sundays, or when we’re in the park or hiking with friends.
The first week, I really had to make myself follow my plan. But I did (full of all that New Year’s Resolution vigor) and immediately realized that my stress had gone down. So 31 days later, here we are.
I am happy to share our actual plan, but your own family favorites (and food adventures) will certainly work better for YOUR family. Here is Kim Brenneman’s posts on lunches for a large family. For our crockpot lunches, I just use any meal that cooks “five hours on high.”