Three-a-Day Meal Plan

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.

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“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.

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Spaghetti pie

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…

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popovers

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.

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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.

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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?

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this is the egg atop the hash

  1. 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.
  2. I have completely headed off the moment when we’re all hungry and nothing is ready.
  3. 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.”

Thoughts?

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13 thoughts on “Three-a-Day Meal Plan

  1. Annie: I have posted our weekly dinner menu on the fridge for many, many years. When we had our first child and second children, we lived in the dorm for 5 years, so my guess is that the menu on the fridge started circa 1998 and it is still going strong. I keep the dinners going even though I have a crazy schedule with activities and events that take me away at dinner time at least twice a week. I either plan a crockpot meal on those nights or make the dinner early in the morning before I leave for work. The kids know what to heat up according to the list.

  2. My hubby, tired of me asking him what he wants for dinner, assembled our favorite recipes, attributed to them a value based on level of preference, and set up a calendar with more preferred recipes occurring more frequently, easier ones on days I get home late etc, and the corresponding shopping list to occur on my calendar on shopping day. That helps us always have enough leftovers for his lunches, which he prefers, encourages variety, and decreases our need to eat out. This hasn’t trickled down to the kids yet for a variety of reason, but someday.

  3. LUNCHES! That is the part I have always struggled with as well. Glad to know my kids aren’t the only ones who won’t eat PB&J. 😉 Thanks for the tips – I’m going to try them right away!

  4. Life got easier for me when Dan gave me the rare earth magnet out of a dead hard drive – I can just keep adding menus to the fridge because they aren’t going to fall off with that sucker holding them up. I stick them on the side of the fridge near the stove, because the frayed edges don’t fall off in the public side, and the ratty appearance doesn’t look ugly to Dan if he can’t see it.

    When I’m good, I write down those meals that were a hit on my seasonal menu list with the page number of where the recipe came from – so I know the next year what we liked at that time. They might sit on the fridge for a few months until I get around to them though.

    Now that I’m turning the kitchen into a gluten free zone – I’m all up the air, eating gluten free junk food because I know it won’t hurt my tummy, but trying to remember that veggies and fruit and whole grains I can eat and lean meat are also gluten free- if only the dried fruits and nuts didn’t make M’s orthodontia feel icky.

    One thing that’s true for us though: If I slice up apples, carrots or cheese, with honey/peanut butter dip or ranch dressing, all of a sudden they become easy to munch on. Funny how long the walk from the crisper drawer to the paring knife and cutting board is. I’d rather throw crackers at the kids, but they are too crunchy for M and either too gluteny or too expensive for me.

    I have baked gluten free crackers – they lasted all of 15 minutes. I guess it’s success, I just can’t seem to accumulate any of them- or eat them all myself!

  5. Oh yeah – lunch is a pain. Dan walks home for it, so when it happens depends on when he’s able to leave the lab – hence the morning snack need to keep the kid from eating the table while they wait for Daddy. I declared that lunch would always be pbj or left overs a few years ago, and that helped simplify things. But even I get bored of that if there are no leftovers. Sometimes it’s yogurt with jam and contraband granola (too hard for M’s orthodontia) with leftovers.

    My big problem is that now that I’m fueling Ben who is taller than me, there are never very many leftovers these days.

  6. “oh, Lord have mercy” That is how I feel each day at lunch time. I have one child who has tons of food allergies {he is actually the easiest to feed}, one who would love to live on pasta alone and one who really does not care for too much at all so usually what I feed him is not well received. I need to get back to meal planning. I was diagnosed with mild Crohn’s disease a year ago and have to admit that I really don’t vary our meals very much at all any more since then. Since I really have to look carefully at what I eat {cut out dairy totally and certain vegies that don’t sit well anymore and not much in the way of red meat} I feel like we eat the same thing each week. *YAWN*

    I was always very good about planning things in advance and really let that slide since then. You’d think it would be the other way around!
    What have you been making in the crockpot for lunches? Love that idea! Thanks for the gentle reminder too 🙂

  7. Ok, so ever since this post, I’ve been planning lunches. I sat down and wrote out two weeks of dinners and two weeks of lunches and took a big shopping trip during the super bowl. It has SAVED my sanity during our move! I plan to repeat the same two week menu over when we are through with it, just to keep it simple for now. No more complaining at lunch! Yay!!! Thank you!!

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