• How in the world do I feed dinner to my family every single day? and other thoughts

    Date: 2011.03.07 | Category: meal plan | Tags: ,,,,,,

    If you’re like me (or at least the old me!) every day about dinner time you go into a panic realizing that you don’t have a plan and the natives are getting restless.  Not too long ago I decided to get proactive about our meals.  While I’ve always kept a go to, quick to prepare, I always have the ingredients on hand list of favorites posted inside the cupboard, that just wasn’t cutting it anymore.  So I added a new calendar to my google calendar creatively titled… get this… dinner.

    Once every week or two I clip the coupons that magically appear in our driveway every Sunday (I was throwing these away for years!) and purge the file of expired coupons.  Then I peruse the cupboards and freezer to see what I have available or I’m tired of moving to get to something else.  Then I brainstorm our dinners for the next few weeks.  I usually add one or two new meals, rotate through 4 or 5 favorites, and add in 4 or 5 ones that we like but haven’t had for a while.  I try to keep in mind what each day’s schedule looks like.  Wednesdays are always crock pot since that’s my work day.  Mondays and Thursdays are always low prep or make ahead since I am babysitting.  Sometimes I’ll look back over the past few months to see what meals I’ve forgotten about.  Sometimes I’ll bust out the recipe box or a cookbook to see what strikes me.  I usually ask my husband for ideas, but he’s so easy to please he usually says “whatever”.  Not so helpful, but at least it doesn’t leave him much room to complain about what we’re eating- and he never does.  My husbands one request is that we always have left overs on hand for his lunch the next day.  This means I need to plan our dinners around his lunch needs.  Some meals are consumed entirely while others provide plenty of leftovers and I try to alternate these dinners throughout the week so we aren’t wasting food and so that he’s not tempted to run out to Chick-Fil-A.

    Once I’ve put my plan together I pull all of the recipes that I’ll need in the coming weeks and use my super de dooper shopping list app to add any ingredients to the running shopping list.  (I LOVE this app by the way- I use it to keep our list going when I use up an ingredient or realize we need something AND it syncs to Chris’ phone so if either of us is ever going to the store we can easily check the list and pick up any needed items!  I can also add my “buy me” price to keep track of how much I’m willing to pay for an item or as a reminder of what a good sale price is.  Plus if there is something the store is out of stock of or if I don’t like the price the item stays on the list until I remove it- no need to transfer it to the new list!  LOVE!  It’s called… wait for it… shopping lists.  You can add several different stores too- I keep a Costco list, a dollar store list, and a Target list going as well.)

    Then I’m off to the store.  I know every family is different, but I greatly prefer to shop alone.  I like to meander the aisles and my coupon file at my leisure.  I would rather go at 8:30 on a Sunday night in the rain (like I did last night!) than take the kids.  But that’s just me.  I try to always compare the unit price and I check out the clearance section of the store for great deals.  (I don’t know if all stores have this, but mine has a section in the back filled with day old bread, products with out of date packaging, leftovers from the holiday aisle, etc.)  Sometimes I’ve found great products in the clearance section for half off or more, plus I have a coupon.  Woo hoo!  I also try to read all the labels for nutrition facts- particularly watching for whole grains and ingredients that I can pronounce.

    Now it’s time to actually cook dinner.  I usually check the calendar before bed each night (or sometimes while prepping dinner) to see what meat I need to defrost for dinner the next night.  I usually cook 5 pounds or so of chicken or ground beef at a time- so most days I can just pull a pound of already cooked frozen meat out of the freezer to thaw.  If it’s time to make another big batch I like to put the meat in the crock pot during breakfast so that I can separate it into one pound bags during nap time.  Sometimes I’ll do the ground beef in the stock pot on the stove depending on time.

    During lunch or nap time is usually when I prep most of dinner.  If it’s a casserole or a meal that will sit for a few hours I try to cook and assemble as much as possible.  It’s so much easier to throw an already prepared dinner into the oven at 5 o’clock than trying to cut up raw chicken and read a recipe with kids underfoot!

    So there you have it.  This is how I feed my family.  I know that some people also meal plan breakfast and lunch, but I’m not quite there yet.  Although I have been toying with the idea of improving my breakfast rotation.  I think I’m going to start posting my meal plan for the week here regularly and add more recipes too.  Not that I’m a chef by any means.  In fact I’m the opposite- my meals are simple and tend to be hearty rather than high brow.  But so are most of my friends… 🙂