The problem with meal planning?
We’ve all heard the recommendation to create a one week meal plan and have a routine for your meals, but eating the same thing every single week sounds beyond boring to me. Meatloaf Monday, Taco Tuesday… and figuring out 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, AND 7 dinners everyone in the family will eat?
Shoot me now.
I really don’t want to come up with 21 different meals and have everyone else will fuss that they “don’t like anything.”
The solution to the boring aspect is simple: make it a two week (or longer) rotation. Of course, that makes the second problem (a lot of work for Mom) even worse. So how to create a meal plan – something most of us know we should do – with minimal pain, and that has a solid chance of being stuck with, not having everyone fuss that they hate it all?
Involve the whole family, not just Mom. If you have two kids, one Mom, and one Dad, then you each need to come up with three days of meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack – that there is a reasonable chance everyone will eat. Three days does not feel over-whelming.
Those three meals times four people means we have 12 days with minimal work for any one person (Mom). That’s almost two weeks, and there should be enough leftovers to take care of the other days. Since everyone is involved, we all have meals we like, so there will be less grumbling. (It’ll probably never be none with kids, but less is good.)
Where to find recipes?
If you are like most families, you have a big stack of rarely-used cookbooks. Pull them out and find some new favorites. Assuming you have, or can borrow or buy, kids cookbooks, even very little kids can help with meal planning, as long as they can either read or choose something based on the photos.
Pinterest, of course. If you can’t find something that looks yummy on Pinterest, then…well, I can’t even imagine what could cause that to happen. Doing a search on a specific ingredient or preparation, like “Zoodles” (zucchini noodles) can help you narrow down your choices.
Survival Mom has great recipe boards for main dishes, some great salads, potato recipes, gluten-free, and loads of desserts, including just-chocolate! Lunches for kids and breakfast recipes are also there.
If you create your own Pinterest boards with the categories of recipes you use most often, you’ll be one step ahead of the game!
If you’re on Facebook, you probably see yummy recipes pop up now and again on your FB newsfeed. Grab them and print them out next time, then swap out a recipe you are tired of (or that wasn’t as good as you thought) for that new one. Or, add them to your recipe Pinterest boards.
There are entire blogs related to healthier eating, specific dietary restrictions, cooking in general…. But you run the extreme risk of getting overwhelmed if you just do a Google search on something generic like “chicken recipe”. “Chicken pot pie”, “chicken teriyaki” or “chicken nuggets” will all get more manageable numbers of results. Or, better yet, do a search on Pinterest instead and you’ll be able to see what each recipe looks like before you click on it.
Remember to tab the page or index card where you found the recipes so you can get to them quickly when needed, or print out the recipe if its online.
The Food Pyramid
The food pyramid is what we all grew up with, and it’s history. The current version looks like a plate with the portions on it: Choose My Plate. Honestly, I think it’s more intuitive, but if you try talking to your kids about remembering the “food pyramid” when you are all working on meal planning, they either won’t get the reference or will think of a modified one (vertical stripes, not horizontal) used for a few years starting in 2005.
My family’s diet is terrible when it comes to fruits and vegetables. That’s the simple truth. Getting to where we should be in one swoop would be traumatic for all of us. The goal will be to eat some fruits and/or vegetables every day, not the full recommended amount. Then, over time, we’ll try to improve it. Wherever your family is on their path to eating right, remember that it is a journey and you can’t get there in one fell swoop.
One way to start incorporating more veggies in your family’s meals is to hide them. Examples?
The ground rules I gave my kids were that they had to choose things they didn’t already normally eat. Yes, they will undoubtedly still have grilled cheese and mac and cheese, but I want them to find new meals they like. That’s kind of the point. I didn’t go so far as to ask them to include vegetables, although I will the next time we go through and find new recipes. One step at a time.
I’ve had the boys do a one-day meal plan before as part of earning Scouting patches and I know it has helped get them more involved in cooking. Hopefully getting them to do multi-day meal planning will multiply that positive effect!
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