Mom, What’s For Dinner? Is Meal Planning Really Gonna Be the Answer?

Dinner on a Deadline – Homework 1 – One of the joys of blogging is that you discover all the other people who are as obsessed with food as you are.  I recently found my way to Married with Dinner, and am really enjoying her Dinner on a Deadline series.  And given that what she is proposing makes complete and total sense, and given that I’m a sucker for challenges, I’ve decided to jump in and join the 12-step plan that she’s laying out for her readers.  The first step one must take, she proposes, to increase the likelihood of cooking from scratch during the week when everyone is busy is to … plan your meals for the week.

Meal planning.  Ah, it sounds so luxurious to me – to plan BEFORE I shop. It has so many benefits, and is something I have attempted to do halfheartedly for years.  So here is what meal planning currently looks like in our household.  The way this typically works is that I go to the store, purchase what is on sale, go to the farmer’s market to get what looks great, and then, and only then, create a meal plan from what’s on hand.  My pantry is pretty well-stocked (but that’s for discussion under homework 2…), so this has been partially effective, but I think it’s pretty clear to me that it’s not as effective as it should be.  I am convinced that to move the Family Foodie from surviving to thriving, this step must be executed, but being convinced is not the same as making it actually happen….

Here’s what I hope to accomplish by planning prior to shopping:

  • Improved buy-in from all household residents for all meals
  • Fewer last minute runs to the store (although I don’t have enough storage space in my fridge for the amount of milk our family consumes in a week!!)
  • Reduced reliance on convenience foods for snacking
  • Less waste and better use of all the CSA produce that we’ll be receiving soon!!!
  • Less stress for me

Here’s what I worry about:

  • Our spontaneity will be compromised
  • Planning is hard
  • Getting everyone to agree on what to eat may not be possible

But, I’m going to give it a try.  It’s a long weekend, and so I should have additional time for planning. Last night, the Friday before the farmer’s market, I assessed what we had in the house.  We still have quite a few greens from last week’s market trip (lettuce, some spinach, cilantro, arugula), baby potatoes, red onions, garlic, and peas.  We are also well-stocked in the cheese realm, and have ribs, pork butt, chicken thighs and legs, sausage, and stock in the freezer.  The pantry has many beans and canned tomatoes available.  So working with that knowledge, here’s my plan for the week.  I actually have nearly everything I need already – and I used that to target our farmer’s market purchases this morning, and when I go to the grocery store tomorrow or Monday, I’ll know exactly what I need!


  •                 Breakfast:  crepes at the market, coffee
  •                 Lunch: PBJ or tuna salad sandwiches
  •                 Dinner: BBQ after soccer game; bring dessert


  •                 Breakfast: Eggs, sausage, farmer’s market bread, smoothies
  •                 Lunch: Cucumber, tomato, & feta salad; bread and cheese
  •                 Dinner: Pork BBQ sandwiches, NC style slaw

Meatless Monday

  •                 Breakfast: Cinnamon rolls, banana bread, smoothies
  •                 Lunch:  Black bean soup, quesadillas
  •                 Dinner:  Wild mushroom pilaf, green salad with fennel


  •                 Breakfast: Cereal, waffles, yogurt
  •                 Lunch: Leftovers or PB & honey
  •                 Dinner: Tom Ka Kai, rice, Asian cucumber salad


  •                 Breakfast: Cereal, waffles, yogurt
  •                 Lunch: Leftovers or PB & honey
  •                 Dinner: Spaghetti & meatballs, green salad


  •                 Breakfast: Cereal, waffles, yogurt
  •                 Lunch: Leftovers or PB & honey
  •                 Dinner:  Salad of Lentilles du Puy, good bread (buy on way home from work)


  •                 Breakfast: Cereal, waffles, yogurt
  •                 Lunch: Kids buy lunch at school; leftovers for grown ups
  •                 Dinner: Eat out or make something from The Butcher at the Westover Market

8 Responses to “Mom, What’s For Dinner? Is Meal Planning Really Gonna Be the Answer?”

  1. Your photography of the different foods and your family are fun. What an interesting way to look at food!

    ‘Happy Memorial Day!


  2. wow, 3 meals a day for 7 days — I am impressed! I think you’re right to worry about spontaneity, though, if you’re scheduling down to every meal. (That’s one of the reasons I suggested people start with 2 meals per week; I don’t want you to feel hemmed in if you’re used to winging it.) I can’t wait to hear how it comes out. Thanks so much for playing along!

  3. Anita – thanks for your comment. You’ve inspired me to give the planning a try! Breakfast and lunch during the week is pretty low maintenance, but it’s important for me to include them in my planning so I make sure I’ve got enough food in the house for the 5 of us :)!

    We always try to have some meals planned, so I didn’t think I was a novice…and I wanted to stretch past 2 meals per week. By Thursday of every week, my DH and I usually look at each other and say “What do you want for dinner? I don’t know, what about you?” — and that’s not productive for getting dinner on the table! And if we decide to be spontaneous and not eat something we’ve planned, we can roll it over until next week.

    Anyhow, thanks for the inspiration. We’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

  4. We try to plan, at least the main dishes, but we don’t manage to do so every week. We try to do it the night before the farmer’s market, where we buy all of our meat.

    Here’s another salad with those yummy green lentils…. took it to a party this evening and it was a hit. It’s one of my summer favorites.

    Lentil Salad
    Cook lentils until tender and drain.
    Cover with dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic, cumin (plenty), salt and pepper.
    Add cherry tomatoes (halved), chopped red onion, feta cheese in small cubes, and chopped fresh basil.

    I am enjoying your blog! our families are similar food-wise — though my 6 year old is pickier than your picky one!

    • Thanks so much for the recipe! This looks great – and has many of our favorite ingredients. We’ll definitely give it a try.

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog! I bet your 6 year old will get less picky as she gets older!

  5. Meal planning doesn’t have to be too formal or complicated. I like to plan a few days of meals ahead and keep the plan flexible. It does help to know what’s in the plans instead of always trying to come up with something brilliant at the last minute. It always helps to not expect too much from yourself. I find sometimes when I plan ahead I can tend to try to plan something too fancy. You have to always be realistic with your expectations when you have a large growing family.

    • Thanks for visiting our site. I feel like we are doing pretty well now, but we’re moving into CSA season – when planning is vitally important so as not to waste the wonderful produce we get.


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