Posts tagged ‘meal planning’

February 24, 2011

The Power of Routine

When life is so busy that you don’t know which way is up, routines are key.  And in our life, midwinter is the busiest season both at work and at home, and our regular routines are always disrupted.

So, weekly farmer’s market visits, grocery shops with lists and coupons, menu planning, and nightly dinner preparations often fall to the bottom of the to-do list.  And while this often means take out and eat out meals, I have also found that some minimal prep work increases our ability to eat well when our (children’s) schedules make it hard to do so.  So, what has worked for us during this crazy-making season?

Make a turkey or ham or roast one weekend day. And then use the meat/carcass over the week to make meals.

Check your pantry. Because I tend to stockpile when I grocery shop regularly, my pantry is pretty well-supplied. It’s really great when the kids say, “Mom, there’s nothing for breakfast.” or when the man of the house exclaims, “We’re out of rice!”, and I can respond calmly, “Have you checked the pantry yet?”.  Usually the answer is no, and the food item being sought is found in the pantry…

Use the white board to remind yourself what’s in the pantry/fridge/freezer, and don’t worry if it’s not a full-fledged menu plan. Ours currently reads:

  • pie
  • beans
  • tacos
  • pizza
  • turkey soup
  • turkey enchiladas
  • meatloaf & mac-n-cheese
  • scallops & rice
  • ham
  • lemony lentils from The Electronic Intifada
  • butternut squash rustic tart from Womans Day
  • shrimp
  • fried rice


Bless the slow cooker,

and the rice cooker,

and the freezer…

And remember that one day soon, the “regular routine” will return….

Dinner tonight included:

Lemony Lentil Soup & Rustic Butternut Squash Tart

June 6, 2010

Reflections on Meal Planning

Our first week following a meal plan described in our earlier post was quite successful.  Having a complete meal plan meant that our week was not characterized by the “what do you want for dinner? I don’t know, what about you? Let’s see what’s in the fridge/freezer.” conversation that has become typical in our house….and it meant for a pleasant week.  And it didn’t really influence our ability to be flexible and spotaneous.  We followed the script pretty closely until Wednesday night, when the man of the house had a late meeting, and the picky eater had dinner with friends followed by a soccer game at 7 pm.  The boys were left to fend for themselves  – and prepared ramen noodles with pulled pork – which they were quite pleased with.  Thursday we then had a choice – spaghetti and meatballs or lentil salad — and wouldn’t you know, we made neither!  Instead, I had come across an old favorite recipe as I was thinking about possible dishes for next week (an excellent outcome of meal planning), and we had what we needed to make it – so we made that instead.  In the theme of pasta, but a different, lighter sauce (ham, Kalmata olives, lemons, fresh thyme, olive oil) with linguine, accompanied by lightly steamed broccoli.  And then, as planned on Friday night, we visited The Butcher Shop at the Westover Market, and ended up ordering kielbasa sandwiches  – which were delicious!

The hope of less waste was realized – we ate nearly everything produce-related this week, and what remains is durable and can be incorporated into our food planning this week.  I only ended up needing milk yesterday, which is technically the new planning week.  And, I didn’t hear as much complaining about the lack of snacks.  So far, so good.

Our planning for this week is a bit off cycle – we raced in the Race for the Cure yesterday morning, and so didn’t make it to the farmer’s market.  And since our first CSA pickup of the season is Tuesday evening, I think our planning will be pantry focused for the first couple days of this week.  But we already know that tonight we are having the Salade du Lentilles du Puy originally planned for last Friday – accompanied by a vinegar-mustard-olive oil new potato salad.

May 29, 2010

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
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