Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Meal planning

Well, I've never been a big believer in meal planning. At least, not for our family. In the first place, our lives are very unscheduled. I try hard to keep things organized, but Scott doesn't work a nine to five job, and even when he did he always had a variety of other obligations that meant that I never knew exactly when he was going to be home at the end of the day. And even more difficult than that to overcome is my crazy 3rd-grade taste buds. I have the dietary cravings of an 8 year old. I want the same lunch every day (and HAD the same lunch every day for about 12 years or more), don't like veggies at all, can't stand my foods touching each other... It's nuts. I'm trying hard to expand my choices, and over the years I've been somewhat successful. But even so, I am insanely picky. Add to that that I have a four page list of foods I'm allergic to and you have a real problem with menu planning. So when I look at the monthly meal plans you see in magazines, they're always filled with things that I can't imagine ever wanting to eat.

Of course the problem is that I have a family and even if I can't stand a wide variety, they need it. Scott will eat anything. ANYTHING. 'Possums, skunk, groundhog, rattlesnake, alligator, buffalo, octopus... the list goes on. Whenever our kids were scared of monsters, we'd always reassure them that if a monster did show up, Daddy would put a pat of butter on it's head and swallow it whole. And they always accepted that as a reasonable solution to the problem. Problem solved. Daddy will eat the monster. He eats everything else, so why not?

The kids don't eat quite the same variety that Scott does. Who does? Yet they're much more open to new foods than I am. But whenever life gets hectic or I get sick (and I've been sick all week) somehow we end up having spagetti every night for dinner. It's the fall back food. Zero variety.

So last night I finally caved. I made a list of everything that I like to eat. Then I had Scott and the kids add anything else they could think of to it. I was surprised to realize that there is a lot more variety in our diets than I realized. The problem is not that we don't have any options. There were dozens of things on the list. The problem is that we don't keep the ingredients for those options on hand all the time, or we run out of time to shop or cook. Spagetti is fast. Dinner is ready in 15 minutes. But with a tiny bit of planning we can have other things ready nearly as fast.

So I typed our list onto a spread sheet and broke the foods down into the basic food groups (plus an extra list of casseroles and one course dinners), then printed it off. I also printed a blank monthly calendar and we've spent the past couple of evenings picking out dinner for each weeknight for the next month. Right now, I'm not bothering with breakfasts or lunches because usually that's just Quinn and I. The older three kids all eat at school and I never know if Scott will be home for lunch. Plus Scott is a great cook and more than able to whip himself up a better lunch than I can manage. I'm also not making any weekend plans because I never know if we'll even be home on the weekends. Our extended families both live in the same town about an hour and a half away. We never know which weekends we'll be visiting until the last minute so I feel like it's OK to wait on those plans until we have a little more info.

All in all, I'm happy with the progress. None of the meals are very fancy, and right now I'm happy if there's at least one veggie served and I'm not worrying about keeping it perfectly balanced with low saturated fats and whole grains and organic foods. Anything's got to be better than spagetti 4 nights in a row, right? For me, the goal is to just try to do a bit better than we have been. The rest will come in time.


Tara said...

I so need to do this! I know I would save a ton of money and dinner would get made every night. We also eat a lot of pasta, lol. Sadly my kids think variety involves which shape tonight.

I've been thinking about "freezer cooking" one or two days a month. I'm very tempted and yet scared to death to give it a try.

Azaera said...

That's awesome! I love having a meal plan too even if we don't follow it everyday.