My meal planning strategy

There are a ton of great bloggers who post meal plans every week. Don’t Waste the Crumbs. 100 Days of Real Food. Thriving Home. There are paleo meal plans. And vegan meal plans. And grain-free meal plans. Some even supply a shopping list.

My trouble with using them is that we are a family of picky eaters. The kiddo is really the only one who isn’t. I’m often told that I should just decide to “stop being so picky.” But frankly, I’m an adult who has tried enough things to know I don’t like most cheese, the aftertaste of pork makes me queasy, the texture of beans in my mouth is like chalk, and fish just tastes … well, fishy. So we eat a lot of beef and chicken and eggs as protein, and I do a lot of doctoring recipes to eliminate or reduce the cheese. Fortunately, I come from a long line of the cheese-averse, so my family recipe box is a well-loved member of my kitchen.

I do use them for inspiration, especially when we reach the point of Sandwiches, Pizza Bagels, Eggs, Sandwiches, Eggs, Pizza Bagels, Meatloaf, Eggs over and over and over again. I have never identified with a cookbook more than when I picked up “Dinner: The Playbook” and author Jenny Rosenstrach related her dinner rut of Pizza. Cutlets. Burgers.

For our meal plan, I like to plan for lunches and dinners. Breakfast tends to be whatever sounds good when we get up. I keep some staples in rotation, but it’s rarely regimented. Lunches often are something simple, but there are certain days that call for special lunch ideas and I like to have them planned for. Likewise, the little one’s lunchbox is often filled with whatever makes sense, given leftovers and some main staples that we keep in the house.

I like to pick out what day we’re going to eat things because it allows me to build in meals for leftovers (like stir fry over rice one day, roasted chicken the next, and chicken fried rice the third day). We don’t always eat things in the right order and I often underestimate how much leftovers, we’ll have. Sometimes, lunches and dinners get switched. But I’d much rather schedule too many meals and save one for the following week than end up not having enough food in the house.

Sunday (I don’t work, and we host a game night every other week)
Lunch: Something simple and prep for the week
Dinner: Something involved (on game nights when it’s not our turn to serve the entree, we’ll freeze the meal for later)

Monday (I don’t work, little one is in school)
Lunch: Date meal (This is our only guaranteed meal alone in a given week. T and I try to make the most of it, whether it’s a simple romantic meal at home or brunch at a favorite restaurant.)
Dinner: Big family meal (Something we can all cook together and have fun with – this is the chance to try a new recipe.)

Tuesday (I work)
Lunch: Something simple.
Dinner: Beef dish (Once a month, this is a meatloaf variation.)

Wednesday (I work)
Lunch: Something simple.
Dinner: The family goes out to eat with T’s mom and I usually eat leftovers at work.

Thursday (Often ends up being an errand day. I work.)
Lunch: A meal made from leftovers. (This would be a “something simple” day, but by this point in the week there are lots of leftovers piling up in the fridge and we need to do something about it before we go grocery shopping the following day.)
Dinner: Chicken dish

Friday (We often do groceries, because Meijer puts out Friday-Saturday sales. I work. This is our no-meat day.)
Lunch: Eggs
Dinner: Veggie stir fry (type of sauce, veggies, etc. varies)

Saturday (Market Day. I work.)
Lunch: Something portable to go to the market with us
Dinner: Something from the freezer

The lunchbox – The amount of food in the little one’s lunch fluctuates with his appetite. There are some days when it comes home picked clean no matter how much food is in it. There are others days when it looks nearly identical to it’s initial state. Our philosophy tends to be:
– Fruit or veggie for each snack time (morning and afternoon)
– Fruit or veggie for lunch
– A protein and a starch for lunch (or three)
– A treat

Breakfasts – These rarely change. We have a variety of egg dishes we like. I make waffles and pancakes and then freeze them to be reheated in the toaster later. Cereal. Oatmeal. Granola. That’s about it. All with a side of fruit.

Snacks – These ideas are based on what’s available in our house at the time. We check in each month on any leftover stuff that doesn’t appear to be eaten lately and things we’d like to have around going forward.

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