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Tuesday
Jan282014

Weekly Meal Plan

Recent Reader Question: "How did you get dinner on the table amidst a busy day with school and activities?"

Those of you who know me, know I LOVE organization!  If anyone every actually wants to know how I like to plan things, I'm more than happy to oblige!  So here's what I did to keep our family healthfully fed, on, at least, a pretty consistent basis.  It's not rocket science but during our busiest family years, it kept dinner on the table and lunch in the lunch bags on a regular basis.

I planned my food on Tuesdays.  I say "food" because I think many of us are in the habit of planning our dinners and even maybe our lunches in advance, but then we sometimes get caught short with the other food requirements during the day.  Breakfast and snacks.  Both of which can become thoughtless "grab and go" feedings.  Where we end up grabbing food that ideally we wouldn't choose to feed to our families.  Or ourselves for that matter.

So I'm just going to, in bullet form, explain how I liked to plan our food for the week.

I liked to use my Polestar Family Calendar - now I am in no way connected with this company, I just love their calendars there is space for everything.  Under the Meals section I'd write in lunch for each day.  My husband looked after his own lunch so this was just for the girls and I.   You'll notice a star in the middle of the meal box, that was to indicate that it was the same lunch listed on Monday, repeating on Tuesday - Friday.

I made the same lunch everyday for a week running and then switch it the next week.  I found it was easier, I wasted less food, I was able to make much of it in advance and one week of the same thing didn't seem to bother my kids. 

Here are a few different lunches that I used.  Now remember these aren't for each day.  One of these would be used for an entire week.   You'll notice in the picture of my calendar, I've written in the lunch on Monday and then just starred the rest of the days to indicate it's the same on the following days.  One day a week, I'd let the girls buy their lunch from the cafeteria.   

These are some different ones that my girls liked.  (They don't like sandwiches…)

Lunches:

Baked potato (microwaved in the morning, split, buttered, peppered and wrapped in tin foil)

green onions, cheddar, bacon

apple

carrot sticks

cookie

water bottle

plastic fork, knife

 

Navy bean soup

scissor rolls, buttered

celery sticks

apple

cookie

water bottle

plastic spoon

 

Greek salad w/ chicken breast

bun, buttered

mandarin orange

cookie

water bottle

plastic fork

 

turkey wrap (hummus, deli turkey, lettuce, bell peppers)

carrot sticks

kiwi

muffin

cookie

water bottle

 

chili

buttered bun

carrot sticks

kiwi

cookie

water bottle

plastic spoon 

Once I had which ever lunch I was going to make I'd figure out the "snack of the week", again I used the same after school snack for one entire week and then switched it the next.  The girls often had sports or activities after school so I would pack their snack in the morning at the same time as their lunch, but in a different brown paper bag and write "snack" on it.  Their water bottles were refillable so I didn't include another drink with their snack.  Here are a few that we liked.

Snacks:

muffin & yogurt, plastic spoon 

apple, cheese & crackers

hummus and crackers, carrot sticks

celery, cheese and crackers

Once I had the girls' lunches and snacks figured out, I'd write in my own - theirs were often too heavy for me.  I'd also write in my own snack for mid-afternoon, often the same as the girls', so that if I had to be out running them around in the afternoon I wouldn't end up grabbing something unhealthy or just plain starving.  Even if I was at home, I liked knowing that there was something healthy ready to go, it help to keep me out of the chips before dinner.

Then I'd write in dinners.  I'd start by writing out what I wanted to base the meal around and vary it on each day so we were eating a variety.  For example; Monday - fish, Tuesday - poultry, Wednesday - left overs, Thursday - Vegetarian, Friday - take out.  Saturday - date night/kids chicken fingers.  Sunday - beef.  Then I'd pick recipes and sides and write them in too.

Breakfast seemed to take care of itself, although looking back I wish I had been more intentional about breakfast.  When they were young it was cold cereal and an orange most mornings, as they got older and spent more time in front of the mirror before school, I usually made them smoothies that they drank in the car on the way.  In a perfect world I would have made crock pot steel cut oatmeal and scrambled eggs with an orange - in reality it never happened.  it's hard to get teenage girls to take time away from their hair and make up to eat, and I'm really not a morning person, I'm not really on my game until about 10 o'clock.  Such is life...  

And don't think I was re-inventing the wheel each week.  I would go back through old calendars and simply repeat menus.  I found that what we ate last August, lots of salads, meat on the barbecue, corn on the cob, was perfectly fine for this August and the same with Winter months when we liked heavier meals.   Over time I started pulling past menus from old calendars and keeping seasonal lists.  It made meal planning easier, and reminded me of things we had liked in the past that I might have forgotten about.  

Then once the menus were all figured out, I'd write out my grocery list.  I learned over time that if I "shopped my cupboards" before I went to Safeway, I could cut out buying a lot of things I already had.  I shopped once a week.  Yup, it was a lot of groceries, often two buggies full.  They would often open a separate cashier for me so other customers wouldn't have to wait behind my big order!  But then it was done.  I would come home, unload the car - that's the part I always hated.  Wash and prep the fruit and veggies.  Marinate whatever needed to be marinated.  Make up whatever lunch was for that week. 

Because it was such a huge list I found that if I categorized it, it made life simpler and shopping faster.  Here's an example. 

Produce:

celery

3x red bell

12x apples

green onions

romaine

Canned/Bottled:

Mayo

28 oz. diced tomatoes

2x chick peas

2x kidney beans

2x pinto beans

Dairy/Cold Case:

sour cream

3x milk

OJ

Grapefruit juice 

Deli:

Corn chips

salsa

hummus

tortillas

deli turkey - 400g

Of course it was much longer than this and by the time everything was shopped, unpacked, prepped and put away, it took the entire school day, but then it was done and I didn't have to think about food until the next Tuesday.  And I knew that for each day we had some sort of food planned out.  This worked for me.  I like doing things in a big way and then having them done.  Some people find once a week shopping to be too much and prefer to stop off at the store each day.  Either way, planning out what you're making and what you need to shop for is helpful and saves you from wandering aimlessly through the grocery store waiting for inspiration to strike.  It also keeps you from panicking at 4:30, thinking "What the heck am I going to feed these people - again!"

So there you go.  Remember, you asked!  ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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